Being a landlord is a complicated job. There are common legal mistakes that landlords make that can have serious repercussions under state laws or landlord-tenant laws. Here are 10 common mistakes landlords make with tips on how to avoid falling into these traps yourself.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord or property manager from refusing to rent property to a tenant for discriminatory reasons such as:
It would be best if you avoided all questions or conversations that may appear discriminatory or suggest discriminatory intent. Tenant screenings are allowed for non-discriminatory things like background checks, income, job history, and past evictions.
Every state has different requirements before a new tenant moves in. Standard disclosures you need to discuss include the following:
A residential lease agreement shouldn't include provisions that violate state and/or federal laws. A landlord should avoid the common mistakes of:
Any illegal provisions may result in a lawsuit for money damages (a landlord liability case).
In many states, landlords are legally responsible for keeping renters safe from dangerous conditions. This includes keeping the property safe from criminal activity. As a landlord, you have a legal duty to:
Take action right away when you learn a property is unsafe. Otherwise, a tenant that sustains physical or property damage may be able to sue you. They can win, make you pay for their attorney, and recover compensation from you.
A rental agreement should specify who has to make repairs. Sometimes a landlord must legally make some repairs even if a rental agreement doesn't define these duties.
Every state imposes an "implied warranty of habitability" on all rental premises. A habitable rental unit will provide:
If a property remains in disrepair, a tenant may choose to:
Failing to make these significant repairs when requested can result in a lawsuit against the landlord.
A tenant always has a right to privacy. A landlord shouldn't enter a tenant's rental unit without first giving a 24-hour written or verbal notice. A landlord can enter (after giving notice) when they:
It is unnecessary to provide notice when an emergency occurs, such as a fire, burst pipe, medical emergency, or domestic violence situation.
A landlord can evict a tenant for:
Before throwing out a tenant, a landlord must use the eviction process. Every state has different guidelines, but most require giving the tenant a termination notice before filing an eviction lawsuit. If the landlord attempts to remove the tenant without a court order, the tenant may recover damages for the landlord's actions.
Most lease agreements require a tenant to pay a security deposit to cover damage caused by the tenant. This money can also cover missing rent if a renter does not pay. After a tenant moves out, a landlord can use the security deposit to fix the damage caused by the tenant. A landlord, however, must:
The landlord may owe the tenant for monetary damages if the landlord fails to:
When a tenant leaves items behind after vacating the property, the landlord must treat it as abandoned property. The landlord must notify the tenant of:
If the property remains unclaimed, two different processes may happen:
Every landlord should insure a property for any destruction caused by natural disasters. It is also a good idea to insure a property against lawsuits brought by a renter.
Insurance will cover the cost of litigation and will pay the damage award if a landlord:
A rental property is usually intended to earn money with only a minor investment of time and energy in property management. But mistakes concerning your obligations to tenants can result in the loss of profits and consume an enormous amount of attention. That's why it's a good idea to consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney to discuss your situation. They can help you learn how to manage rental properties in an efficient and legal fashion.