Beginning in 2011 we committed to becoming a completely paperless property management company. To that end, we converted our Microsoft Word lease, which we often printed and mailed or delivered to prospective tenants, into a fillable, editable PDF lease. Click here to see our sample Michigan lease.*
Digitizing the leasing process speeds up sending, receiving, and executing lease documents. PDF forms can be emailed as an attachment, eliminating the need to mail or fax. PDFs can be posted on the web and made available for download, in a format that enables users to fill and save forms, regardless of platform or operating system. Most importantly, a fillable, editable PDF lease allows you, the property manager or leasing agent, to control what information the user can manipulate.
Before converting your Microsoft Word lease to a PDF, first make sure your Word lease is in template form. That is, make sure terms and conditions that change from lease to lease are left blank. Here is a portion of the Microsoft Word lease we use as a template at Short South Management + Development. (Click to enlarge.)
Fields that change from lease to lease include the leased premises’s address, the commencement date, the monthly rent amount, prorated rent, the security deposit amount, and others.
To ensure you have enough room to type, you should set the line-spacing to 1.5, at a minimum. Additionally, make sure you underscore (________) the blanks. These blanks signal which fields are editable.
After you’ve saved or printed your lease to PDF, open it in Adobe Acrobat Pro (or similar program). Then, from the Adobe toolbar, click -> Forms -> Start Form Wizard. A new dialog box will open. When asked “What type of document do you want to open as a form?” select “An existing electronic document” and click next. Select “Use the current document” and click next, again.
If you properly spaced the original Microsoft Word lease, Adobe should automatically detect which fields are editable. (Click image to see Adobe’s Form Editor.)
Once you confirm that Adobe picked up the correct editable fields, finish by clicking “Close Form Editing”. Save the document as a PDF and you have successfully created a PDF with editable fields that is otherwise locked to user editing.
*Disclaimer: We are constantly retooling our lease to comply with business demands, tenant feedback, and Michigan Law. You should consult with an attorney before adopting any portion of our lease.