Residential landlords are individual property owners or businesses that rent out apartments or houses for money. The renters who pay landlords to live in these properties are called residential tenants. Landlords and tenants each have legal rights and responsibilities.
To prevent misunderstandings between the parties, rental agreements and leases should clearly spell out these rights and obligations. Each state has its own laws on residential rentals. Landlords' rights and duties will differ depending on where the property is located.
Landlord's Rights and Responsibilities in Leases
A residential lease gives a landlord the right to collect rent from a tenant. The rental amount must be agreed upon by the landlord and tenant in advance. A lease may give the landlord the right to charge late fees for overdue rent.
Also, a landlord has the right to negotiate specific terms in a lease. For example, a landlord may require a tenant to pay utility bills, cut lawns, or shovel snow from sidewalks and driveways.
Landlord's Right to Evict Tenants
Tenants who violate the terms of a lease can be evicted from residential rental property. Evictions commonly happen when tenants stop paying rent. In most states, a landlord must go to court to evict a tenant. Judges must give tenants a chance to fight eviction.
If the landlord wins in court, the judge can have the local sheriff remove the tenant's belongings and change the locks on the property. The landlord can also obtain a judgment against the tenant for back rent and court costs.
Landlord's Responsibillity to Keep Property Safe
Landlords have a responsibility to keep rental properties in safe condition. For example, a landlord should not rent a house with serious electrical problems that may cause a fire. This does not mean that rental property must be in perfect condition. A tenant usually cannot demand that a landlord replace carpet merely because it is stained or starting to wear out.
Leases often require tenants to assume responsibility for minor maintenance such as changing light bulbs and cleaning carpets.
Landlord's Responsibility to Avoid Discrimination
Landlords cannot discriminate on factors like race, gender, family status, religion, disability, or national origin. Landlords cannot treat one class of tenants different than another, such as offering "white only" apartment buildings or charging more rent to a minority family. These laws are strict. Landlords who violate discrimination laws can be sued by the victims and may face government fines.
A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help
The law dealing with and the rights and responsibilities of residential landlords can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a real estate lawyer.