It has been frequently said that tenants often know the law better than their landlords. A recent study conducted by Zillow has put this theory to the test, and the results just might surprise (and worry) you.
The Zillow survey asked ten true/false questions which covered five basic areas to include knowledge of Fair Housing Laws, lease termination and tenancy periods, repairs and maintenance, security deposits and credit checks, and privacy rights and owner access.
It turns out that tenants don’t know more than their landlords about landlord and tenant laws. In fact, according to the results of the study, if the participants in the study are representative of the estimated 100 million renters in the US, only half of them have knowledge of basic rental laws. Approximately four out of every five tenants were unsure about security deposits, credits and background checks. Another three out of every four lacked an understanding of their privacy rights as well as when a landlord is allowed to access the property. And only three out of every five renters lacked an understanding of early lease termination.
Not surprisingly, renters did show knowledge of who is responsible for repair and maintenance, how to end a month-to-month lease, and what constitutes discriminatory advertising.
Landlords, while showing slightly more knowledge than their renters, did not fare well either. In general, landlords scored only about 5-10% higher than renters and lacked basic knowledge in the same areas. On average, only about one in four landlords demonstrated knowledge of security deposits, credit and background checks. Only half of the landlords surveyed understood issues related to early lease termination. Shamefully, roughly one of every three had knowledge of privacy and access rights.
The results of the survey represent a sad state of affairs, but testify as to why the landlord-tenant courtrooms often have standing room only.
Landlords did equally as well as tenants on issues related to repairs and maintenance, discriminatory advertising, and month-to-month rental agreements.
What does this all mean? No landlord wants their tenant to tie them in legal knots by understanding the law better than they do, so landlords need to do a better job educating themselves on all applicable local and state laws through the myriad of free resources available (including the state landlord-tenant law summaries available on this website). Otherwise, they may be the only one surprised at the court hearing when the judge rules in favor of the tenant and allows them to duck rent payments or late fees.
Want to know how you stack up to the pack? See how knowledgeable you are about landlord-tenant laws by taking Zillow's rental quiz yourself.
After trying your own hand at the quiz, come back and let us know how you did!