Landlords are responsible for providing tenants with a nice place to live that is full of usable amenities. In exchange, tenants pay for the privilege of living there. One of the most important amenities to tenants is adequate parking at rental properties. Parking spaces are such an important part of a rental property that it’s one of the top frustrations and sources of conflict between landlords and tenants. There are plenty of resources to help landlords navigate the tricky business of establishing, monitoring and enforcing parking at rental properties.
Landlords who want to keep their tenants happy and reduce conflict between neighbors should have a clearly defined parking plan for their multi-unit property. Parking issues are generally not a problem at single family home rental properties, although municipal parking rules (such as on-street parking bans) will apply. When it comes to duplexes, four-plexes and multi-unit housing, parking conflicts are going to happen.
Issues with parking at rental properties will also differ when the property is located in an urban area versus a rural setting. Urban rental properties may not have much parking available or sometimes even none at all. Urban settings can also lead landlords to get creative when it comes to parking for tenants. Suburban and rural settings often have more options when it comes to parking and structuring the rules for tenants. No matter where a landlord’s property is located, parking is a precious amenity that tenants want to use, with as little trouble as possible.
Most landlords will agree that there are several issues that frustrate tenants when it comes to parking. Here are just a few of the top tenant complaints about their vehicles and where to put them:
- Other people park in their assigned spot, causing a chain reaction of incorrect parking.
- Not enough guest parking so guests have to take assigned spots.
- They don’t like the location of their assigned spot, usually that it is too far away.
- They own more vehicles than there are assigned spots for the unit.
- Anything that has to do with towing threats or actual towing of vehicles.
Landlords of multi-unit properties do have a lot of issues to deal with, and a non-existent or poorly conceived parking plan will definitely lead to headaches for both tenants and landlords. Only a well-enforced parking plan that has been crafted to fit the unique circumstances of each property will result in minimal tenant complaints.
Lease Agreements and Parking Addendums
As with most rental rules and regulations, a lot of miscommunication can be eliminated with a comprehensive lease agreement that has a section about parking. Landlords should tailor the language to match their particular rental property and lots of miscommunication can be eliminated when rules are clear. Along with other major issues, the lease agreement clauses should try to cover all the parking scenarios that might arise.
Here are 10 parking rules that landlords should include in the lease agreement or in a parking addendum:
- No parking vehicles on any areas that are not designated specifically for parking. This means there is no parking on the lawn, common areas, in front of dumpsters, or off to the side of the driveway or parking lot. Double parking must also be banned.
- Each unit should be assigned specific parking spaces. To make sure that all tenants have plenty of parking for their own vehicles, there should be assigned parking spaces. Many landlord paint numbers for each parking stall and record them in the lease agreement or a parking addendum. Others also get ID stickers for tenant vehicles to display in the back window to ensure proper parking.
- Clarify guest parking rules. There should be a few places for guest parking in the lot, and tenants should know that anyone, tenants or guests, who parks in someone’s assigned spaces will be towed at their own expense.
- Specify one properly-sized motorized vehicle per parking space. Many tenants will try to squeeze in a car and a motorcycle, or two motorcycles, or a car and a scooter into a single parking space. Make it simple and safe and keep it to one vehicle per one space. In addition, restrict over-sized vehicles, recreational vehicles, trailers, boats and other similar non-standard vehicles.
- Ban inoperable vehicles. Landlords should not allow broken cars, vehicles up on a jack or ones with flat or missing tires to sit for weeks or months in parking spaces. A rental parking lot cannot become a safety hazard with inoperable vehicles waiting to be repaired. Landlords should set a short time limit for inoperable cars to be removed or fixed, then stick to it. Also, all vehicles should have current registration and license plates.
- Outline towing procedures. Each tenant should have a clear outline of what a landlord’s towing procedures are. Examples include why landlords might tow tenant cars, how they will be contacted about parking issues, the number and type of warnings given before a tow, and the financial responsibility.
- Communicate about snow removal. Landlords are responsible for removing snow, either themselves or via a vendor. Language about snow removal should specify that the parking lots will be cleared within a reasonable time after snowfall, and that individual parking spots cannot be plowed out.
- Learn about reasonable accommodations. People with disabilities must get reasonable accommodations, and that extends to parking. If the tenant submits a request for reasonable parking accommodations, such as asking for a closer parking spot or one that is larger to accommodate a wheelchair, landlords must comply.
