Delaware Landlord-Tenant Law Updates: Summer 2013

Governor Jack Markell has signed several landlord-tenant bills that will take effect between June 27th and August 30th 2013; below is a summary of new Delaware landlord-tenant law changes: Surety Bonds – The first bill effective on June 27th 2013 gives tenants and landlord the option of using surety bonds instead of traditional refundable security deposits. It permits the tenant, upon landlord approval, to purchase a non-refundable “surety bond” in lieu of paying the landlord a refundable security deposit. Surety bonds cost a fraction of the typical one-month’s-rent security deposit, cutting down tenants’ moving costs, but surety bonds are non-refundable whereas a security deposit is fully refundable provided the tenant meets his obligations of the lease. Typically surety bonds cost 10-20% of the security deposit required, and if the landlord makes a claim the bonds only pay out up to the covered security deposit amount. Coverage generally includes rent defaults and damage caused by the…

Florida Residential Landlord-Tenant Law Changes Effective July 1, 2013

As of July 1, 2013 many changes were made to Florida’s landlord tenant statutes. On June 7, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed into law under CS/HB77 for some of the most comprehensive changes to Section 83 Part II of the Florida Residential Landlord-Tenant Act. Below is a summary of many of the changes.

Attorney Fees – Previously, the Act provided that in a lawsuit regarding the enforcement of the lease/ rental agreement provisions or the Landlord Tenant Act that the prevailing party would be entitled to attorney fees. Under the new statute, the text clarifies that in cases where a person is injured on a rental property; attorney fees WILL NOT be awarded. Additionally, for lawsuits that do not involve personal injury, a lease may not permit the landlord to force tenants to waive their rights to attorney fees.

Security Deposits/Advance Rent – There was no clarity in the previous law whether or whether not a landlord had to notify a tenant if the bank (where the tenant’s security deposit was held) had gone through a name change, was sold, or merged with another financial institution. As of July 1, 2013, it is clear that a landlord is NOT required to notify a tenant of these changes.

New Arizona Law Requires Landlords Facing Foreclosure to Notify Tenants

A new amendment to the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is designed to protect tenants from landlord foreclosures, and adds more legal liability to the landlord… again. Three years ago, in response to the housing market crash and foreclosure wave, an amendment to the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act required landlords to give their tenants written notice when the property was in a state of “potential foreclosure” at the time the rental agreement contract is signed. This was intended to protect tenants from moving into properties that were in the process of foreclosure, so that they would not be taken by surprised and forced to move. Now landlords’ responsibility (and liability) is being expanded by House BIll 2281, which is in the process of being enacted into law by Arizona legislature. Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill last month after a bustle of new laws were passed at the end of the legislative session ending June 14.

Washington Landlord Tries to Ban Marijuana – And Kicks a Hornets’ Nest of Legal Questions

A Washington landlord launched a legal furor last week when it sent notices to tenants in all 171 rental units, banning all marijuana use in the Mercer Island apartment complex and pushing tenants to sign a lease amendment to this effect. Washington was among the first states in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana use, a law that went into effect on January 1, 2013 (Initiative 502).

Aside from banning all types of marijuana use, the tenant notice further demanded that all residents report other tenants’ use of marijuana to the management company, Abode Management. The notice threatened eviction of any tenants caught using marijuana on the apartment community’s grounds.

The policy stands on extremely spongy legal ground. The first legal question arises because federal laws still classify marijuana as an illegal drug, which is in direct conflict with the Washington law declaring recreational uses legal. This contradiction remains untested in the court system.

North Carolina Landlord-Tenant Law Updates as of October 1, 2012

North Carolina’s new House Bill 493, entitled “Landlord Tenant Law Changes” has been passed and signed into legislation by Governor Beverly Perdue. These changes went into effect on October 1, 2012. The Eviction Appeal statute has been changed so that the tenant, being the appellant, must pay his/her rent on time while the appeal is pending. Accepting a partial rent payment no longer negates an eviction proceeding, provided the written lease or rental agreement specifies so. Further, the streamlined disposal limits on abandoned belongings have risen, allowing the landlord or property manager to more often dispose of abandoned belongings five days after the execution of the judgment for possession (instead of the standard ten day waiting period). If the landlord donates the abandoned belongings to a charitable organization, they may donate up to $750 worth of belongings (provided the charity keeps them for 30 days and allows the tenant to claim them in that time). Alternatively, the landlord or property manager may throw away up to $500 worth of belongings. Once again, the five day waiting period remains the same, as do all other procedures for personal property disposal.

