Landlords who provide housing to tenants must be aware of their tenant’s rights under law. However, where you are located strongly determines which laws you are subject to. National laws and a variety of local laws will direct tenant’s rights across the US.
To stay on the right side of the law as a landlord, it’s important to keep track of both your rights and your tenant’s rights for each property location.
Federal Tenant Rights
The first category of tenant’s rights you should be aware of are federal rights. These are tenant’s rights defined by federal laws that all US landlords must adhere to.
- Fair Housing Act: Equal Opportunity
- The Fair Housing Act requires that landlords consider all applicants equally and prohibits refusal based on a list of protected statuses. These statuses include race, color, religion, culture, age, and family status. Landlords may not limit the number of children in a building or restrict where families with children live in a multi-unit community.
- It is also prohibited to use discriminatory housing advertisements.
- Fair Credit Act: Permission and Information
- Landlords must ask permission to run a credit check, share which bureau they are getting their credit check from, and provide a copy of the report to applicants.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Service Animals and Reasonable Accommodation
- Landlords must not discriminate against tenants based on disability status. They must accept service animals even in a no-pets lodging and must be willing to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities.
- Lead Hazard Disclosure
- Landlords must disclose if they are aware of lead-based paint in the building, including common areas for multi-family communities. They are required to provide a lead hazard inspection from a certified inspector on the tenant’s request.
Examples of Tenant’s Rights by State
- Alabama: Rent for Repair Demands
- Tenants have the right to withhold rent until repair demands are met.
- California: Disclosure of Deaths on Premises
- Landlords must disclose a death on-premises that occurred in the last three years.
- Delaware: Disclosure of Security Deposit Location
- Landlords must place security deposits in a federally insured escrow account and tell tenants where it is located.
- Maine: Required Receipts for Cash-Paid Rent
- When tenants pay rent in cash, Maine landlords are required to provide a receipt.
- Massachusetts: The Mass Sanitary Code
- Massachusetts has a detailed safety and sanitary code including the number of outlets, windows, square feet per tenant, and pest responsibilities.
- Minnesota: The Cold Weather Rule
- It is unlawful to shut off heat during cold weather in Minnesota
- Nebraska: Pet Deposit Limits
- Pet deposits in Nebraska may be no more than 1/4 of a monthly rental payment.
- New Jersey: Safe Housing Act for Domestic Violence Victims
- Victims of domestic violence and their children may end a rental lease early with 30 days warning to seek safe long-term housing.
- Oregon: State-Wide Rent Control
- Rent in Oregon may not be increased by more than 7% plus inflation each year.
- Wisconsin: Proceeds from Abandoned Property Sales
- All proceeds from abandoned property sales will be sent to the Wisconsin Department of Administration to be used as grants for homeless services.
How to Keep Up with Changing Laws
It’s important to keep up with landlord and tenant laws, as they can change from year to year. Make a habit of checking on new laws relating to rental properties at least once a year. You can tie it to lease renewal to ensure each new lease and policy set is lawful or you can set a date where you review all laws relevant to your properties as part of your annual maintenance routine.
How to Protect Your Business from Repercussions
The best way to protect yourself from tenant law violations is to stay on the right side of the law. Maintain transparency with your tenants, amend leases as necessary, and keep up with the laws in every state where you own a rental property. It can also help to develop universal policies that conform to the majority of state laws, like fair safety deposit handling and prompt repair responses.
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