Home & GardenLandlord-Tenant Laws: All You Need to Know in 2021
If you are a landlord or a tenant living in the USA, it is mandatory to be aware of all the facets of the landlord-tenant law and abide by it. Both the parties should know the laws regarding renting a house, collecting or paying the rent, lease or rental agreement, subletting, returning a security deposit, tenant safety, etc. While landlords must know the grounds to evict a tenant due to failure of rent payment, the tenants should also know the rights that protect them from unfair harassment.
What Is Landlord-Tenant Act?
The landlord-tenant act covers all the aspects of deals between tenants and landlords and the rights and duties bestowed by the state. All the states follow federal law as well as their own landlord-tenant rights, codes, and statutes. These may differ from state to state, but, in general, they protect the legal rights of both the tenants and the landlords for an agreeable relationship. The laws decide the terms of the agreement, rent payment, tenant screening, and eviction. The law lays out the guidelines regarding the list of acts permitted and not permitted in residential agreements. Any violation of the statutes would result in the court declaring the contract or a portion or clause as unenforceable. There are enough instances of a lawsuit filed between tenants and landlords because of a violation of laws.
The landlord-tenant law also takes care of the safety of both parties. There are rules regarding the protection of tenant rights, where landlords must supply a written notice before evicting the tenants or changing the housing locks. The landlord may stand to lose the case in court if they take illegal actions like throwing out the tenant or their belongings on charges of unpaid rent or damage to rental properties without serving a proper written notice.
To summarize, these are the areas that come under the purview of the landlord-tenant act:
- Determining the type of repair work and maintenance a landlord is responsible for.
- Deciding the landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities
- Deciding the notice period, a landlord must provide the tenant
- Terms of eviction and lease or rental agreement
- Decisions regarding payment of tent, increasing rent, lease termination, and security deposit.
Important Sections Of The Landlord-Tenant Law
Let us look into some of the most important details of landlord-tenant laws.
The legal relationship between the tenant and the landlord is laid out in the lease agreements. All the tenant and landlord rights are outlined in this particular agreement made for a certain period. The agreement contains:
- Names of the landlord and tenants.
- Address of the rental property.
- The month's rent amount and the date within which it must be cleared.
- Security deposit amount.
- Lease term for which it is valid. (Lease agreements generally have a one-year term)
- Conditions whether pets are allowed within the premises.
A lease violation can result in disputes and court cases. Moreover, the tenants must check whether the lease agreement complies with the local and federal laws if in doubt. The agreement cannot include any discriminatory clause that excludes tenants based on nationality, race, religion, profession, or gender. The landlord also cannot have any clause that waives the right of the tenant to bring a lawsuit against them.
Tenants must pay security deposits to the landlord before entering. The amount of security deposit varies from state to state. For instance, Alabama has no limit on the security deposit amount, while California limits it to a maximum of two months' rent. The security deposit amount is mentioned in the lease term, where both the parties should sign the statement. The landlord-tenant law also states the time within which the landlord must repay the security deposit after the tenant moves out. The period is usually a month to return the sum of money. The landlord has the right to deduct any amount from the security deposit for cleaning, repair, or unpaid rent. However, the landlord must provide a detailed breakup of the deductions while repaying the security deposit.
Most states provide an implied warranty in the residential lease to ensure that the tenant can live in habitable conditions. The implied warranty makes the landlord maintain optimum living conditions by making required repairs whenever necessary. The warranty makes it easy for tenants to get the landlords to make the repairs. The tenants are allowed withholding rent till the landlord heeds to the request of making an immediate repair. However, some states order the tenant to deposit the rent in an escrow account instead of withholding it completely until the repair work is done. Also, if the tenant makes the repairs without the landlord's help, they have the right to deduct the cost from the month's rent.
A tenant has the right to privacy and enjoys quiet and undisturbed living within the property during the tenancy term. The landlord cannot come in unannounced or use half the housing for any other purpose. The landlord must provide notice before entering the property unless an emergency arises.
Each state has a different landlord-tenant law regarding eviction. The landlord usually has to give a 30-day notice to the tenant before ordering them to move out. If the tenant refuses to pay the rent or move out within the notice period, the landlord may file an eviction case. The landlord may notify the tenant to pay the unpaid rent or quit within the specified time period. Another notice may be regarding any problem that the tenant must solve before the specified time. For instance, if the landlord has a 'no-pets policy' and the tenant brings in a pet, the landlord may ask them to solve this lease violation before the term ends. Lastly, the tenant may also be asked to vacate unconditionally because of illegal acts, criminal activities, and severe property damage.
What Are The Landlord-Tenant Rights In The USA?
Both the US federal landlord-tenant law and the individual state laws lay down several rights for tenants and landlords.
Tenants receive protection under the Fair Housing Act that guards them against violations of civil rights. The landlord-tenant rights prevent discrimination against the tenants based on nationality, gender, race, age, and disability. Some states also protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status. Some of the other general tenant rights are:
- The right to enjoy quiet and undisturbed living in the rental property.
- The right to live in proper, healthy living conditions.
- Privacy in the premises of the rental property, where the landlord may not come in unannounced.
- The right to continue living till the end of the eviction notice period supplied by the landlord. No landlord can forcefully evict tenants or throw out their belongings without any written legal notice.
For the security of the landlord, the tenant must pay a security deposit amount before moving in. The sum of money provides protection against damage, repairs, disputes, and other issues. The landlord may also have the right to evict a tenant on substantial grounds like failure to pay rent, criminal activity, or damage to rental properties after serving an eviction notice for a given period.
Attorneys specifically deal in rental property issues and provide legal help to landlords and tenants in case of disputes. A consultation with an attorney will give you legal information on matters like security deposit, lease agreement, and early termination. Read up on the federal laws and the landlord-tenant statutes applicable to your state. Also, check the American Apartment Owners Association official website to gain legal information and have access to immediate lawyer consultation.
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