Landlord’s Guide to a Smooth Lease Signing Process

As a landlord that has bills to pay, when we finally make it through the long tenant search and find a tenant we are excited to work it, we often want to rush through the lease signing process.

Resist the urge to rush through this process to “get it over with and start collecting rent” though. Instead, we want to make sure we set up the relationship properly from the start.

The way to accomplish this is by running an efficient and instructive lease signing. The lease signing is your first and best chance to train new tenants on the expectations you have during their tenancy.

Of course, that is easier said than done, though. So, how does running a smooth lease signing work?

Running a smooth lease signing includes inspecting the home, taking photos, providing a pre-lease signing checklist, preparing the lease agreement and supporting documents, reviewing key points in the lease with the tenant, signing all documents, and providing signed copies to the tenant after the meeting.

With those main points in mind, I’ll cover everything you need to know to run a seamless lease signing for both you and your tenant below.

Let’s dive in!

Quick Navigation

  1. Inspect The Home & Take Photos
  2. Schedule The Lease Signing Appointment & Provide A Pre-Lease Signing Checklist To The Tenant
  3. Prepare & Print The Lease Agreement
  4. Prepare & Print Any Supporting Documents (Lead-Based Paint Disclosure & Brochure, Pet Addendum, Cosigner Agreement)
  5. Prepare & Print The Move-In Move-Out Condition Report
  6. Prepare & Print The New Tenant Orientation Letter
  7. Confirm With The Tenant That They Have Completed Their Pre-Lease Signing Checklist
  8. Arrive 15 Minutes Early To The Lease Signing Appointment
  9. Review The New Tenant Orientation Letter
  10. Review & Sign The Lease Agreement & Collect The Move-In Funds
  11. Review & Sign Any Supporting Documents
  12. Review & Sign The Move-In Move-Out Condition Report
  13. Hand Over The Keys To The New Tenant & Congratulate Them
  14. Send A Follow-Up Email With A Signed Copy Of The Lease Agreement, All Supporting Documents, & The New Tenant Orientation Letter
  15. Final Thoughts
  16. Related Content

1. Inspect The Home & Take Photos

Before the lease signing occurs, the property needs to be inspected and photos need to be taken to document the condition of the rental property before the tenant moves in. This inspection is called a Move-In Inspection or a Pre-Lease Inspection.

If you recently flipped the unit and took pictures for your rental listing, then you probably have already done this step. But just in case you haven’t, I wanted to start here.

As you walk through the property, take photos of any existing damages or issues to avoid disputes later. For example, some things you might take pictures of include:

  • Chips or wearing on cabinets
  • Small stains or damaged spots in the flooring
  • Tiny window screen tears or pieces of broken blinds that weren’t replaced
  • Cracked baseboards
  • Anything that isn’t 100% perfect in the home

Ideally, when you flip a home after the previous tenant, you address and repair as many things in the home as you can. So this list should be small and only cover nitpicky items.

You shouldn’t be adding anything big to the list (items such as broken appliances, pre-existing holes in the walls, missing handles, etc) because the only tenants that will move into a broken house are tenants that you do not want to deal with. If you are finding some of these big items as you inspect the home, then you should address them immediately before the lease signing to avoid tons of maintenance requests in the beginning.

The items you’re hunting for are the small things that are from normal wear and tear. You’re not going to completely replace the kitchen cabinets just because there’s a small chip in the finish. Instead, you note the small imperfection to let the new tenant know you already know this exists and they won’t be billed for it later.

After you’ve done your Move-In Inspection, you are ready to schedule the lease signing appointment.

2. Schedule The Lease Signing Appointment & Provide A Pre-Lease Signing Checklist To The Tenant

Once the home is fully inspected and you have an approved applicant, it’s time to schedule the lease signing appointment.

Leases for an apartment are typically signed within 1-2 weeks of the application being accepted. On lease signing day, the tenant pays the security deposit in full, is provided the keys, and is permitted to start the move-in process.

When you choose a lease signing date, try to shoot for a date that is as soon as possible (to minimize the number of days the property continues to sit vacant), but also provides the tenant with enough time to complete the pre-lease signing steps.

We’ve found that scheduling the lease signing 5-7 days after the showing is sufficient time for the tenant to complete all of their steps and for us to prepare all of the documents we need to prepare. Of course, if both parties can be ready sooner, then you can complete the lease signing as soon as you’d like.

Once we’ve chosen a lease signing date that fits our schedule, we email the approved applicant their next steps. We call these steps their “Pre-Lease Signing Checklist”. They must have all steps completed prior to the lease signing appointment otherwise the lease signing won’t happen.

