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State Landlord Tenant Law

Can I Add That Clause to My lease?

With hundreds of thousands of landlords across the United States, there are few tenant issues that haven't been encountered by someone, somewhere, at some time. And out of those experiences come new lease clauses.

At the very least, rental agreements or leases – terms we use interchangeably here – cover dates, rent and security deposit amounts and who pays utilities. Clauses modify and expand those basic terms, just as they do in any contract. A clause can be a short sentence setting out a rule about parking. It can be a complete addendum that lists requirements, and any no-nos, for the handling of trash and recyclables.

Are Rental Lease Rules Really Different From State to State?

Did you know that if you are a Pennsylvania landlord with a tenant who hasn't paid rent – and your written lease agreement states that no notice is required to evict for non-payment of rent – that you can legally start the eviction process without sending your tenant a notice?

Yes, that's allowed by Pa. law.

But you'd better not try that in the adjacent state of New Jersey. Rights of tenants in the Garden State cannot be waived. A N.J. lease agreement that declares tenant rights are waived, even if the tenant signed the lease, is unenforceable.

In the U.S., some lease basics are addressed in federal laws. For instance, tenants must be informed in writing when lead may be present, and landlords must follow rules on fairness in evaluating potential tenants. On top of that, all 50 state legislatures have the power to expand on federal guidelines,

My New Tenant is a Dog

It has been more than five years since the federal law on assistance animals got its last major revision; yet, landlords continue to send questions and comments on the topic to our chat, email and online forums.

Admittedly, it was a dramatic shift, requiring rental property owners who had traditionally banned dogs and other animals to accept tenants with assistance animals. Even landlords who welcomed pets have been scratching their heads over new guidelines on animal deposits and fees.

Doubtless, some of the confusion stems from additional rules that individual states set on assistance animals in rentals. Canada's provinces have also set their own guidelines. But basic questions also surround what, exactly, an assistance animal is.

So, here is our primer on the definitions, the rules, and the sources for more information on assistance animals in rental units.

North Carolina Resurrects the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act

Since the 2008 housing crisis, foreclosures have dropped to normal levels. The current national foreclosure rate, 1.4% of all homes with a mortgage, is the lowest it has been since March 2008. Thirty-six states have a foreclosure inventory lower than the national mean, one of which is North Carolina, with a foreclosure inventory of just 0.08%. But in August 2015 North Carolina passed a bill to protect tenants living in properties facing foreclosed.

The bill largely mirrors the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, a federal law passed after the 2008 financial crisis. The federal law expired in 2014 and Congress did not re-enact it. The North Carolina law’s main provision states that when a buyer purchases a foreclosed property, the buyer assumes title to the property subject to any rights of the tenant currntly living there. Essentially, if there is a tenant in the property, the tenant has the right to remain there until the end of the lease term or one year

New Hawaii Law Allows for an Additional Pet Deposit

A new law in Hawaii has opened the door for landlords to better protect their properties while allowing pets, addressing the needs of both pet-owning tenants and landlords. Section 521-44 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes now allows landlords and property managers to collect an additional security deposit to protect against pet damage.

According to U.S. Pet Statistics (a website maintained by the Humane Society), 47% of U.S. households have at least one dog. On O’ahu, pet ownership is particularly high: the Humane Society estimates that over 60% of households include pets (there is limited data on pet ownership for the other Hawaiian Islands).

Prior to November 1, 2013, a landlord could only collect a maximum of one month’s rent to cover any damage created by a tenant, including damage inflicted by the tenant’s pets. The only way for landlords to avoid liability for damage caused by pets was to simply ban pets altogether (a difficult proposition, in areas with 60% pet ownership).