Landlord Tenant Laws

Landlord tenant laws govern the relationship, rights, rules, and responsibilities of the parties to a residential rental agreement. Each of the 50 states have their own landlord tenant rights, with many statutes or civil code being very similar. However, there are also very significant differences in the statutes from one state to the next. Laws may vary from what is required in a rental listing, how to properly conduct a tenant screening, terms required in a rental application, and more. Tenants, as well as landlords, both end up on the losing end of court cases regarding the landlord and tenant rights in their state from time to time. It’s not personal, statutes protect all involved parties and were created with safety in mind for all. This is to make sure everyone who is party to a residential rental agreement complies with the landlord tenant laws in their state.

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Landlords should familiarize themselves with rental law as it is relevant to every tenancy. Every state has landlord tenant law guidelines regarding what is and is not permitted in a residential lease agreement. If you write or have someone else draw up a residential lease that violates these statutes, a court could declare a particular clause, portion, or the entire lease unenforceable. Additionally, the courts could potentially award money damages to tenants as a result of your unenforceable or unconscionable rental agreement. While not common, a tenant with a judgment against you could potentially file an action for foreclosure against your rental unit! Stories of tenant and landlord lawsuits like these are public knowledge, don’t become a statistic!

Click the Map for Landlord Tenant Laws in Your State

Landlords must also know the landlord tenant laws in their state regarding when landlords can enter their occupied rental property and the required notice that landlords must give tenants in advance of planning to enter the premises. One of the most important aspects of landlord law in any state is the statutes governing violation of the lease. If tenants fail to pay rent on time or damage the property, you cannot just throw them out, set their belongings outside, change locks or take other illegal or criminal actions. In accordance with renters landlords rights you must also supply tenants with fair and proper notices. If you fail to word notices as designated in the statutes, you could possibly lose your case in court.

Landlords must also comply with all federal laws in addition to landlord tenant laws in their state.

In addition to complying with all state landlord tenant laws, you must also adhere to all federal laws regarding housing and discrimination. Unless a particular apartment building or other type of housing is specifically designated for a particular group, such as an elderly housing complex, you may not discriminate against any applicant in any manner that violates federal laws. You cannot forbid families with children unless your apartment is for elderly or disabled adults. You cannot forbid a person or family of another race or culture from renting your property. Just as you stress the importance to your tenant that you expect compliance with the terms of your lease and landlord tenant laws, you also have the same responsibilities.

Where ever your property is located it is in your best interest, and for the security of your investment, to ensure a security deposit is provided prior to move in. The amount of security deposits paid before move in will provide you with protection against repairs and services, eviction, disputes, an unpaid utility, or other unforeseen issues. You will need to return any deposits held within a reasonable period of time as well as include a specific breakdown for any deductions.

Attorneys specializing in landlord-tenant matters can provide assistance regarding laws in your area, how to return a deposit, additional provisions for the lease agreement, or even help with an early lease termination if necessary. Sometimes a phone call with the attorney will be sufficient saving you time and money over an office visit.

Apartment rental laws in all states allow the landlord to perform a proper tenant background check. To properly screen the applicant a rental application with a signature release will be required. AAOA’s landlord forms provide this release.

It is important to recognize that landlord rights apply to the state where your rental properties are located, not where you live. If you have rental properties in more than one state, knowing the applicable statutes in each of the states is crucial. For example, California renters rights may vary greatly from Florida landlord tenant law.

We encourage you to please learn more about the landlord tenant statutes in your state. The American Apartment Owners Association website provides access to landlord tenant laws and resources to help guide you free of charge, no payment required! Although the information is free and we always have it available it does not substitute for the advice of an attorney. While attorneys may charge fees for their service, it’s good business practice to retain local counsel. Click on the state where you have rental properties to learn more.