The Pre-Lease Signing Checklist should include:

  • Explain 24-Hour To Accept Rule
  • Explain payments invitation on
  • Explain utilities and how to switch them
  • Explain what to bring to the lease signing (move-in funds)
  • Explain prorated rent (if applicable)
  • Link to Calendly to schedule a lease signing appointment

24-Hour To Accept Rule

We start off by letting the approved applicant know we can only hold the property for up to 2 weeks, and if they want to move forward with this home, then they need to reply to this email within 24 hours accepting their offer.

If they fail to accept the offer within 24 hours of the email being sent, then we will move on to the next applicant.

This is an easy step for the approved applicant to complete. All they have to do is confirm in writing that they still want the property. Then we can move forward with them.

Payment Set Up

Next, we explain to them that we manage our tenants through, so they must set up an account (if they haven’t already), accept our payment set-up invitation, and add a verified payment method before the lease signing.

One of the ways we make rent collection super easy on ourselves is through the use of management software. By managing the tenants through (or any other management software you want to use), the software sends them email reminders, shows them their account balance and all of the transactions totaling that balance, automatically charges late fees, and direct deposits their payments directly into our bank account.

Since the payment feature on requires the tenant to accept an emailed invitation and add a verified payment method, we have the tenant do that before the lease signing so they can be ready to pay rent from day one.

We don’t allow any other methods of rent payment because that adds management time to our plate that we don’t want. lets them pay with a credit card, debit card, bank account, or pre-paid Visa card, so there is no excuse for them to mail us a money order or hand over cash.

Remember, automation is the key to this landlord game!

Switched Utilities

Then we require them to schedule all of the utilities they are responsible for to be switched into their name by move-in day (lease signing day). In the email, we spell out which utilities they are responsible for and we provide phone numbers and website links to the local utility companies they will need to call.

The utilities on our list often include:

  • Electricity
  • Gas (if applicable)
  • Water/Sewer (if applicable)
  • Garbage (if applicable)

Most of our tenants are from the area and know the local utility companies, but sometimes we get tenants that are moving from out of state. They always tell us how helpful our List Of Local Utility Companies is for them to check this task off their list!

If they do not have all utilities they are responsible for switched into their name by the lease signing, we won’t hold the lease signing appointment.

What To Bring To The Lease Signing (Move-In Funds)

Next, we list out all of the move-in funds they must bring to the lease signing. We spell out the first month’s rent amount and the security deposit amount, then total it for them and explain that we can only accept these funds in guaranteed form (money order or cashier’s check).

For example:

First month’s rent: $850.00

Security deposit: $850.00


Total due at lease signing: $1,700.00

We can only accept guaranteed funds such as a cashier’s check or money order because:

  1. The tenant can’t cancel the check or payment after they take possession of the property
  2. The money is real (if the money was originally counterfeit, then the business where the money order was created took the risk instead of us)
  3. We aren’t having to count or deal with a large wad of cash

The tenant does not need to know why we collect the money this way. They just need to know that this is their requirement, and we will not accept anything else. The. move-in funds are the only thing the tenant needs to bring to the lease signing appointment.

Prorated Rent (If Applicable)

If the tenant is moving in on any day other than the first of the month, they will have to pay prorated rent on the part of the month they moved in.

Prorated rent is the reduced amount of rent you charge the tenant based on the number of days they had possession of the property. For example, if a tenant moves in on the 12th of May, then they will only have to pay for the days between May 12 and May 31 (20 days) instead of the entire 31 days in May.

RentVine has a fantastic calculator that helps you calculate the prorated rent. You can use it right here in my article to calculate it!

Landlord Software

As you explain prorated rent to the tenant, let them know that the full first month’s rent and security deposit are due at the lease signing and the prorated rent amount will be charged as the second month’s rent instead.

For example:

  • Due at lease signing on May 12: $1,700 (first month’s rent of $850 + security deposit of $850)
  • Due on June 1: $548.39 (calculated by the prorated rent calculator above)

Collecting rent in this order is crucial. This order ensures that the tenant is capable of paying the full rent amount and understands the full rent amount. Then they get a small break in the second month.

After that, the remaining months of the lease are at the full rent price.

Unfortunately, no matter how good your screening process is, you always run the risk that the tenant doesn’t pay you a penny more after the move-in funds. So you want this amount to at least be the full rent amount and security deposit instead of the smaller prorated rent amount.

Most tenants will have experienced this before so they will understand. But if you have a new renter, you might have to explain this further to them.

Lease Signing Appointment Date & Time

Finally, in the Pre-Lease Signing Checklist, we require them to schedule the appointment time through our Calendly link.

We use Calendly, a free scheduling software, to set up available lease signing dates and times the tenant can choose from. Using scheduling software significantly reduces the back-and-forth usually involved in scheduling things.

