Top 10 Laws All Landlords Must Know

By: ROS Team

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House rental laws are designed to safeguard landlords and their tenants. With that in mind, both should take steps to become familiar with applicable rent and housing laws. Most rental property owners want to profit from their investment properties. So it’s in their best interest to safeguard their investments. Tenants want a safe and peaceful place to live.

Understanding your legal rights and obligations as a landlord will assist you with protecting yourself and your investment property.

Federal Landlord Tenant Laws

The Fair Housing Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act are the two principal federal statutes that can impact landlords and property managers.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminating against current and prospective tenants based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This also means landlords are prohibited from only promoting their rental houses to specific groups of people.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act establishes the circumstances under which a tenants credit history can be pulled and reviewed for tenant screening purposes. According to the Act, a landlord must obtain a housing applicant’s permission prior to requesting a copy of their credit report. The landlord must also disclose the credit reporting agency that was utilized and notify the housing applicant if the information contained in the credit report was the basis for being denied the apartment, or if it adversely impacted the applicant in any way.

State Laws About Rentals

Typically, state laws include renters’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities, the terms and conditions that can be included in a lease agreement, lease termination standards, and how landlords must handle the eviction process.

State regulations may also specify how much a landlord may charge for security deposits. How those funds can be used, and how property managers must manage rental income in trust accounts.

A Landlord’s Legal Responsibility

As a landlord, it is critical that you familiarize yourself with the landlord tenant law that applies to your state and city. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for violating the law. You can be held accountable whether you know the laws or not.

Nolo Network is one of the web’s largest libraries of consumer-friendly legal information and an excellent resource for researching your state landlord tenant laws.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the governing body that enforces anti-discrimination laws and other federal rules that affect tenants. Additionally, you can contact your state real estate board or join a local property manager or landlord professional association for all the current information on state tenant regulations.

Important Landlord Tenant Law

1) Laws Concerning Discrimination

Ensure that you are complying with applicable rental rules and regulations when advertising your property and screening prospective tenants. Follow the same evaluation actions for everyone who applies for tenancy.

2) The Lease

A landlord is responsible for ensuring that the rental contract is legally sound. Lease terms, monthly rental rates, and tenant names must all be explicitly stated in the rental contract.

Legal disclosures, such as security deposit information, are required in some jurisdictions. Additionally, the lease should include all provisions mandated by local and state law. The lease may also include a requirement that tenants must obtain renters insurance.

3) Laws Regarding Required Disclosures

Numerous states require landlords to tell renters of significant state laws, particular landlord laws, and facts regarding the rental in the lease agreement or by another written medium. This notification typically is provided prior to the tenant moving in.

While each state has its own regulations, common disclosures that may need to be included in your lease agreement include a notice of mold. A notice of sexual offenders, and recent deaths that may have taken place at the property. Disclosure of lead-based paint, or other potential health or safety issues involving the property.

4) Laws Relating To Ensuring A Safe Environment

Landlords are responsible for maintaining an inhabitable rental unit. This means the property must be free of all significant defects. Especially those that may pose a danger to the tenant. The landlord must also make an effort to rid the unit of any insect or pest infestations prior to a tenant moving in. However, landlords can evade this responsibility in most states by noting in the rental rules and regulations that pest control is the renter’s responsibility.

5) Laws Regarding Repairs

Tenants are responsible for notifying the landlord of any necessary repairs as specified in the lease agreement. Landlords are responsible for expeditiously addressing those reports and ensuring repairs are completed as soon as possible.

A tenant may be entitled to withhold rent if the landlord fails to complete a repair that jeopardizes the tenant’s health or safety. Such as a broken heating unit during freezing conditions.

6) Security Deposit Laws

Most lease agreements require tenants to pay a security deposit to cover any future damage they may cause during the lease term. A landlord may retain security deposit monies only if the funds were used to cover past-due rent or to make property repairs.

A landlord must provide the renter with an itemized list of deductions and return the remaining security deposit funds to the tenant. If a landlord fails to give an itemized statement or does not refund the unused amount of the security deposit. The landlord may end up possessing more than the security deposit money they initially collected from the tenant.

7) Laws Concerning A Renters Right To Privacy

Most landlord tenant laws help safeguard a tenant’s right to live in a property without being disturbed.

After a tenant moves into a property, the landlord is prohibited from entering the property without a legitimate need. The landlord should not enter the rental property without giving the tenant adequate notice (per landlord laws, at least 24 – 48 hours, except in case of emergencies).

8) Abandoned Tenant Property Laws

When a tenant abandons property unexpectedly or without prior notice, the landlord is required to treat it as abandoned property. The landlord must inform the renter how to claim their personal property. The cost and location of the off-site storage where their items were moved, and when the tenant can pick up their property.

If the property remains unclaimed and its value exceeds a specific threshold, the landlord may sell it at a public auction. If the property is less valuable than the state-specified value. The landlord may keep it or dispose of it in accordance with the house rental law.

9) Laws Concerning Known Criminal Activities

If a landlord learns that a tenant is conducting or involved in criminal behavior. He or she must notify authorities immediately.

A landlord is normally responsible for protecting his rental property’s neighborhood from criminal acts committed by his tenants and may be held liable or suffer legal consequences if unlawful activities occur on the property.

10) Laws Concerning Safety Features

It is your responsibility as the landlord to protect your tenants. Landlords are required to provide safety devices and items such as fire extinguishers, peepholes in exterior doors, deadbolt locks, and window locks.

What are Landlords’ Biggest Fears?

Some of the biggest fears of landlords include property damage, non-payment of rent, difficult tenants, and vacancies.

What Qualities Should a Landlord Have?

Some qualities that a good landlord should have include being responsive to tenant needs and concerns, providing clear and consistent communication, maintaining the property in good condition, and being fair and respectful in all interactions with tenants.

What is the Importance of a Landlord?

Landlords or Property managers assume a significant part in giving protected and reasonable lodging choices for occupants. They are accountable for the property’s upkeep, prompt resolution of maintenance and repair issues, and protection of tenants’ rights.

Final Thoughts

Landlord tenant laws change often, so it is critical to do your due diligence to remain abreast of the laws in place governing your rental property. Partner with a legal professional if necessary; after all, they will know more about landlord-tenant law than most laypersons.

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