Michigan Landlord Tenant Act: Tenants Subjected to Violence

The Michigan Landlord Tenant Relationship Act (“LTRA”) regulates rental agreements between landlords and tenants of residential property. In 2010, this act was amended to include a clause that releases tenants from their payment obligations when the tenant has reasonable apprehension of present danger arising from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Please read the following article written by Attorney Stuart M. Collis, Esq. for further clarification.

In order to be released from their leases, the tenant must submit written notice via certified mail of his/her intent to seek a release and provide written documentation demonstrating that the tenant has reasonable apprehension of present danger to the tenant himself or to his/her child.

Acceptable forms of written documentation demonstrating reasonable apprehension include: *a copy of a valid personal protection order or an order removing an abusive person from a home, *a valid probation order, conditional release order, or parole order that is still in effect ordering that the released person is to have no contact with the tenant or child, *a written police report that has resulted in charges being filed with the prosecuting attorney that has jurisdiction over the matter, *a written report from a qualified third party, such as…

Baltimore City Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements

Carbon Monoxide (CO) AlarmsEffective March 1, 2010 in Baltimore City: Building, Fire and Related Codes of Baltimore City §1211 Carbon Monoxide Alarms Overview – Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas produced by appliances and other devices that burn gas, petroleum products, wood and other fuels. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in your blood — and the consequences can be fatal. Effective March 1, 2010 any property in Baltimore City that has appliances or other devices that burn gas, petroleum products, wood and other fuels must have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed outside of all sleeping areas.

KEY POINTS

Affected properties: All (both rental and owner occupied) dwelling units in Baltimore City that:
1. use gas or fossil-fuel for heating, cooking, hot water or clothes drying;
2. is attached to a garage; or
3. have a gas or wood burning fireplace.

Owner’s Responsibility: The owner must:
1. Provide and install a CO alarm outside all sleeping areas;
2. Test and maintain CO alarm, except in rental property;
3. Provide tenants with written information on alarm testing and maintenance.

Virginia Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

May I charge an application fee?
An application fee shall not exceed $50, excluding any actual out-of-pocket expenses paid by the landlord to a third party performing background, credit, or other pre-occupancy checks on the applicant. However, where an application is being made for a dwelling unit which is a public housing unit, an application fee shall not exceed $32. Any landlord may require an application fee and a separate application deposit. If the applicant fails to rent the unit for which application was made, from the application deposit the landlord shall refund to the applicant within 20 days after the applicant's failure to rent the unit or the landlord's rejection of the application all sums in excess of the landlord's actual expenses and damages together with an itemized list of said expenses and damages.

How much can I charge for rent?
The General Assembly of Virginia has declared that federal rent control is no longer necessary. However, there are areas where subsidized and low income housing is still in place, but no rent control.

May I accept Pre-Paid Rent?
Landlords may accept pre-paid rent. Any prepaid rent shall be placed in an escrow account…

South Dakota Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

How much may I charge for rent?
South Dakota does not restrict the amount of rent a Landlord is permitted to charge. Additionally, the state of South Dakota has not established rent control or stabilization.

May I charge an application fee?
Reasonable cost should always be kept in mind when instituting any charges. Although there are no limits placed on the amount a landlord may charge for an application fee.

May I charge a late fee?
There is no limit placed on the amount that may be charged for a late fee, however, assessed fees should be reasonably related to the expenses the landlord incurs as a result of a late payment.

Please Note: The late charge should be specified in the lease.

May I charge a returned payment fee?
57A-3-421. Collection costs and expenses–Liability of issuer of dishonored check.
If a landlord conspicuously places in the lease that a fee will be assessed against returned checks, any person who issues a check or other draft to the merchant or place of business which is not honored for any of the following reasons upon presentment is liable for all reasonable costs and expenses of collection…

Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

Is there a limit to the maximum amount of rent a landlord can charge and are there rent control/rent stabilization policies or laws in Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania has not established limits on rental amounts, rent control ,or stabilization.

May I charge an application fee, late rent charge or a returned payment fee?
Application Fee: An application fee may be charged and may be nonrefundable; whether a tenant is approved or not. There are no statutes governing the limits on how much may be charged for an application fee.

Late charge: There are no statutes governing the limits on how much may be charged for a late fee however, late fees must bear a reasonable relation to the consequential damages that a landlord incurs in receiving rent late.

Returned Payment Fee: A service charge if written notice of the service charge was specified within the lease shall not exceed $50 unless the payee is charged fees in excess of $50. If the payee is charged fees in excess of $20, then the service charge shall not exceed the actual amount of the fees. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4105 Bad checks)