About Landlord – Tenant Law
Landlord-tenant law includes the rights and obligations of both the landlord and their tenant have with regard to the rental of property.
Both the landlord and the tenant are required to be aware of the basics of renting a property, how to collect or pay relevant security deposits and the basics of state and federal laws regarding commercial leasing or fair housing.
Following are some of the issues that arise in Landlord Tenant Law
The landlord-tenant relationship is outlined in the lease agreement, which protects both the landlord and their tenants’ rights.
Most states also recognize lease agreements made orally, but only for a period of one year or less.
A typical lease agreement includes the following information:
- The names of the parties involved (landlord and tenants)
- Address and description of the rental property
- Rent payment and date by which it must be paid each month
- Amount of the security deposit
- Whether pets are allowed
- Other stipulations such as whether a tenant may or may not smoke in the rented property.
Sometimes, sections of a lease agreement could be deemed illegal.
New tenants should always check their local laws if in doubt, but generally, landlords may not include any of the following terms:
- Discriminatory exclusion of tenants (excluding a tenant based on gender, religion, race, etc.)
- Waiver of right to sue landlord (telling a tenant they cannot bring a lawsuit against their landlord)
- Waiver of right to receive a refund of the security deposit (minus repairs and cleaning costs)
- A short-term lease agreement — a lease agreement for 30-day short-term rentals — is often referred to as “rental agreement.” Lease agreements are typically for a year or more.
Most landlords require tenants to pay security deposits before moving in.
Security deposits are limited under most state laws. For instance in California the law limits deposits to two months’ rent (or three months if furnished).
Laws in many states also dictate how soon a landlord must return a tenant’s deposit after vacating a property, usually 30 days or so. In addition to cleaning and repairs, the landlord may deduct any unpaid rent from the deposit. However, the landlord can’t deduct for what may be considered normal wear and tear. Many states require landlords to provide a detailed list of damages and repairs, as well as a detailed list of the cost of repairs or cleaning.
Landlords also have certain legal rights, mainly related to the protection of their income investment.
A landlord may require a monthly payment of rent and the payment of other items specified in the lease agreement, such as utility bills.
Landlords also have the right to evict tenants, but it must be for cause (such as nonpayment of rent).
The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from civil rights violations, including housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, familial status (although this is waived for some retirement communities), and disability.
Some states’ landlord-tenant laws also offer anti-discrimination protections on the basis of LGBT identity and marital status.
And if you have a helper animal, such as a seeing-eye dog, a landlord may not refuse to rent to you solely because of a “no pets” policy.
Other rights also include:
- The right to quiet enjoyment (living undisturbed)
- The right to livable conditions
- The right to a home free of lead poisoning
- A certain level of privacy in the rental property (e.g., a landlord may not enter your home unannounced)
What does a Landlord Tenant Lawyer Do?
In short, lawyers who work in Landlord Tenant law negotiate contracts and broker disputes between parties concerning the rental of a property or properties
Here are some of the issues that may arise in a landlord / tenant relationship
- Evictions and unlawful detainers
- Discrimination against tenants by landlords
- Rent control
- Lease abandonment
- Abandoned tenant property
- Known criminal activity occurring in a rental
- Ending a residential lease early
- Dealing with neighbor issues
- Drafting a lease agreement
- Required disclosures landlords must make to tenants
- Ensuring a safe environment is provided by landlords to tenants
- Landlord responsibility to repair things broken in a rental
- Roommate problems
- Security deposits
- Renter’s right to privacy
- Oral leases
- Dealing with a difficult landlord
- Dealing with a difficult tenant
Skills necessary for a landlord-tenant lawyer include:
- Excellent interpersonal communications skills, both orally and in writing
- Drafting lease agreements and contracts
- Negotiation skills
- Ensuring landlord compliance with laws and regulations
- Ensuring tenant compliance with laws and regulations