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What Are The Most Important Laws And Regulations That A Landlord Should Know?

Being a landlord is a great way to build wealth while earning passive monthly cashflow but the reality is that the job of a landlord is never easy because there are a variety of laws and regulations that they must know.

From landlord-tenant laws, to fair housing laws, one of the main jobs of a landlord is to stay on top of laws and regulations that they must know so that they don’t violate their tenants’ rights and end up in court.

In this article, we will provide you with a breakdown of the most important laws and regulations that landlords must know.

A Landlord Must Provide Habitable Housing

One of the most important things a landlord is required by law (Implied Warranty Of Habitability) to do is provide their tenant with habitable housing.

This means that the rental property must have the basic necessities that a tenant would expect in a rental property including:

  • Heat
  • Cooling
  • Plumbing
  • Running water
  • Electricity
  • Protection from the elements
  • Pest free
  • Safety

After meeting these basic requirements, a landlord must also make sure that they regularly make repairs and maintain their property because if they leave the property in a state of disrepair, the tenant may consider withholding rent or making the repair themselves then deducting that cost from their rent.

Respect A Tenants Right To Privacy

Besides providing tenants with a habitable place to live, landlords must also respect a tenant’s rights to privacy as well.

Right to privacy is important because even though the landlord may own the property, the reality is that once they have a tenant living there, they must provide their tenant with a 24-hour notice to enter the property when repairs or maintenance is needed.

Landlords should also keep copies of their requests to enter their rentals just in case they ever have to prove that they did respect their tenants’ rights.

Credit reporting under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a landlord must get an applicant’s permission to run a credit report. Typically, the rental application should obtain consent from the tenant to run a background screening check. You must then provide the prospective tenant with information about the credit reporting agency. 

Now let’s suppose you decide to deny the application based on the information contained in the credit report. In that case, you must inform the tenant of this—and you must explain what factors were included in your decision to reject their application.

Laws about drafting a rental agreement

The tenancy agreement is a legal document between you and your tenant. The rental agreement should state the lease term, rent amount, late fees, and security deposit amount. It should also include any clauses regarding pets, maintenance, and property inspections. 

it’s also smart to remember that the rental agreement can’t contain clauses that contradict state or federal laws. For example, some states have rent control measures or will limit charges for late fees and security deposits. So, you need to know what exactly your state allows before drafting a rental agreement to ensure you’re aligned with the legal parameters in your state.

Now, can a landlord break a lease legally? Yes, but only if the tenant is guilty of a lease violation. But even in those cases, you have to go through the eviction courts to legally get the tenant out of the rental property. 

What about a “tenancy at will”? It doesn’t matter whether or not there is a signed lease—or whether the tenant lives there on a month-to-month basis. Either way, you are still required to follow the law governing verbal rental agreements. Even a squatter has rights, and you can’t carry out a self-help eviction to remove them from your property.

Laws regarding a tenant’s privacy rights and quiet enjoyment

The tenant’s legal right to quiet enjoyment also protects their privacy. In essence, this landlord-tenant law lets the renter live in the property as if it was their own.

So how does “quiet enjoyment” affect your responsibilities? For starters, you can’t enter the property at will. You must typically give proper notice to carry out a property inspection or enter the property for other reasons. 

However, the warranty of quiet enjoyment also means that your tenant can’t unnecessarily disturb the peace of the neighbors. A tenant cannot refuse to allow you to enter the property after you give them the appropriate notification, either. 

Rental inspection property laws: Your tenant has rights

While you are the property owner and are the one who has invested tens or hundreds of thousands into the rental unit, you must still adhere to the laws on property inspections. However, no rules define “how often is too often” when it comes to property inspections. 

That said, there are a few guidelines for determining how to avoid violating rental inspection laws. For starters, you should never make impromptu visits to the property. Even a friendly stopover—something like, “I was just passing by and wanted to see how you are”—could be taken the wrong way. And, when you ask to do an inspection of the home, you should always ensure that you specify a reasonable time frame in a written inspection notice. 

You should also ensure that the rental agreement stipulates how you plan to deal with property inspections. An annual or bi-annual property inspection is typically reasonable for most properties. 

Laws that regulate security deposits

State laws typically regulate security deposits. As such, there may be limits on how much you can collect for a security deposit on your rental property, as well as how to hold the deposit and when you should return it. 

For example, many states stipulate that a landlord holds the deposit in a separate, interest-bearing account. As such, the deposit must be returned in full, along with interest, at the end of the lease—provided that there are no rent debt or lease violations to contend with, of course. 

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What Makes A Rental Property Uninhabitable?

Are you searching for information on what makes a rental property uninhabitable? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

The first thing that makes a rental property uninhabitable is a lack of essential utilities.

That’s right, utilities like hot water, cold water, electricity, and heating are essential. If a rental property does not have these basic utilities, this is one clear indication that the property can be classified as being uninhabitable.

When a tenant moves into a rental property, they do so with a basic understanding that that property is going to have a ‘warranty of habitability’. This means that they move into the rental property knowing that it’s going to have the basic utilities that they need to live on a daily basis.

Mold, Mildew, and Water Leaks

Not all water leaks amount to a “major issue” or immediately make a property uninhabitable. The scope, severity, and actions, or lack thereof, taken by the property owner come into play here. A roof leak caused by a recent rainstorm that your landlord resolves quickly with the help of a professional roofer is very different from a persistent leaking pipe that your landlord does nothing about, even after written notice.

Mold and mildew growth are the typical byproduct of unresolved water leaks or flooding in a property. This is more than just a nuisance: many forms of mold and mildew can be dangerous for humans and animals to be around. This falls into the category of environmental hazards, which can also include exposure to lead paint dust (common in older properties) or asbestos insulation. 

In most jurisdictions, landlords have an obligation to address such issues promptly and may be required by local or state codes to take other steps such as putting the tenant in alternative housing until the hazard is resolved. Lead and asbestos are also subject to U.S. federal law, which requires property owners to warn you about known lead or asbestos problems before signing the lease. Check your lease paperwork to see if there are any details about either.

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