Rental housing laws, also referred to as “Landlord- Tenant law” are a set of laws and ordinances which govern rental agreements and provisions. They are made to protect both parties of the landlord-tenant relationship and whichever side of the table you are, conversant knowledge and compliance with them is crucial for you. As a renter, you will want to live peacefully in a rental home and protect your personal rights; while as a landlord, understanding your legal rights and responsibility is a protection for yourself, your rental business and rental property.
The two major federal rental housing laws are the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination due to race, color, nationality, religion or disability. It extends beyond leasing to advertising and prevents a landlord from marketing their properties to groups of people.
Read more about the fair housing act:
- California Rental Housing Laws Update – August 2018
- A Landlord’s Guide to the Fair Credit Report Act
- Laws Every Landlord Should Know
The Fair Credit Reporting Act specifies how a landlord may and may not use a tenant’s credit history for screening purpose. The landlord must seek an applicant’s permission to run a credit check on him with a specified credit reporting agency and must inform the applicant if the credit report is the basis for denial.
State rental housing laws vary from one state to the other and they usually concern practical matters such as the right and responsibilities of both parties, what can be included in lease terms and conditions, lease termination and/or eviction procedures. They can also dictate how much a landlord can charge as a security deposit, and how such funds can be handled legally. A good place to find out more on state laws about rental housing is at www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/state-landlord-tenant-laws
While familiarizing yourself with the federal, state and local rental housing laws, a lot of misconceptions are bound to come up and we are here to clear them by shedding more light on the top eight (8) myths about rental housing laws and the true facts about them.
Myth 1: Whatever is in the lease is legally binding
Landlords might think once they input anything into the rental or lease agreement, its legally binding on the tenant. This is however untrue because, any content of the rental or lease agreement that goes against, state, federal or local laws are not enforceable. Only content that is legal in that state is upheld in a lease.
For example, a landlord cannot state they can visit a property whenever they choose to do so without warning because the law requires an advance notice of entry.
Myth 2: Repairs is the landlords’ sole responsibility
Renters might believe repairs are the landlord’s sole responsibility. This is however untrue. Landlords are only bounded by law to repair damages that occur through no fault of the tenant. They are required to cater for repairs due to wear and tear, or circumstances beyond the tenants’ control such as robbery and natural disasters.
So, if you throw a party and the window gets broken, you should repair it unless you are ready to stake your security deposit.
Myth 3: Landlords can hold on to the lease security deposit till the renter is moving out
A renter’s security should be held with the landlord no more than twenty-one days after the renter moves out. The renter also should receive a receipt as proof that the security deposit has been received.
Myth 4: landlords can evict a renter whenever they want
Before a renter can be evicted, the landlord needs to have a justifiable reason and go through the court system. The landlord has to serve an eviction notice and the tenant reserves the right to contend it in the law court if he thinks it’s not fair. This is popularly referred to as just cause eviction.
He or she is also not allowed to disallow you access to heat, water, power or other amenities in order to force-evict you.
Myth 5: The landlord cannot sell the house while a renter is living there
Landlords actually can. The thing is, the new owner needs to obey all provisions and terms in the original rental lease agreement that the renter and the original owner made.
If the lease is a fixed-term, the renter has the right to stay in the property until the lease expires. If the lease if on a month-to-month contract, the landlord can submit a 30 or 60-day notice to vacate, depending on which state you live in.
Myth 6: It is my property, I can enter it anytime even if it is on rent.
You as the landlord may own the property, but when it’s on rent, the tenant has the right to live in peace.
If you need to enter the apartment for non-emergency reasons, you should definitely give reasonable notice at a reasonable time. The notice duration varies by state law with the least being an hour and not at nighttime unless there is an emergency. For the state of California, the owner or landlord needs to give 24 hours of notice to enter the property.
Myth 7: Renter’s abandoned property now belongs to the landlord
When a renter moves out but leaves some belongings behind, it doesn’t automatically become the landlord. It must be treated as abandoned property with the landlord informing the renter how and where to claim the property, time frame of claiming the property and the cost of storage. If such remains unclaimed, the landlord is then allowed to sell such at a public sale if the value is more than an amount set by the state rental law. If the property is worth less than the state specified amount, the landlord is allowed to do what he deems fit with it except selling it, he can even throw it away.
Whatever myth you have been told about rental housing laws probably fall into one of the above and you now know they are not true. Homeowners and landlords can ensure their properties follow all fair housing laws by having Poplar Homes manage their homes. Homeowners can get maximum exposure across over 40 sites and secure a high-quality renter with our quick and thorough screening process.
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