- Always follow the laws. Never allow residents to park in any place that might violate fire codes, or limit access to emergency vehicles. Check with the city about street parking and any other possible violations that apply to the rental property.
- Make changes properly. There will always be an evolutionary process in getting all the parking rules and regulations set up, and landlords discover new issues or face unheard-of situations all the time. When implementing changes to existing parking rules, do it fairly and communicate with all tenants in writing.
When tempers fly and tenants feel as if their parking rights are being restricted, landlords need to take a professional approach to dealing with them. Landlords need to remember that tenants don’t own their parking spaces. Also, landlords have every right to set clear policies that are spelled out in detail within the lease agreement. When everyone is on the same page regarding where vehicles go, major issues with parking at rental properties should be greatly reduced.
Unique Urban Parking Problems
Parking at rental properties in the suburbs is a lot different than parking issues for an urban unit and no landlord’s guide to parking would be complete without a special section on urban parking issues. As more real estate investors look at the booming metropolitan areas across the state, they are investing in condos, townhomes, apartments and other urban properties. More and more, investors want to know about parking issues, both for the unit itself and in the neighborhood at large.
In fact, urban parking is becoming such an important issue for metro cities that many investors are demanding accurate data in order to make decisions. Trulia has compiled research for several metro areas to help real estate investors in urban areas locate the very best properties. One data scientist at the website has created several maps for urban areas that have better parking options than others.
For example, investors looking to buy in San Francisco may want to consider checking out Presidio, Sunnyside, and Miraloma instead of Chinatown, Mission Bay and Tenderloin. Washington D.C. real estate investors should avoid Barry Farm, Fairlawn and Trinidad and look instead at properties for sale in Friendship Heights, Stronghold and Douglass for overall better parking options for tenants.
No matter where they are located, urban landlords need to make sure that tenants have access to as much parking as reasonably possible. After all, even the most prestigious new developments in the heart of the urban metro area will not be nearly as attractive to applicants without adequate parking. The fact is that parking is a must-have feature for most applicants in the big city.
Landlords who don’t have enough parking spaces at their urban rental property need to get creative when it comes to parking rules and regulations. In most cases, there are simply too many vehicles and not enough existing spaces. Other locations have an influx of out of town commuters who clog up the streets and violate many parking rules as they try to find a place to park. Some urban complexes are built with poor or limited parking options, while others have no choice but to leave it to residents to fight over on-street or off-property parking options. No matter how a landlord decides to regulate and enforce the community’s parking, it should be done consistently and fairly.
Parking, or lack of it, can really mean the difference in whether or not a qualified tenant wants to live in a rental property in the city. Even the newest and largest urban residential centers offer basic parking spaces and require permits. Here are 5 things that landlords can do to solve or otherwise lighten the burden of urban parking problems for tenants and make their property stand out to applicants:
- Expand current parking as best they can. Whether there is a small parking lot, underground parking structure or other parking option, landlords should maximize the current parking to accommodate tenant vehicles. This could mean paving over grassy space or a commons area to do so, or working with outside professionals to create additional space.
- Identify nearby parking garages. Knowing that there are parking options near the rental property can influence applicants to apply and tenants to stay. Providing applicants with rates and locations may just tip the scales for an undecided renter.
- Locate valet parking services. Many urban parking management companies and commercial parking garages will offer valet parking services. See what kind of deals they offer and spread the news.
- Use parking as an incentive. Consider offering parking gift cards or so many months free as a move-in special or as an incentive for paying rent on time. If parking is at a premium, this will be very worthwhile for urban residents.
- Support city projects to increase parking and permits. Many urban areas struggle with providing enough adequate parking for residents as well as visitors and both individuals and local landlord associations can help influence policy and municipal laws regarding parking.
Urban rental properties can be extremely profitable, but landlords who ignore parking are more likely to struggle with attracting and keeping quality tenants who will opt for a rental property that addresses this important issue.
Keep the Peace on Parking
While there is no strict formula on how to successfully manage suburban or urban parking for tenants, landlords should not ignore this important amenity when it comes to purchasing investment property, managing a property or constantly looking for ways to stay competitive in the rental market. Parking needs vary depending on location, types of units and even a city’s walkability and public transportation options.
What is certain is that if landlords aren’t careful about how parking is handled, they could create new problems for themselves as applicants and current tenants convince themselves that it is not worth living in a place that doesn’t meet their vehicle parking needs.