Plus, we look super professional when we use software that is convenient for all parties. We’ve found that by only offering 1 or 2 days for a lease signing (with 4 or 5 timeslot options), the tenant figures out a way to be there on one of the days we offer. This lets us control when we do things (instead of jumping through hoops for the new tenant – although we are flexible when needed).

Lease signings typically take 30-60 minutes. We tell the tenant that the lease signing will take approximately 1 hour at the property, and they will be handed the keys at the end of the appointment.

That’s it for the Pre-Lease Signing Checklist. Once you have that checklist created, you can use the same checklist for every new tenant you acquire moving forward.

I have a bundle of editable templates, email drafts, and checklists you can purchase that will help you with every aspect of self-managing your rental homes. Check out The DIY Rental Manager Template Bundle here. [COMING SOON]

3. Prepare & Print The Lease Agreement

Before you head to the lease signing appointment, you need to prepare the lease agreement. There are two places we like to get our state-specific residential lease agreements from:

  • BiggerPockets Lease Agreement Package (Paid)
  • Rental Manager Tools (Free)

BiggerPockets Lease Agreement Package

BiggerPockets has a lease agreement package that has 8+ forms including the residential lease agreement, pet addendum, and move-in/move-out condition report that were crafted by lawyers to be valid in your state.

If you are new to the rental game and want a lawyer-approved editable lease agreement along with other useful management forms for a relatively low cost, then this package is an excellent choice.

For new tenants that we are meeting in person to sign a new lease, we use the Ohio residential lease agreement from BiggerPockets because we can print it off, fill in the tenant information, and have both parties sign at the lease signing.

Since this packet is fill-in-the-blank, you can reuse it again and again (unlike other legal document companies that require you to pay a subscription or pay per legal document). Rental Manager Tools’s Rental Manager Tools offers a free state-specific residential lease agreement that can be downloaded and signed manually or signed electronically by both parties via DocuSign.

The free lease signing tool also includes the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure, Lead-Based Paint Brochure, Pet Addendum, and Cosigner Agreement which can be printed off and signed in person or electronically signed.

If you use to manage your tenants as we are, I highly recommend taking advantage of this free feature. Whenever we inherit tenants during a new property purchase, we use this feature to have them sign a new lease electronically.

Since these inherited tenants have been living in the property for some time, we find there’s no point in scheduling a formal lease signing appointment. So far, we’ve found that the tenants love that they can sign at any time that is convenient to them and we find it convenient that we don’t have to make a special trip out to each tenant’s home.

We also use the Lease Renewal feature to have tenants renew their leases and sign electronically as well. If you are using other property management software, they might offer these awesome features.

Either lease agreement option you choose should serve you well. Just be sure to get your state-specific lease agreement and double-check with your state’s official website to make sure the details are correct. Some of the main details that you want to verify include:

  • Security deposit maximum and interest – some states require the landlord to pay the tenant interest if you collect a security deposit amount over the rent amount
    • Ohio has this law, but if you collect the same amount as one month of rent, you don’t have to pay the tenant any interest on the security deposit
  • Deadline for returning security deposit – each state has different time requirements for how quickly the remaining security deposit and a detailed list of deductions must be returned to a tenant that has moved out
    • For Ohio, we are required to return the remaining balance of the security deposit within 30 days of the tenant moving out
  • Notice of termination for non-payment – each state has different time requirements for how long an eviction notice must be posted on the door before you can file a judgment with the court
    • For Ohio, we are required to give the tenant 3 days to pay the remaining rent balance or vacate the property. After the 3rd day, we can file a judgment with the court.
  • Lease termination notice for month-to-month lease – each state has different time requirements for how much advance notice a tenant must be given before a month-to-month lease can be terminated
    • For Ohio, we must give any month-to-month tenants a minimum 30-day notice before we can terminate a lease
  • Rent increase notice – each state has different time requirements for how much advance notice a tenant must be given before issuing a rent increase
    • For Ohio, we don’t have a minimum notice requirement, but we still like to give a minimum 30-day heads up has an awesome resource that lists out all of these state-specific rules for you in one convenient location. You can find that resource here (be sure to change the dropdown to your state).

Other Items To Fill Out/Include In A Residential Lease Agreement

As you fill out a lease agreement, you want to include the following:

