Commercial landlords: Use these tips to avoid lawsuits

There's a lot of money to be made when you're a commercial landlord, but only if you can stay out away from expensive lawsuits. A good, solid lease is often the key to keeping out of court.

Here are some of the best tips you should keep in mind when you're making agreements with your tenants:

  1. Make good use of screening tools: There are plenty of ways to check a tenant's financial security before you agree to lease to them. Don't make the mistake of assuming that someone can afford to pay just because they look and seem successful.

  2. Don't ask the wrong questions: When screening tenants, remember that you can't discriminate against potential renters on the basis of their gender, religion, disability or other factors. Keep that in mind when you ask questions so you don't give the wrong impression.

  3. Be transparent about the costs of the rental: Don't try to hide deep in the lease or amid confusing clauses your common area maintenance fees and other expenses that will fall on the tenant.

  4. Be willing to negotiate: If you want good tenants, you have to be a good landlord. Giving a little on the terms of your lease can earn you valuable goodwill with your tenants that's worth far more than what you will lose by not getting everything you want in the lease.

  5. Do a total walk-through before the tenant moves in: There's no reason not to grab your phone and film as you go to record the condition of the property. That can help resolve a lot of disputes in your favor later.

Despite your best efforts, you may still end up in a dispute with a tenant. If you can, try to work it out. If your efforts fail, however, don't hesitate to get some experienced assistance.