Written Leases are Preferred
Having a Wyoming residential rental lease agreement may not guarantee that you will not have issues with your tenants, but it will give you a firm foundation to resolve issues and give you leverage should there be disagreements. If your tenants are aware of their responsibilities and the procedures to follow regarding deposits, occupancy, house rules, pets, subleasing, use of facilities, termination and other matters, then you are less likely to incur unnecessary expenses or face an uncertain court decision.
Landlords are under an implied covenant of habitability, meaning that they have to provide a leased residence that is safe, sanitary and fit for habitation. They are also required to maintain the dwellings in a habitable condition.
Fair housing laws apply to most private landlords. You are barred from discriminating against a rental applicant or your own tenants based on color, race, creed, national ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, familial status and disability. Disability laws require that you provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled tenants and not charge them a deposit or fee for the accommodation.
Do not retaliate against tenants who file complaints against you regarding the condition of the unit, for joining a tenant’s organization or for exercising any remedies or rights afforded them under the fair housing laws and other laws of the state or federal government.
Landlord Duties and Obligations
All landlords are obligated to provide a dwelling that is habitable and contains the basic essential services. As landlord, you are required to do the following:
- Comply with all housing, building and health codes affecting tenants
- Make all necessary repairs within a reasonable time regarding conditions, systems and services that affect the habitability of the premises
- Maintain common areas and keep them free of trash and hazardous conditions
- Provide services, systems and facilities including heat, electricity, air, plumbing, ventilation, sanitary, elevators and appliances in good working condition
- Provide running and hot water and heat between the months of October 1 and May 1 unless the building is exempt or where the tenant has exclusive control of the heating or hot water and a direct public utility connection is in place
- Provide trash or garbage receptacles and a means of removal
- Provide each tenant a move-in checklist before taking possession that advises of the condition of the premises and any damage
- Provide smoke detectors in all dwellings
Obligations of the Tenant
Basic tenant responsibilities include:
- Maintain the dwelling in a safe condition and do not damage, deface, modify, alter or remove any part of the unit
- Comply with building and health codes to keep the premises safe and clean
- Use all appliances and systems such as air, heat, electricity and plumbing in the appropriate manner
- Do not engage in unlawful activities on the premises
- Pay the rent on time and adhere to all terms and provisions of the rental agreement
- Do not disturb the right of other tenants to the quiet enjoyment of their own premises
- Promptly notify the landlord of needed repairs
Rental Agreement Provisions
All lease agreements must have certain essential terms and provisions but you can add other provisions to address common landlord/tenant situations. Be aware that some of these terms differ depending on the municipality where your unit is located.
Consider the following terms and provisions for your Wyoming residential lease agreement:
- Name of property owner and property manager; address where rent is to be paid; emergency or maintenance contact information; address and name of person to whom legal documents and notices are to be served
- Names of all the tenants and any other occupants—have all adult tenants sign the lease so that they are jointly and severally liable for the lease terms, including the rent
- Description or address of the premises
- Beginning and end dates
- Amount of rent and date it is due—state grace period and amount of late fees and when the fees apply
- Insufficient check fees—whatever the bank charges
- Provide rules that apply to all tenants fairly, are clearly worded and that promote the convenience, safety and welfare of the tenants; preserve your property and are not intended to avoid your own duties and obligations
- Security deposit:
- No limit on what you may charge—if you want any part of the deposit to be nonrefundable, state that in the lease and be sure the tenant understands
- Funds need not be kept in a separate account
- if paid in cash, should give tenant a receipt
- no interest required to be paid
- suggest you provide a check-in list and statement of the condition of the property to be signed by both parties or, if tenant refuses or neglects to, that it is considered to be the true state of the premises upon initial occupancy
- state that that the funds are to be used for damages that exceed normal wear and tear and/or that a portion is nonrefundable to be used for cleaning, unpaid rent or other expenses
- that funds will be returned within 30-days of tenant vacating unit or provide tenant with an itemized statement specifying damages and cost of repairs and that this amount of funds will be deducted for damages, or within 15-days after tenant after receipt of tenant’s new mailing address, whichever is later
- recommend that you set a time and date for a mutual inspection a short time after the tenant vacates with check-out list on hand
- Landlord’s obligations as noted above—may provide house or conduct rules that apply to all tenants and are for the convenience, safety and welfare of all tenants, provides for the fair distribution of services and facilities to all and preserves the landlord’s property from damage