  1. Names of all tenants and minors occupying the house
  2. Your name or LLC name that the tenant is signing the lease agreement with
  3. Address of the home
  4. Phone numbers of all tenants over 18
  5. Your phone number
  6. Lease start date and end date
    • For 12-month leases, it is written like this: 6/1/2023 to 5/31/2024
    • For 6-month leases, it is written like this: 6/1/2023 to 11/30/2023
  7. Full rent amount and prorated rent amount (if applicable)
  8. Other rent due (such as parking fees, pre-paid utilities, etc)
  9. Receipt of money paid – list the security deposit and first month’s rent amounts and how they paid it (cashier’s check, money order, etc)
  10. Next payment due – list the next payment due date and the amount (if you are collecting prorated rent in the second month, then that amount goes here. Otherwise, it’s the full rent amount)
  11. Due date/late fees – spell out if there is a grace period and what late fees will be charged if they do not pay by the due date
    • We give a 5-day grace period – as long as they pay rent in full by the end of the 5th day of the month, no late fees are charged
    • On the 6th day of the month, a $50 late fee is charged
    • On the 7th day of the month and beyond, and $10 daily late fee is charged every day until either rent is paid in full or an eviction notice is posted
  12. Payment options – list how they are allowed to pay rent (online, cashier’s check/money order, cash, personal check, etc)
  13. Security deposit amount and when the remaining balance of the deposit will be returned after the tenant moves out – in Ohio, that period is 30 days
  14. Furnishings and appliances – list what appliances (refrigerator, stove, etc) and furnishings (if any) are supplied by the landlord
  15. Utilities – list what utilities the tenant is responsible for
  16. Lawn care/snow removal – list whether the tenant is responsible for lawn care and snow removal or not
  17. Renter’s insurance – list the expected amount of renter’s insurance coverage they are required to maintain (we usually require $100,000 of renter’s insurance coverage)
  18. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – list whether the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are battery-operated or hardwired
  19. List any attachments to this agreement (Lead-Based Paint Disclosure, Lead-Based Paint Brochure, Pet Addendum, Cosigner Agreement, etc)

Those are all of the main details that you’ll need to fill out in any lease agreement you use. Other items that should be covered in the lease agreement include premise use, subletting, pest control, mold, default, abandonment, death/disability during the lease, plumbing, access and signs, maintenance, care of the premise, access for repairs, pets, smoking, drugs, quiet enjoyment, parking, alterations, keys, and lockout, and move out and cleaning instructions.

I know that is a LOT of information. That’s why I highly recommend you download one of the pre-made state-specific leases suggested above so you can fill out the important pieces and know you’re covered on the rest.

Once you have one of the fill-in-the-blank leases, I recommend making a copy of it, filling in all of the lease and tenant details, then printing two copies of the unsigned documents.

At the lease signing appointment, we always sign one copy of the lease with the tenant, and we send the tenant home with a blank copy of the lease that they can review until we can email them a copy of our signed version.

4. Prepare & Print Any Supporting Documents (Lead-Based Paint Disclosure & Brochure, Pet Addendum, Cosigner Agreement)

Once the lease agreement is prepared, there are a few other documents that you might need to prepare. Those documents include the:

  • Lead-Based Paint Disclosure & Brochure (if the property was built before 1978)
  • Pet Addendum (if you are allowing pets on the premise)
  • Cosigner Agreement (if the tenant needs a cosigner to qualify)

If you choose to use either the BiggerPockets Lease Agreement Package and/or’s Rental Manager Tools, then most of these documents will be included for your use.

Lead-Based Paint Disclosure & Brochure

If the property was built before 1978, landlords are required to give tenants an EPA-approved information pamphlet on identifying and controlling lead-based paint hazards. You can find this Lead-Based Paint Brochure here.

Print off one copy for the lease signing appointment and give it to the tenant if the home you are renting was built before 1978.

In addition to the brochure, either the lease needs to have wording that says whether there is or is not known-lead-based paint in the home OR a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure outlining the same information must be signed and attached to the lease agreement (more info can be found here). You can find a free downloadable Lead-Based Paint Disclosure form here.

We download, fill out, and print off two of these Disclosure forms. Each one is attached to the end of each printed lease agreement for the tenant to sign later.

Pet Addendum

Whenever a tenant has a pet (or multiple), we have them fill out a Pet Addendum that gets attached to the end of the lease. The Pet Addendum states the additional monthly pet fee the tenant has agreed to pay on top of rent and lists the type of pet(s) (dog, cat, etc) and breed.

This form can be as basic as that. Just have both you and the tenant sign it so everyone is on the same page and there is written documentation that these pets are allowed on the premise. We tell the tenant that any pets not listed on this document are not permitted on the property, so they must notify us if something changes.

We use this addendum even if the pets are service animals or emotional support animals so we have a record of the animals. But, we don’t charge the additional pet fee. In those scenarios, a pet fee typically can’t be charged as long as there is proper documentation from a doctor.

Print off two filled-out copies of the Pet Addendum and attach each one to the end of each printed lease agreement for the tenant to sign later.

Cosigner Agreement

Finally, if the tenant only passed your screening standards because they had a cosigner, a Cosigner Agreement needs to be added to the end of the lease spelling out that the cosigner does not live in the property, but they are still fully responsible for everything in the lease just as the tenant that is living in the property is responsible.

