Managing a rental property can be an uphill task if you aren’t familiar with landlord-tenant laws.
These laws exist to govern and manage the landlord-tenant relationship. They establish your rights as the landlord and the tenants living on your property.
Next to learning how to market, manage, and price your rental property, you should study federal and state landlord-tenant laws. A solid understanding of these laws can help you avoid a costly legal battle later.
Here are three laws that every landlord should know about to help you get started.
The Federal Fair Housing Act provides civil rights protections to all citizens, and landlords are required to honor them. These anti-discrimination laws protect renters and apply to all real estate transactions. That includes renting, buying, selling, and financing a property.
Under the Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal to discriminate against, refuse to rent, or negotiate with any person due to their inclusion in one of the seven protected classes.
- Familial status
- National Origin
Under the Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone using these protected classes. You may not refuse them housing, set different terms and conditions, or provide different housing facilities.
The Fair Housing Act also makes it illegal for anyone to:
- Intimidate, coerce, or threaten anyone who exercises their fair housing rights
- Use discriminatory adverts that indicate a preference towards any of the seven protected classes.
Security Deposit Laws
Lease agreements often require tenants to pay a security deposit. The security deposit funds cover the rent in case of a default or property damage the tenant causes. Security deposits are not part of the rent and are refundable at the end of the tenancy. You must refund the security deposit minus the cost of repairs after the tenant moves out of your property.
Security deposit laws govern the handling of security deposits to protect the rights of both parties. Many states require landlords to hold the money in a separate, interest-bearing account. These laws also limit the amount of security deposit you may request from your tenants. Some states cap the security deposit at two months’ worth of rent.
Security deposit laws governing how landlords can use a security deposit vary between states. However, most states prohibit landlords from using the deposit to cover normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear include streaks on the wall and worn-out carpets. However, normal wear and tear don’t cover water damage, broken tiles, holes in the walls, and more.
Security deposits in many states allow landlords to use the fund to:
- Cover the cost of cleaning the rental unit
- Repair damage outside the normal wear and tear
- Cover rent arrears
Landlord-tenant laws protect the tenant’s rights to privacy and safeguard against landlord interference. Once tenants rent your property, they have a right to quiet enjoyment and should live on the property undisturbed. At that point, you shouldn’t enter the renter’s home without proper notice.
You may only enter the property after giving property notice, usually 24 to 48 hours. You may, however, enter on short notice in an emergency. Still, you may only enter a rental unit during a reasonable time of day and have a valid reason.
In most states, the lease and rental agreements contain a covenant of quiet enjoyment, which obligates the landlord to honor the tenant’s privacy. Interfering with this right may lead to legal or financial consequences. For instance, in California, you may be required to issue a full or partial rent refund if you fail to remedy an activity that interferes with the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment.
Breaches of a renter’s quiet enjoyment include:
- Harassing a tenant or their guest in person or over the phone
- Unnecessary or frequent property inspections or visits
- A dog that barks loudly and constantly
- Prolonged remodels, and maintenance works.
- Pests and vermin inside the walls
Building a wealth of landlord-tenant laws is crucial to maximizing your rental income. It enables you to develop great relationships with your renters and avoid potential points of conflict.