- Tenant’s obligations as noted above—you may require the tenant to perform specific minor repairs or maintenance if it does not diminish the obligations of the landlord to provide a residence fit for habitability
- Party responsible for certain utilities
- Major appliances and furnishings being provided
- No commercial, business or illegal use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance or is unlawful
- Pet clause—may limit type of pet, weight and require tenant to clean up pet waste in common areas; may charge a deposit that is nonrefundable so long as you state this; no deposit for service dogs is permitted
- Subletting clause—whether you allow it and that you have to consent to whomever is the sublessee
- Your right of entry to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants or purchasers—give 24 hours’ notice and entry between 8 am and 6 pm; indicate that you may enter immediately if it is an emergency or if you have a reasonable basis for believing there is imminent danger to persons or property
- Notify landlord if absence from unit is to be longer than 7 days
- If lease is monthly, termination upon 30-days’ notice without cause or any other notice period—failure to give proper notice can result in the tenant forfeiting the security deposit and liability for the rental period
- 3 -day notice to quit required for nonpayment of rent or for any other material violation of the lease—you may serve this with an unconditional right to terminate. Material violations include:
- substantial damage or waste to the premises caused by tenant or persons under tenant’s control that has not been repaired
- unauthorized pets or occupants
- sublease without consent
- being a constant nuisance to other tenants
- refusing entry to landlord after being given notice
- Notice for increasing rent or changing any other lease term—no statute but recommend 30-days in advance of the effective date of the increase in a monthly lease (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose)
- Consider an automatic lease renewal by giving tenant 30-days’ notice before the expiration of the current lease term that the lease will automatically renew again or it becomes a month-to-month
- Provide disclosure of the presence of lead-based paint on the property for all rental property built before 1978—provide the tenant with an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
Security Deposits not Capped
Most landlord/tenant disputes are either over unpaid rent or return of the security deposit. In Wyoming, you may charge whatever you wish as a deposit and that it be nonrefundable, or at least some portion of it, but this must be unequivocally stated in the rental agreement. State that the funds are to be used for damages caused by the tenant that are more than normal deterioration or wear and tear and for unpaid rent and other unpaid expenses. It is recommended that you and the tenant mutually inspect the premises and sign a statement regarding the premises’ condition.
You need not deposit the funds in a separate, interest-bearing account. Return the funds either within 15-days of receipt of the tenant’s new address or 30-days, whichever is later, or send within this time an itemized statement of the damages and cost of repairs. You should schedule a mutual inspection of the unit with your tenants shortly after they vacate to review the list you prepared upon their taking possession.
Termination of the Lease by Notice
Fixed term leases terminate on their own terms without action by either party. A monthly lease may be terminated by either party upon giving 30-days’ notice.
For nonpayment of rent or any other material violation of the lease, serve a 3-day notice to quit. You may serve it with an unconditional notice so that the tenant has no opportunity to pay the overdue rent or cure any other lease violation. State in the notice the reason for the termination, amount of unpaid rent and that the tenant must leave the premises or face eviction proceedings.
Under the federal Servicemembers Relief Act, a tenant who is a member of the American Armed Forces including any of the uniformed services may terminate a fixed term lease if the tenant receives deployment orders to move more than 35 miles from the premises for more than 90 days or must live in a barracks or other residence supplied by the government. The tenant must provide a copy of the orders or at least a written statement from the commanding officer. The tenant must give 30-days’ and has no further obligations under the lease so long as the rent owed for the final rental term is paid.
Domestic Violence Exception
Landlords may not evict a tenant who is a victim of domestic or sexual violence including stalking. You may request proof that the tenant has an order of protection against an abuser or a recent police report evidencing the violence. The tenant may terminate a fixed term lease upon presenting proof of status as a domestic violence victim and after paying the rent due to the end of the next monthly due date.
Wyoming does not have a withhold and deduct statute if there are material repairs that need to be made and you have ignored or neglected to perform them. If the tenant has notified you and you neglect to make these repairs within a reasonable time, then then tenant may sue you in small claims court but may not otherwise retain or withhold any portion of the rent to make and pay for the repairs.
A Wyoming residential lease agreement contains a number of terms and provisions that must be included along with disclosures and notice requirements. All terms must be in clear, simple and intelligible language or you could incur damages or other losses. Consult with an experienced Wyoming landlord/tenant lawyer about your lease and rights and responsibilities as a landlord.