The cosigner typically contributes their own small “security deposit” known as a Performance Guarantee Fee that is refundable at the end of the lease minus any damages not covered by the security deposit. This fee could be $250 or any amount that you deem appropriate.

This extra fee is a great way to have the cosigner have some real “skin in the game”. It helps ensure the tenant living in the home takes the lease seriously, pays their rent, and cares for the property.

We don’t have to use this form often, but when we do, we just print out two copies, fill them out, and attach them to the end of each printed lease agreement as an additional document that all 3 parties sign later (us, the tenant, and the cosigner).

At this point, I gather one lease agreement, one Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form (if needed), one Pet Addendum Form (if needed), and one Cosigner Agreement Form (if needed) and staple them together. Then I take the stapled lease agreement and the Lead-Based Paint Brochure and add them to a folder that we will give the tenant to take home after the lease signing appointment.

I also add a sticky note inside the folder that has the electronic door codes and any other important codes that the tenant needs.

Once you’ve printed off and filled out all of the supporting documents, there are a couple more items you need to print off.

5. Prepare & Print The Move-In Move-Out Condition Report

The next document that needs printed off and filled out is the Move-In Move-Out Condition Report. This report includes the:

  • Date of lease signing appointment
  • Tenant names
  • Your name or LLC name
  • Address of the property
  • The condition of each item in each room – Have two columns: one column to write the move-in condition of the item and one column to write the move-out condition of the item (later)
    • Some of the items to check in each room and list the condition in your report include:
      • Floor and floor covering
      • Walls and ceiling/caulking
      • Window(s)
      • Window covering(s)
      • Light fixture(s)/fan(s)
      • Door(s)/hardware
      • Heating
      • Outlets/switches
      • Smoke alarms/CO alarms
      • Appliances
      • Cabinets/hardware
      • Showers/bathtubs/fixtures
      • Sink/fixtures/plumbing
      • Closet(s)
      • Other

Remember at the beginning of this list, we discussed walking around and taking inspection pictures of the home? Use those photos to fill out this report. List any items that are not 100% perfect so you have a record several years from now when the tenant moves out of what condition you gave the home to them in.

Leave the Move-Out column blank until the tenant moves out. That’s when you will take this same report and fill out the other column to document what hasn’t been returned in the same condition (outside of normal wear and tear items such as the carpet being old and the home needing paint touch-ups).

At the bottom of this document, I also add the electronic door code and any other codes so there is a record of it with the lease agreement.

For a more detailed breakdown of what to include in your Move-In Move-Out Condition Report, check out my other article.

For this document, we only print off one copy. We fill it out prior to the lease signing and review it with the tenant at the lease signing appointment. After we review it, we tell the tenants to let us know within the first 30 days if anything else pops up that we might have missed, and we will add it to the report (or repair it if it needs to be repaired).

After the lease signing, we send a copy of the filled-out and signed Move-In Condition Report to the tenant along with the signed lease agreement and supporting documents.

6. Prepare & Print The New Tenant Orientation Letter

The final document we need to prepare (if we haven’t in the past) is the New Tenant Orientation Letter. This letter is a 3-5 page summary of the most important points in the lease:

  • Rent due dates/late fees – when rent is due and how late fees will be charged
  • Maintenance requests/tenant billable expenses – how to submit a maintenance request, what is considered emergency maintenance, and what maintenance items will be billed back to the tenant (clogged drains/damaged items from misuse or neglect)
  • Renter’s insurance – why it’s important/how it can protect their belongings and some quotes or recommendations from insurance companies to make their lives easier
  • Smoking policy – whether smoking is permitted or not and where it’s permitted and the consequences if smoking in the home is found
  • Pet policy – whether pets are allowed or not and the consequences if an unapproved pet is found on the premise
  • Deck/balcony/porch expectations – must be kept clear of debris, clutter, clothes, trash, and toys
  • Guest and noise level expectations – keep the noise to a minimum and limit to 1-3 guests per day
  • Party rules – no loud parties allowed
  • Occupancy rules – only the individuals listed on the lease are permitted to stay at the property. If they get a roommate or someone is staying for more than 14 days out of the month, the guest must pass our screening standards and be added to the lease agreement
  • Notice to vacate policy – if on a month-to-month lease or the end of the lease is coming, they must give a 30-day notice that they are leaving. If they want to terminate the lease early, they agree to pay an early termination fee of two months’ rent

We use this letter as a training opportunity for the new tenant. This is your chance to educate them on your policies and the expectations of the property. This letter is also a shorter, easier-to-comprehend version of the lease agreement, so we like to review this first. Then we can breeze through the signing portion of the actual lease later.

For a more detailed breakdown of what to include in your New Tenant Orientation (along with several examples), check out my other article.

As we’ve evolved our policies over the years, we’ve slowly updated our New Tenant Orientation letter so that it’s more thorough and clear on what we expect. This letter basically IS the speech we give at the lease signing appointment, so we just print off one of these to go over at the appointment.

