In the real estate investing business, the relationship between a landlord and tenant can become complicated when, at some point, a sort of disagreement arises over rental payments, property damage, timely repairs, etc. The best way for both the landlord and tenants to protect themselves from housing law violations is by knowing their rights. Here, we’ll cover the basics for real estate investors to understand the landlord tenant law.
Landlord Tenant Law: Landlord’s Rights and Obligations
In the US real estate market, each state’s laws vary slightly. However, under the landlord tenant law, there are basic rights and responsibilities that every landlord must follow regardless of where the real estate investment property is located.
Landlord Tenant Law: Tenancy/Deliver Possession of Unit
The Fair Housing Act states that no landlord has the right to refuse to house to a potential tenant based on race, nationality, sex, familial status, religion, or disability. Moreover, landlords can’t discriminate against a tenant because they are getting Rent Supplement or any other social welfare payment, or a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). This means that when advertising a real estate investment property, landlords can’t claim that Rent Supplement or HAP is not accepted.
Another responsibility for landlords under the landlord tenant law is to deliver possession of the unit to the tenant. This means that the unit has to be vacant and available for the tenant on the move-in date that was specified in the lease agreement. Otherwise, the tenant may be able to pursue legal action against the landlord due to failure to honor the lease agreement.
Landlord Tenant Law: Rent
Under the landlord tenant law, the landlord has the right to set the rent and receive it on the due date, in full. However, landlords do not have the right to charge more than the market rate for the rental property or retain a tenant’s unit if he/she hasn’t paid rent.
If a tenant does not pay rent due to a dispute with the landlord, this does not automatically give the landlord the right to remove this tenant from the real estate investment property. It is against the landlord tenant law for a landlord to remove tenant’s belongings and furniture or change the locks on the doors and bar entering the rental property in any way. The only time that this can be done legally is when an eviction is carried out.
Landlord Tenant Law: Security Deposit
According to the landlord tenant law, every landlord has the right to charge his/her tenants a security deposit at the start of the lease agreement. This deposit works as security for the landlord in case the tenant fails to pay rent, damages the property, or breaches the lease agreement. However, a security deposit can’t be more than 2 months’ worth of rent. In addition, when the lease agreement ends, the landlord is obliged to return the security deposit, plus interest, back to the tenant within 30 days.
Landlords have the right to withhold all or part of a tenant’s security deposit if the tenant has caused damage to the rental property beyond normal wear and tear in order to cover the costs of repairs; however, a written list detailing exactly what the money was spent on must be sent to the tenant. Other circumstances that give the landlord the right to withhold security deposits are if the tenant has ended the tenancy without giving the landlord proper notice, and the landlord is left with outstanding bills (for electricity, gas, etc.) or unpaid rent. Other than those reasons, the landlord has no right to keep a tenant’s security deposit under the landlord tenant law, and if he/she does, he/she can face legal consequences.
Landlord Tenant Law: Repairs and Maintenance
Landlords have to be informed of any needed repairs, and it is their responsibility to take care of fixing these repairs, such as broken windows, doors, electrical wiring, and heating/cooling systems. Not only that, but under the landlord tenant law, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the real estate investment property to keep it safe and habitable. This includes replacing the roof, fixing plumbing leaks, and adhering to all building codes by keeping everything in a working condition. This also includes common areas like yards and laundry rooms.
Landlords are obliged to ensure that the rental property meets certain minimum standards and to carry out repairs promptly; if repairs have still not been made after the tenant had informed the landlord of them, the tenant has the right to file suit against the landlord.
Landlord Tenant Law: Access to the Rental Property
Under the landlord tenant law, landlords are given reasonable access to the rental property in order to carry out said repairs. Nonetheless, they never have the right to enter a tenant’s unit without his/her permission first; they must be respectful of their tenants’ privacy
Other obligations required from landlords according to the landlord tenant law include:
- Insure the real estate investment property
- Ensure that the tenant knows how to contact you or your agent
- Give tenants a 90-day notice of a rent review
- Provide tenants with a valid written notice of termination if you’re terminating the tenancy
- Make sure that tenants meet their obligations.
Landlord Tenant Law: Tenants’ Rights and Obligations
Landlord Tenant Law: Livable Conditions
Under the landlord tenant law, all tenants have the right to be provided with a space considered habitable – including basic needs such as working plumbing, electricity, and heat. As previously mentioned, landlords can’t shut off utilities, lock you out of their units, or remove your belongings from the real estate investment property unless you have already been formally evicted.
Tenants are entitled to a quiet and exclusive enjoyment of their rental property. On the other hand, each tenant is responsible for not disturbing other tenants by maintaining reasonable noise levels, following the rules of the building, and complying with the landlord tenant law.
Landlord Tenant Law: Rent Payment
As a tenant of a rental property, you are obliged to pay rent to the landlord in full, on the due date. Under the landlord tenant law, landlords can pursue eviction when they stop receiving rent, regardless of the reason. For example, you can’t refuse to pay rent just to provoke your landlord to perform maintenance or other duties; this is considered a breach of the lease agreement as rent payment is independent of the landlord’s responsibilities.
Landlord Tenant Law: Keeping the Rental Property in Working Order
As mentioned earlier, tenants have the right to a livable unit, and the landlord is responsible for taking care of repairs and maintenance. That being said, tenants are also responsible for keeping their unit clean, not causing any damage, and repairing damage caused by them. For example, under the landlord tenant law, tenants are obliged to fix anything that their guests broke or damaged.
Landlord Tenant Law: Access to the Property
We’ve already established that, under the landlord tenant law, landlords can’t access tenant’s unit without approval. With that being said, tenants are expected to grant landlords access to the real estate investment property if an advance notice is given, and the reason for entry is reasonable – to make repairs, show the home to a prospective future renter, or inspect the unit. Nonetheless, if your landlord has made coming into the rental a habit of, you should first talk and explain that you don’t find these actions acceptable, and if this does not work, you have the right to contact the police and file a complaint against your landlord.
Landlord Tenant Law: Ending Tenancy
Under the landlord tenant law, tenants are obliged to honor the lease agreement and give the landlord a notice when ending the tenancy. In some cases, however, like if a tenant is threatened or assaulted with a weapon by the landlord or another tenant, he/she may break the lease agreement immediately without any financial consequences.
In the US real estate investing market, real estate laws and regulations differ from one state to another. Thus, it’s important to get advice specific to your state and local situation. On top of that, real estate investors (both landlords and tenants) are advised to consult with a lawyer who has experience in landlord tenant law to ensure their rights and obligations are not being violated.
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