All About Rental Law: What Landlords Like You Need To Know

Being a successful landlord is about more than just collecting rent when the due date rolls around. It’s about more than going over and fixing a jammed door from time to time. In fact, there are hundreds of laws that you are required to follow when you are running rental properties as a business.

Don’t get overwhelmed at the thought of these laws. While most are common sense laws, it is still essential that you are familiar with landlord laws and regulations in your area. If you don’t know rental law and how it affects your properties, you could wind up in big trouble.

Today, we’ll introduce the main components of laws about renting property out and explain how you can become an expert in your area. This guide will ensure that you are ready to take on the landlord-tenant laws that might affect you and your properties!

A Table of Contents about Rental Property Laws

What is Rental Law?

State and federal government institutions have created a large number of laws and regulations that affect the way that you can or cannot rent out a property. This is commonly known as rental law. Sometimes, it is referred to as landlord-tenant law.

Regardless of what you call it, these laws are the set of provisions that dictate how you as a landlord must maintain and treat your properties while also outlining how tenants must act in return. When combined, these laws create a complete guide that can ensure you handle your property management in a fair and legal way.

These laws can be very complicated. For a new landlord, it can seem all but impossible to learn every single regulation. In time, the laws will become more familiar to you. For now, getting an idea of what areas of your work the law address can ensure that you are not breaking any rules.

How Rental Law Differs Between States

Before we continue, it is important we mention that rental laws can differ from state to state. While some aspects of how landlords act are mandated at the federal level, most rental property law is handled at the state and local level.

This means that depending on where your property is located, there might be a different set of laws and regulations that you need to follow. Despite the fact that there are many similarities between the state laws, things like the number of days required to send out a notice to your tenants may differ from state to state or even from county to county.

Today’s guide will introduce the main components of rental tenant law in a more broad way. To ensure that you are following the letter of the law in your area, make sure that you look into your local laws in each of the areas that we will introduce.

Major Components of Home Rental Laws

House rental law can be a complicated subject. As we mentioned, however, there are a few major areas that every state and local jurisdiction tends to address. Learning about each of these areas and what laws generally apply in each area will help you get a grasp of rent-related laws.

Security Deposit

Every state will have its own set of rules about security deposits, how they may be collected, and what you must do with them while the tenant lives on your property.

It’s important to know what the maximum amount you can charge for a security deposit is. States have mandated how much you are allowed to charge, and you cannot charge more than that. Once you have collected the money, you are legally required to let the tenant know how the money will be held until they move out of your property.

Once the tenant moves out, you must do the following:

  • Let the tenant know how much of their security deposit they will be getting back.
  • Itemize any repairs or costs that will be taken out of the deposit.
  • Return the deposit, less any costs.

You must do all of the following within a state-mandated number of days. In some areas, you are legally required to remit any interested earnings on the deposit money to the tenant as well.

Rent Price, Payment, Increase, and Grace Periods

There are a variety of rent-related topics that may be addressed in your state’s landlord-tenant law. Each aspect of rent is very important, so you should pay close attention to these laws.

Rent Price

You are typically free to charge whatever you would like to charge for rent. To attract good tenants, however, you will want to price your property with a competitive rate.

While not typically controlled by the state, some cities and counties have rent-controlled areas. In these areas, you will not be allowed to increase rent on certain properties. Usually, these areas are limited, but the laws around rent-control areas can be complicated. To learn more about how the laws typically work, check the NYC rent control laws here.

Rent Payment

There may be laws that require you to accept certain types of payment. For example, you cannot require tenants to pay your via an online escrow service as this might not be available to all tenants. Instead, you must offer a variety of payment methods. All acceptable methods should be outlined by your lease.

Rent Due Date

Some states mandate what day of the month rent is due; most do not. The rental law in your area will determine whether or not you need to be concerned about this. There are, however, laws about how you can change the rental due date.

Rent Grace Period

Some states require a grace period on rent payments. This means that if a tenant pays rent late, you cannot begin any type of eviction proceedings until the grace period is over. You can, however, still charge any applicable late fees.

Bounced Checks

Every state has a limit on how much you can charge a tenant for a bounced check for a rental payment. This is usually limited to $50. Knowing this limit is important to ensure that you can charge a fee for this service without getting in any trouble with the law.