After the lease signing appointment, we attach a copy of this letter to the follow-up email we send the tenant so they can have a copy they can easily refer back to as well.

That’s the final document you need to fill out/print. All of that will probably take you 30 minutes to an hour to prepare (it might take a little longer if you haven’t created these documents yet).

Be sure to remember to also pack:

  1. 3-4 pens (preferably blue ink so you can tell the difference between an original and a copy)
  2. Sticky notes (I don’t know why but these always come in handy)
  3. Notebook (in case you need paper)
  4. Binder or folder to transport all of the documents easily.

After that, you will wait until 1-2 days before the lease signing appointment to continue with the next steps.

7. Confirm With The Tenant That They Have Completed Their Pre-Lease Signing Checklist

One to two days before the scheduled lease signing appointment, we reach out to the tenant to see if they’ve completed all of the tasks on their Pre-Screening Checklist email.

At this point, most of the tenants have completed all steps and are prepared for the lease signing. If they have any other questions, they might ask them there. If they are ready to go, then you are prepared for the lease signing.

If they do not have a task completed by this point, then we either agree to move the lease signing (if it’s a valid reason for not being completed yet) or we remind them that we might have to move on to the next applicant.

So far, the only tenants we’ve had to move the lease signing date for have been Section 8 tenants, and that’s because the Section 8 office often takes longer to process their paperwork and complete their inspection than we originally planned.

8. Arrive 15 Minutes Early To The Lease Signing Appointment

Finally, it’s time to attend the lease signing appointment! Most of the work running a smooth lease signing process is done before you show up to the property.

Now that you have all of the paperwork sorted out, all you have to do is review and sign the documents, collect the security deposit, and hand over the key.

Arrive 15 minutes early to the lease signing appointment so you can:

  • Turn on all of the lights
  • Open all the blinds/curtains
  • Adjust the thermostat to 72 degrees in the winter or 68 degrees in the summer

Prepare the property the same way you would prepare it for the showing so the tenant can walk in and see the property looks exactly as they remembered it.

Then we organize all of the paperwork so we can easily work through the lease signing. I like to set up everything on the kitchen countertop inside the home.

First, I set the tenant’s folder with the blank copy of the stapled lease agreement, the Lead-Based Paint Brochure, and the sticky note with the door codes on the side of the counter where they will likely be standing.

Next, I set out the second stapled lease agreement along with the stapled Move-In Move-Out Condition Report so we can sign all documents quickly after the New Tenant Orientation.

Finally, I pull out the New Tenant Orientation Letter and set it on top along with 3-4 pens set on the countertop. This is the first item we will review with the tenant once they arrive.

9. Review The New Tenant Orientation Letter

Once the tenant has arrived, we review the New Tenant Orientation Letter with them.

The two most important pieces of the letter should include how the rent due dates and late fees work and what repairs are considered tenant billable expenses. Again, this is your chance to train the tenant to follow the rules you want them to so be thorough.

For the rent due dates and late fees, explain the grace period (if you have one) and how the fees will add up if they decide to pay rent on the 10th of the month instead of within the grace period. Here is an example of what we tell our tenants at their Orientation:

  • Rent is always due on the 1st of the month
  • To provide more flexibility, we offer a 5-day grace period that allows you to pay rent up to the 5th of the month without any late fees or penalties
  • If there is a balance due on the 6th day of the month, a $50 late fee will be charged
  • If there is a balance due on the 7th day of the month and beyond, a $10 daily late fee will be charged every day until rent is paid in full or you communicate with us on your payment plans
  • If no payments have been made and we can’t get ahold of you, a Pay Or Vacate Notice will be posted on the door by the 12th day of the month which can lead to an eviction.
  • Evictions are serious and will go on your record making it harder to rent elsewhere. We would prefer to work things out as long as you communicate your plans with us.
  • As an example, if you choose to pay rent on the 10th of the month, that will add $90 in late fees to your total rent bill due and the full balance must be paid to stop the late fees from accumulating and a notice from being posted on the door

For the tenant billable expenses and maintenance requests, explain the most common items that will be billed back to the tenant because it is their responsibility to maintain. Here is an example of what we tell our tenants at the Orientation:

  • Since we are not living in the home, it is 100% your responsibility to let us know when something needs to be repaired
  • Here is a list of items we want to know about immediately:
    • Mold (within 48 hours)
    • Drippy faucets, drippy pipes, or “running” toilets (within 48 hours)
    • Moisture where there should be none (roof, under the sink, etc)
  • Two items that are almost always tenant-billable expenses include clogged drains/toilets and damage from misuse or neglect
  • Other items considered tenant-billable expenses include:
    • Mold from living conditions
    • Leaks from misuse or neglect
    • Broken faucets and knobs
    • Broken blinds, windows, doors, glass, locks, and any other damage caused by you or your guests
    • Light bulbs that need to be replaced
    • Batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that need to be replaced
    • Clogged toilets, bathtubs, sinks, and other drains
  • Maintenance requests can be submitted through, via email, or via text.
  • Emergency maintenance usually involves anything that will cause significant damage if not taken care of immediately. This includes Fire, Flood (water), or Blood (injuries). If it involves fire or blood, call 911.

