Landlord/Tenant laws are designed to protect both parties in residency agreements for commercial and residential properties. They can be quite complex. These laws vary greatly from state to state; As a general rule, each section will outline the tenant’s rights, restrictions, and expectations and another similar section devoted to the landlord.
Some of the across-the-board regulations include:
•Landlords must give tenants notice before entering rental premises (generally one to two days)
•Tenants must uphold certain maintenance obligations
•Tenants are responsible for the behaviors of any guests they invite to the property
•The agreement can’t be changed without the permission of both parties involved (or failing that the due diligence of one party to meet specified guidelines for amending the agreement)
•Landlords and tenants can terminate a rental agreement for a variety of reasons, but termination must be preceded by verbal or written notice of intent
While these laws were put on the books with the intent of giving both parties a level playing field, landlords generally have access to a larger amount of resources (financial or otherwise) that may aid them in the event of a dispute.
Additionally, many of these laws were written in the 18th century and are still today. So, as you can imagine, trying to navigate them in modern society can be a bit tricky. For example, Alabama’s tenant law still allows landlords to place a lien on a tenant’s crops if they fail to come through with the rent. Additionally, a lien can be placed if a tenant fails to plant a crop in the first place. That might be okay for rural tenants, but the law is written such that it could be made to apply to tenants living in the heart of urban centers.
Applicable Federal Laws
Certain federal laws trump all local and state-level regulations. Below you’ll find a brief listing.
Passed as a portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act trumps all state and local level laws on the books. However, it doesn’t guarantee much in the way of coverage for either party, save for neither party can discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or familial status.
Additionally, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 states that landlords and real estate agents cannot discriminate based on an individual’s age if the agency or property involved receives federal funds (such as government-subsidized housing). Similarly, such programs and properties cannot discriminate based on a person’s disabilities because the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forbids it.
State and Local Laws
While it would take far too much time (and space) to cover every applicable state Landlord/Tenant law on the books, below, you’ll find a general overview of what you’ll likely find in everyone. Keep in mind that many states have based their individual laws on either the Uniform Residential Landlord And Tenant Act (URLTA) or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.
For your state’s specific legislation, contact your state’s office of the attorney general. You can find a list of current AGs here.
Generally, landlord/tenant laws across the country safeguard a tenant’s private property, their right to inhabit real estate so long as they’re paying rent. So long as they don’t violate clauses specific to any rental agreement.
As such, many state-level laws require that landlords disclose significant information to potential and current tenants. These disclosures can include the property owner’s name and business address and instructions about where tenants can find information about locally applicable laws. Additionally, federal regulations require that all tenants be notified before occupancy of lead paint’s presence (or potential presence) in homes/apartments built before 1977.
Generally, the maximum security deposit that a landlord can hold is half time the monthly rental fee. This deposit doesn’t include the first or last month’s rent; It doesn’t include any fee that the landlord may charge for redecorating/remodeling the property before the tenant takes residency.
Whether or not it’s covered in the tenant/landlord agreement, many states have laws about property subletting. You must understand your obligations before attempting any subletting—even “unofficial” agreements.
All landlord/tenant laws deal with payment for habitation. As such, every state-specific law will have a section devoted to landlord liens. If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can place liens against a property.
Additionally, landlords can seek financial compensation from tenants in small claims court (for amounts less than $5,000) or civil court (for amounts over $5,000).
Mobile Homes Versus Permanent Housing
While most landlord/tenant laws apply only to permanent housing, most states have specific landlord/tenant laws applicable to mobile homes. Generally, these laws mirror each other in most respects except when the mobile home is situated on land not included in the rental agreement (such as in a mobile home park).
Commercial Versus Residential Properties
Landlord/tenant laws are often divided into subsections based on the type of property in question; some states have separate laws for the two types of property. Generally, residential tenants have more freedom about the property they’re renting than commercial ones.
For information on evictions, contact an eviction service, call (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST. If you found this article helpful, please consider donating. Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us! We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.