As a nation, we are preparing to hand over the keys to the White House, one of the world’s most famous home-offices. The White House is an iconic building and National Historic Landmark with a colorful history, but in some ways it is just like any other temporary housing. The standard lease term is four years, with the opportunity for a renewal. The unit boasts 132 rooms and 35 bathrooms, with a private residence on the second floor. We have compiled some more White House history that can instruct today’s landlords in managing a successful rental property.
As her husband’s second term comes to a close, First Lady Michelle Obama recently joked that her family has to “get the old house cleaned up so we can get our security deposit back.” The transfer of the First Family’s belongings is a well-coordinated event, just like the careful attention required when any tenant moves out.
Forms such as a move-in/move-out condition report can ensure both parties agree on the state of the unit. A security deposit accounting statement can be used to tally any expenses retained by the landlord. You can use a Receipt of Keys form to keep track of when the residence has been handed over. And of course, always use a comprehensive, state or province-specific lease agreement!
In addition to presidents’ spouses, many children have also lived in the White House, including Esther Cleveland, the first baby born to a sitting president. The bachelor president, James Buchanan, had his niece Harriet Rebecca Lane Johnston serve as his First Lady. Barack Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, moved into the White House in 2009 to become the first grandmother-in-residence.
For your rental properties, in addition to listing tenants, be sure to list all occupants by name on the lease agreement. Occupants are individuals living in the residence who are not legally responsible for paying the rent.
The White House has been home to animals of all shapes and varieties over the years. In fact, only two presidents are recorded as having kept no pets. John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline received a dog, Pushinka, as a gift from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Presidents Howard Taft and Benjamin Harrison pastured cows on the White House lawn. The Lincolns had a turkey and a pig, while James Buchanan’s pets included two bald eagles. John Quincy Adams reportedly kept a pet alligator in a bathtub at the White House. Perhaps the wildest menagerie belonged to Calvin and Grace Coolidge, whose pets included raccoons, lion cubs, a wallaby, a bobcat, a Pygmy hippopotamus, a donkey, a goose, a black bear, and many more critters.
To keep your rental from becoming a veritable zoo, use specific language regarding pets. If you do choose to allow pets, you can impose detailed restrictions on the number and types of pets allowed, as well as their size and weight. Of course, don’t forget that certain types of pets may run afoul of the regulations of your municipality or HOA. Perhaps you can follow the example of Congress, who reputedly forced Martin Van Buren to turn over a gift of two tiger cubs to the zoo.
A Whitewashed House
Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue was referred to as the White House for decades before President Theodore Roosevelt made the nickname official. The moniker originated from the lime-based whitewash that was applied to protect the structure and to fill in cracks. In 1818 the White House was painted with lead paint for the first time. Today, it takes around 570 gallons of white paint to cover the building’s exterior.
Federal law specifies information and disclosures be provided to tenants residing in a building built in 1978 or prior due to the threat of lead paint. Additionally, some states have their own lead paint documents and requirements. Exposure to lead paint can cause severe and lasting health problems, especially in children.
British troops torched the White House during the War of 1812. President James Madison and his wife Dolley were able to evacuate before the fire, and she managed to rescue a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s famous painting of George Washington. However, they were unable to inhabit the White House after the blaze.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers several fire fact sheets discussing fire safety. Also, if you provide a wood burning device in your rental, be sure to include information on safe operation and maintenance. Don’t forget to address fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire escapes, and restrictions on smoking and burning candles in your lease agreement!
A Rowdy Crowd
After Andrew Jackson, the “People’s President,” was inaugurated, the White House received an unexpected number of revelers. While accounts of the actual destruction caused by the crowd vary, some attendees reported that the crowd broke items in the White House and caused Jackson to escape the mob by slipping out a window or back door.
If boisterous tenants threaten to disturb the peace, leave the property unclean, or even damage your rental, take swift recourse by using a violation notice. The Notice to Tenant to Repair Damages holds the tenant responsible for recent destruction to the rental. Loud parties can cause problems with neighbors as well as law enforcement, but you can take action by issuing an Excessive Noise notice. Unacceptable conditions can occur because of a single raucous party or from prolonged neglect. Either way, the Maintenance/Cleanliness Violation Notice fits a number of situations where untidiness is causing problems at your rental property.
Making rental history
While the White House’s history is indeed remarkable, in the rental business, boring can be good! Whether your rental is a single room or a spacious mansion, the same rules apply: well-documented guidelines help set the expectations, and legal violation notices can keep things on the right track.