Those are the two main items we spend the most time on in the Orientation with the new tenant. After those two big points, we go over the remaining items in the letter and then move on to the actual lease agreement. Click here to go back to the section of this article that contains the list of items we cover in the Orientation if you want a reminder.

10. Review & Sign The Lease Agreement & Collect The Move-In Funds

After the New Tenant Orientation, it’s time to review the lease agreement and collect the move-in funds.

First, we go over the tenant’s name and contact information to verify that it is accurate. Then we go through the agreed-upon rent price, security deposit amount, and prorated rent amount (and when that amount is due).

At this point, you should collect the move-in funds (security deposit and first month’s rent) from the tenant and initial in the lease that you have received all move-in funds in the form of a money order or cashier’s check.

This section in the lease serves as the tenant’s receipt for payment of both items. It is important to provide the tenant with this receipt that clearly states the date and amount paid and that you acknowledge you’ve received them with your initials. That way, there is never an argument about the amount paid since you will both have the signed lease agreement in your records.

As we’ve discussed above, it is important that these funds be paid in a money order or cashier’s check. Click here to go back to that section of this article if you want a reminder.

Finally, a few of the other sections you will probably point out in the lease include the:

  • Appliances supplied
  • Tenant-responsible utilities
  • Who is responsible for the lawn care and snow removal (tenant or owner)

Outside of those few items, you should have already covered the other main points in your New Tenant Orientation Letter. So at this point, we just have the tenant initial the bottom of each page of the lease agreement and we both sign and date the last page.

Does The Landlord Have To Sign The Lease?

The landlord should sign the lease and provide a copy of the signed lease to the tenant for their own records. Having both parties sign makes the document a legally binding agreement. Without both parties’ signatures, the lease could be considered incomplete and overwritten by the state’s default lease in a court case.

Do All Tenants Need To Sign The Lease?

All tenants over 18 years old should sign the lease to make all parties wholly responsible for upholding the terms of the lease, which encourages all tenants to follow the rules in the lease. If an eviction notice must be filed, the landlord can pursue all tenants on the lease for repayment of rent, damages, and other fees.

11. Review & Sign Any Supporting Documents

After the lease agreement is signed, briefly explain the purpose of each supporting document (if you have any) and have the tenant sign each page.

If one of the documents is the Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form, let the tenant know you have provided them with a Lead-Based Paint Information Brochure within their fold that they will take home as they are signing this document, so they can check the box that says they were provided this document.

On the Pet Addendum, have them fill out their pet information (type of pet and breed) and sign and date the bottom of the document.

If there is a cosigner agreement, have the cosigner and tenant sign and date this document.

How Does A Cosigner Work On A Lease?

Cosigners are individuals that agree to be wholly responsible for the lease should the tenant not uphold the lease agreement. Many tenants that cannot pass a credit check sign a lease with a cosigner that will guarantee the rent payments if the tenant falls behind on rent.

Tenants with cosigners should have an additional form called a Cosigner Agreement Form attached to their lease agreement that explains the cosigner’s responsibilities and rights if the tenant does not uphold the lease agreement. At the lease signing, the tenant signs the lease agreement normally, and the cosigner only signs the Cosigner Agreement Form.

12. Review & Sign The Move-In Move-Out Condition Report

The last document that needs to be reviewed and signed is the Move-In Move-Out Condition Report.

Since you already filled out this form, you can just point out some of the items to the tenant so they know you are already aware of them.

For example, one of the cabinets in the kitchen had a chip in the finish at the bottom of one of the doors. We took a picture of this and marked it in the Move-In Condition Report so that we have a record that this tenant did not damage the cabinet.

As I flip through the pages, the tenant initials the bottom of each page.

Having the tenant initial the bottom of each page is crucial in preventing them from ever claiming you modified the document by slipping in an additional page after they signed it. Their initial is on each page acknowledging that they’ve reviewed it, and their signature is on the last page showing that they agree to the full document.

On the last page of the Move-In Condition Report, I like to add the door codes and how many keys we’ve provided so there is a record of that as well. On the last page, both parties sign and date the document.

At this point, the lease signing appointment is pretty much over. I like to ask if they have any other questions before we finish and let them know one last time that as long as they communicate with us, we can work through most problems that arise throughout their tenancy.

