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What Is Landlord / Tenant Law?

Landlord/Tenant law covers all aspects of renting a property, both residential and commercial. Laws govern what landlords can include in leases, tenant rights, and the numerous other legal matters involved in negotiating, drafting, and enforcing lease agreements.

Lawyers can help landlords create an enforceable lease, advise landlords on ways to protect their property and income streams, and be an invaluable source of information regarding the laws for security deposits, repairs and maintenance, and eviction.

Similarly, tenants can benefit from a lawyer when their landlord has done something illegal or in violation of the lease agreement, such as failing to repair a faulty electrical system. Many commercial tenants also secure the help of a landlord/tenant lawyer when negotiating a lease agreement to ensure that none of the provisions are too one-sided.

Terms to Know:

Landlord/Tenant Law Basics

Like most of real estate law, landlord/tenant law is governed by the states, which means the laws governing lease agreements in one state may not be valid in another state. 

Additionally, many cities have special renting laws that only apply within city limits. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City have rent control laws in place that set limits on how much a landlord can charge for rent, but most other cities within California and New York have no such laws in place. Many cities and municipalities, such as Washington D.C., have height restrictions on buildings that commercial landlords must consider before building a new property, along with other zoning ordinances

Since landlord/tenant law varies by area, it is very important to speak with a local attorney if you have a legal issue.

Finally, if you wish to speak with a landlord/tenant lawyer, be sure you contact an attorney that habitually represents people in your position. Many landlord/tenant attorneys exclusively represent landlords or tenants, with some having an even more specialized focus, such as eviction or commercial lease agreements.

Related Areas:

  • Real Estate: Real estate law concerns ownership and possession of land, and renting a home is one way to possess land.
  • Land Use: Restrictions on land use, either through zoning or covenants, may impact a landowner's ability to lease property.
  • Bankruptcy: Rent is one of the debts that may be discharged through bankruptcy in certain situations.
  • Personal Injury: Landlords have a responsibility to keep the land around their rental units safe. Poorly maintained property may injure tenants and their guests, who may be able to sue the landlord.
  • Toxic Chemicals Litigation: Some properties may expose their occupants to toxic chemicals, such as lead or asbestos. In general, it is the landlord's responsibility to keep these chemicals away from tenants.
  • Small Business: Some people may find it useful to think of renting properties as a business enterprise.
  • Criminal Law: Landlords have a responsibility to keep crime out of their rental properties. A basic understanding of crimes and the criminal process is necessary to fulfill this responsibility.

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