Reasons to Put Landlord Agreements in Writing

Costly misunderstandings often come out of verbal agreements.

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They say the only sure-fire way to “win” against the IRS if you’re ever audited is with documentation. And most people agree it’s a wise move to get everything in writing — agreements and otherwise. You should document your phone calls by drafting a write-up on whom you have spoken with and when. Detail the conversation and the determination that was made. And always keep copies and records of all correspondence, including e-mails.

The same thing rings true for when you, as a tenant, are working with your property manager and/or landlord of the home you’re renting.

Don’t always trust a landlord who grants a quick verbal permission for you to “go ahead and paint the walls.” You should secure that permission, in writing, to paint the walls in a specific color. It’s also good to attach a paint sample color to this written permission. Carefully outline the specifics of your painting agreement, including whether you should paint it back to the original color, or leave it as it, and then have the landlord sign off on it and date it.

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You’ll avoid the problem of a wrongfully held security deposit when, during your move out, the landlord forgets or flips out over the brightly colored, neon green colored walls you chose. You can just quietly pull out your documentation allowing the permission and respectfully remind your landlord/property manager of what you agreed to. Keep this in mind for all other rental items too, such as payment arrangements, allowing pets to be on the property or for permission to make repairs to the home on your own.

Verbal agreements, although legal in some states, rarely hold up and often cause more problems. Whether you’re working with a real estate transaction, a rental lease agreement or dealing with the IRS always remember to get it in writing and you’ll be in all right in the end.

Jessica Hickok is a realtor and property manager with Dizmang Properties, Inc. in Springfield, Missouri where she and her business partner manage over 200 single-family homes. She is the co-founder of the web site and blogs about property management projects on her personal site at and via Twitter as @SugarCube.