13. Hand Over The Keys To The New Tenant & Congratulate Them

Finally, we hand over any keys that go with the home and their folder, and give them a big congratulations on their new home! Make this final part seem like an exciting occasion for them and that you are excited to work with them!

The entire lease signing appointment should have taken 30-45 minutes max.

The lease signing appointment is over now. You can gather up the signed documents, give one final congratulation, and head on out.

14. Send A Follow-Up Email With A Signed Copy Of The Lease Agreement, All Supporting Documents, & The New Tenant Orientation Letter

Once you are home, there is one final step that you must take to complete the smooth lease signing process. Unstaple the signed lease agreement, supporting documents, and move-in condition report and scan them onto your computer.

Our preferred method of scanning and uploading documents to our computer is by using the built-in scanner in the Notes app on our iPhones. Or if you are using an Android and/or prefer to upload the documents directly to Google Drive, you can download the Drive app to scan documents.

After a document is scanned in the Notes app, we email it to ourselves so we can access it on the computer and upload it to our Google Drive. You can skip this step and upload it directly to your Google Drive if you use the Drive app mentioned above.

To see how we organize all of the documents we gather from our tenants on Google Drive, check out my other article here. [COMING SOON]

Finally, send a follow-up email to your new tenant with the attached signed lease agreement, supporting documents, and Move-In condition report, and New Tenant Orientation letter so they have all of these documents in their records. Also, include links to any other important resources such as a link to where they can submit a maintenance request and how they can contact you if they have questions.

If you are using management software such as, then uploading a copy of the signed lease in the documents section is a great idea as well to give the tenant multiple ways to have access to their signed documents.

Once the signed lease is sent to the tenant, you have completed a smooth lease signing process as a landlord! Congrats!

Final Thoughts

Every time we find a new, qualified tenant and are ready to sign a lease with them, we follow this exact list to prepare and run a smooth lease signing.

We’ve found that the better we are at setting expectations for the tenant upfront, the better the tenant relationship we have while working with them. And when we skip steps of this process or rush anything, we end up with a more “high-maintenance”/harder-to-work-with tenant because we didn’t clearly set boundaries, rules, and expectations with them.

Plus, this process makes us look professional because we have a system in place that walks the tenant through the steps easily and quickly, and the tenant is thrilled because they feel taken care of and prepared for their new tenancy with us.

I hope you find this article useful and that it helps you run your next lease signing better than a pro!

Catch you in my next post!

Check out my recommended tools, templates, and resources to free up your time from constantly working on and worrying about your rental properties. My husband and I use these tools to self-manage 18 rental units (and counting) for only 5-10 hours a month.

Keep in mind that most of these items are either free or reasonably priced for the amount of value that they provide. My goal on this page is to recommend tools, templates, and resources that we use daily and wish we had known about at the beginning of our landlord journey. Since implementing them, they’ve saved us countless hours and tons of headaches.

Finding good tenants for a rental property is arguably one of the most essential tasks that a self-managing landlord must accomplish. You’re searching for a high-quality tenant that will pay on time, take care of the property, and be easy to communicate with all while trying to get the most amount of rent and filling the vacant unit as quickly as possible.

That’s no small feat! So, how can you find good tenants for your rental property?

Love this post? Share it with others so they can lease a lease signing with a new tenant easier as well!

By Christine

Christine is a blogger and real estate investor/property manager who self-manages 18 rental units (and counting) alongside her husband, Adam. Although she successfully automates the management of her rentals and pockets the property management fee now, her path to success was not easy.

Go here to read her story, From An Overwhelmed First-Time Landlord To A Pro Investor Self-Managing 18 Rentals On Less Than 10 Hours Per Month“.

Recent Posts

  • How To Reject A Tenant Application (With Examples!)

    How To Reject A Tenant Application (With Examples!)

    When you start to accept applications for your rental property, you’ll inevitably get some applications that do not meet your minimum screening standards (even if you list them in the listing, some people just don’t read or don’t care). When this happens, you’ll have to carefully review the application and send back a Tenant Application…

  • How To Write A New Tenant Welcome Letter For Your Rental Property

    How To Write A New Tenant Welcome Letter For Your Rental Property

    When we have found a new tenant that we are ready to sign a lease with, we want to start the new relationship off on the best terms possible. In order to do that, we need to ensure that they are familiar with the most important details of the lease. We do this by providing…

  • Ultimate Guide To Collecting Rent And Charging Late Fees As A Landlord (Easy System!)

    Ultimate Guide To Collecting Rent And Charging Late Fees As A Landlord (Easy System!)

    Collecting rent from tenants is one of the most time-consuming (and emotionally charged) parts of being a landlord. Not only will you get every excuse under the sun about why rent will be late this month (again), but you will also miss out on opportunities to collect extra income and increase rent over time if…