Tenant Withholding

If you do not provide required services like gas or water because you did not pay the bill, some states allow tenants to pay for these services themselves and then deduct the payment from their rental payment. This is legal.

Similarly, some state landlord-tenant laws have clauses that allow tenants to withhold money they used to make essential repairs to the property from rent.

It’s important to be familiar with these withholding laws, but you should always address these essential concerns before your tenants need to take such drastic actions.

Notices & Entry

There are many different notices that you may need to send to your tenant about the property. From letting them know that you will be stopping by to show the property to a prospective tenant to requesting the tenant to clean up the yard that they are supposed to be managing, you will need to have a plethora of notices ready to send.

All of these notices, however, have their own sets of laws and limitations. Some notices can be sent at any time while other notices have specific time periods that must be applied when you use them. Therefore, it is essential that you are familiar with your area’s specific laws.

Generally, these are the notices that landlords should be familiar with:

  • Notice to terminate tenancy (month-to-month, indeterminate, and over one year leases)
  • Notice of move out inspection
  • Termination for lease violation
  • Notice of termination of lease for nonpayment of rent
  • Notice of upcoming entry to property
  • Emergency entry notice
  • Notice of entry for showings
  • Notice to tenant about bug treatment & pesticide use

This is not a comprehensive list of notices that you might use with your tenant, but these are the most common notices. Many states have specific statutes that address when and how these notices can be used.

Disclosures

Federal rental law requires that you give out lead-based paint disclosures to every tenant, particularly for properties that were built before 1978. There is a set of rules given by the EPA that you should follow to ensure tenants are properly informed about the risk.

In addition to the lead-based paint disclosure, there may be state or local disclosures that are required for you to give out. Any and all disclosures are meant to educate the tenant about a possible risk on the property and should always be signed at the same time as the lease agreement for legal reasons.

Eviction & Personal Property Laws

No landlord likes to have to deal with an eviction, but it’s a common part of the rental process. For that reason, rental property laws address evictions and what to do after an eviction in very clear terms.

As with all laws that we are talking about today, the specifics of eviction are decided at the state level. Still, there is a common process of how eviction needs to be handled:

  1. Send notice to the tenant about the reason for eviction. Let them know if it is a final decision or if they have a chance to fix it.
  2. Wait the required number of days for them to fix the issue or to leave.
  3. If they do not leave or fix the issue, file for eviction at your local courthouse.
  4. The court will review your filing and contact you and the tenant with a court date.
  5. Bring evidence of your case with you; the court will make a decision.
  6. If you win, the tenant will have a specific number of days to leave the property.
  7. If they do not leave, you can hire a constable to remove them.
  8. If they leave anything behind, you may have a legal obligation to alert them about and to store their personal property according to local regulations.

As you can see, the process of eviction can be quite long and tiring. It is important, however, that every single step in the eviction process is handled very carefully. If it is not, you could need to start at the very beginning of the process, so be sure to become familiar with all applicable requirements.

Other Common Laws & Statutes

While the components listed above are the most common laws that you will find in each state’s landlord-tenant rental laws, there are even more miscellaneous areas that may be covered in any particular state laws.

Depending on where you are located, you may also see some regulations about these areas of renting property:

  • Subletting laws
  • Small court claims laws
  • Application fee laws
  • Waste disposal laws
  • Property maintenance laws
  • Discrimination laws
  • Inspection laws

How Rental Property Laws Protect You

Looking at the list of major components of property rental laws that we’ve put together, you might start to feel like there are too many laws. In reality, however, these laws exist to keep the landlord-tenant relationships in the property industry running smoothly.

There are, of course, states where the laws favor tenants and laws where they favor landlords.

In either situation, however, the laws ultimately have one goal: to keep things safe and fair. While some laws can be very frustrating for you as a landlord, they are there to keep things clear and fair. Think of all governing rental law as a way to stay on track while managing your property.

If you follow the laws, you shouldn’t have any major problems with the law.

The Laws Can Help

The huge number of landlord laws and regulations may make being a landlord seem like a restricted activity, but that is not the case at all. Being a landlord is a fun and freeing job, but that doesn’t mean that it is a job without laws. To be the best landlord that you can be, you will need to know and follow these laws.

Once you know more about laws about renting property out, you will be able to turn a better profit with fewer hangups and issues, and that is what matters most of all!