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EZ Landlord Forms’ Ultimate Guide to Landlord Rights

by Editor | ezLandlordForms
Landlords guide

In the United States, there are strict and often complex laws that address residential rental properties.  Each state has its own set of laws called acts, and some states now use the shared Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

The act regulates the relationship between a property’s owner (landlord) and a property’s occupants (tenants).  In the act, landlord tenant rights are described in detail, specifying what is legal and what is not.

Here are specific landlord rights to be aware of and their importance.

Screening Tenants

Landlords have the right to screen potential tenants, including running credit reports, criminal background checks, income and employment verification, housing history verification and other relevant checks that provide insight on an applicant’s likelihood of being a safe and reliable tenant.  It’s important to use the same screening tools and procedures for all tenants, and abide by tenancy discrimination laws.

Rental Rate

Setting the monthly rental rates for your units is within your rights as a landlord.  However, once a rental agreement has been signed, you must respect the agreed upon rental rate for the duration of the lease term.  Some cities now have rent control measures in place, meaning once a tenant is living in a rental unit, rent can only be increased up to a pre-set amount.

Security Deposit

As a landlord in the United States, you have the right to ask for a security deposit.  Some states set a maximum limit on how much can be required, generally in the range of one to three months’ rent.  Other states have no set limits other than what is “reasonable”; the security deposit amount is to the discretion of the landlord.

Landlords are often required to set the money aside in a dedicated bank account, separate from other rental income.  They may also be required to state in their lease agreement if interest will be paid, and at what rate, when the deposit is returned.

Your state’s act will outline which expenses a landlord may deduct from a tenant’s security deposit.  Repairing damage caused by tenants or unpaid bills are allowed, but all deductions must be itemized, and landlords cannot withhold money for repairing “normal wear and tear”.

Abide by Lease Agreement

You have the right to hold tenants to the terms of the lease agreement, and enforce it in civil court.  Tenants must follow the restrictions, rules and terms as described in their contract.  Lease agreements should outline terms for pets, roommates and subletting, for example, in order to have legal recourse if tenants do not follow the rules.

Enter Premises

Once a tenant moves into your rental, you are no longer able enter the premises as you wish.  As a landlord, you do have the right of entry under certain circumstances.

First, reasonable notice of entry must be given to your tenants.  Generally, notice can be done verbally or in writing, from 24 to 48 hours before entering.  The reason for entering must also be stated.  Acceptable reasons include showing the rental property to a potential tenant or entering to complete repairs.

In an emergency, landlords have the right to enter a rental property without giving advanced notice to tenants.  Examples of emergencies include signs of smoke, fire or a serious water leak.  In those situations, the landlord may access the premises immediately, and may call emergency services for help.

Property Maintenance

Another landlord right is to request your rental property be kept in good condition.  Tenants may not damage or vandalize your property.  They cannot remove items from the premises that do not belong to them, such as appliances, furniture or fixtures.  Landlords can oblige tenants to dispose their garbage properly and keep the yard and common areas free of debris or clutter.

Collect Rent

Landlords have the right to be paid, in full and on time.  Tenants have the obligation of paying their rent, every month, as agreed upon in their lease agreement.   Most lease agreements specify that rent is due on the first of the month.  If the first falls on the weekend, your individual state may require allowing until the next business day.  Most states do require a minimum grace period before late fees may be charged, and there are often restrictions on allowable late fees (for example 5-10% of the rent).  Review our state landlord-tenant law summaries to check restrictions on late fees when rent is not paid on time.

Evictions

Landlord eviction rights are a key tool for rental property owners.  Still, eviction is a lengthy legal process, with many steps to be followed.  Landlords must have just cause, which may include reasons such as non-payment of rent or rental agreement violations, but they still must spend several months going through the eviction process.  For more information on evictions, please see our article Overview of the Eviction Process.

Importance of Landlord Tenant Laws

It’s important to be informed of the landlord-tenant act for your individual state.  Always double check that a law is applicable in your jurisdiction, and that your information is accurate and up to date.  By knowing your landlord rights, you can better protect yourself, your investment property and your return on investment.

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