Being a landlord isn’t just collecting rent checks. Tenants and landlords have important rights and obligations. A critical element for you to be a successful landlord is compliance with state and federal regulations governing the landlord-tenant relationship. Many landlords do not fully understand their rights or legal obligations, and this can be very dangerous. According to a recent survey conducted by Zillow, as much as 50% of surveyed landlords do not know basic rental laws. If a landlord-tenant dispute arises you need to be prepared and understand your rights and obligations because a lot is at stake.
There are a lot of federal, state, and local laws that govern the rental industry and the landlord-tenant relationship. This makes it critical to understand the laws. You must know what you can do, and what you cannot if a dispute arises. The Landlord-tenant law “governs the rental of commercial and residential property. It is composed primarily of state statutes and common law” (Legal Information Institute). These laws are established to protect both landlords and their tenants. Some cities have specific ordinances regarding landlord-tenant rights as well. Each laws will vary slightly from state to state.
Here are the basics of the Landlord-tenant law:
- Do not discriminate during the tenant selection process: Federal law prohibits discrimination in housing and the rental market. See Civil Rights Act of 1866 & 42 U.S. Code, Chapter 45, Federal Fair Housing Act for more information.
- Security Deposit: Every landlord has the right to charge their tenant a security deposit. The security deposit doesn’t actually belong to you. After the rental period is over, you will need to return the security deposit. You can deduct money from the deposit if the tenant has damaged the rental unit.
- Warranty of Habitability: This requires a landlord to substantially comply with building & housing code standards. Housing codes were established to ensure that residential rental units were habitable at the time of rental and during the tenancy.
- Quiet enjoyment of the property: ensures that the tenant will not be disturbed by someone with a superior legal title to the land including the landlord.
- Eviction: landlord barring a tenant from using the property, usually due to the tenant materially violating the lease and/or not paying the agreed-upon rent.
- Notify tenants in writing if the property changes ownership.
- Do not restrain the tenant’s access to the property, nor turn off utilities.
If understanding all the federal, state, and local laws
This blog post is for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice.
Always consult your appropriate legal jurisdiction authority before acting.
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