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Landlord Tips for Managing Property

Managing a rental property can create numerous legal issues. One of the most important aspects of supervising a rental unit is preventing problems. So, it's helpful to have knowledge of the basic duties a landlord owes to tenants. The following landlord tips and property management tips address common hassles. See FindLaw's Landlord Rights and Landlord Tenant Disputes sections for more articles.

Challenges Landlords Face

Being a landlord requires much more work than simply collecting rental income every month. As real estate investors, landlords must:

  • Create rental listings and use tenant screening services to find quality tenants
  • Address maintenance requests and maintenance issues (e.g., landscaping, construction)
  • Pay rental income taxes and real property taxes
  • Obtain insurance policies or homeowners insurance (and encourage tenants to get renters insurance)
  • Manage finances, determine market rent price, and conduct regular property accounting and bookkeeping
  • Make sure good tenants send in rent payments on time to avoid late fees
  • Hire a good property manager (or buy property management software) to assist with property maintenance

Landlords must also handle disputes among renters. When a tenant moves in, they must navigate the various fair housing laws and regulations defining the landlord-tenant relationship.

Property Managers Can Ease the Pain

First-time landlords will find navigating the waters of local law difficult. Understanding the intricacies of landlord-tenant laws and real estate investment can be very complex. To streamline the process, some property owners avail themselves of property management companies to:

  • Conduct background checks and help with the tenant screening process
  • Fill vacancies
  • Collect rent
  • Maintain full occupancy by continuously marketing to prospective tenants and new tenants

Property management companies can also be helpful in collecting security deposits and evicting bad tenants.

Basic Guidelines

New landlords should take particular care in educating themselves on state laws before potential tenants move in and enter into a new lease agreement. That starts with:

Landlords should also take care of home upkeep and renovations to ensure the habitability of the premises.

Maintaining your investment property is crucial to ensuring continuous cash flow. Securing the right tenant can give peace of mind to a landlord. It's nice to know monthly rent charges and rent collection will be conducted in accordance with the terms of a proper rental agreement.

Landlord Tip #1: Avoid Discrimination Against Prospective Tenants

A landlord may not reject a prospective tenant for discriminatory reasons. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from denying an applicant because of:

  • Race or color
  • National origin
  • Familial status
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation and gender

A landlord may base a decision on the following factors:

  • Credit history
  • Criminal background check
  • Employment history
  • Income

Suppose a landlord decides to reject an applicant because of information in a credit report. Pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the landlord must disclose the credit reporting agency's:

  • Name
  • Address

You should document reasons for rejecting prospective tenants. The screening process used should be applied consistently with each applicant.

Landlord Tip #2: Agreements Must Be In Writing

One of the most important landlord tips is to enter into a written rental agreement with the tenant. Typical residential lease agreements specify important rental terms that will define the landlord/tenant relationship. The most important provisions include the following:

  • The names of the tenants
  • The length of the tenancy
  • The amount of the security deposit
  • The party responsible for specific repairs
  • Whether pets may live in the rental unit
  • The amount of rent

A lease agreement should also state:

  • When rent is due
  • What form of payment is acceptable
  • Whether a grace period applies
  • Whether late fees and returned check fees apply

Landlord Tip #3: Regularly Inspect the Property

A landlord should inspect a rental property for dangerous conditions. When a tenant sustains injuries on the property, the landowner may bear legal responsibility. The law allows a person injured on a property to recover compensation when the landlord:

  • Behaved recklessly or with intent
  • Was unreasonably careless
  • Violated health and safety regulations
  • Failed to make certain repairs
  • The premises were inhabitable

A landlord should also be aware of criminal activity on and around the rental property. In many states, a landlord is responsible for providing the surrounding neighborhood with protection against illegal activity engaged in by tenants. At the same time, the landlord must protect tenants from each other and from criminals that enter the property. A landlord should make note of reports of criminal activity on the premises. They should provide security features like deadbolts, security lighting, and locks on windows.

Landlord Tip #4: Notify Tenant Prior to Entrance

Every state has different guidelines on when it's permissible for a landlord to enter a rental unit. But most laws are based on the tenant's right of privacy. So, a landlord may only enter a rental unit for a few specific purposes. Most states will permit a landlord to enter a unit to:

  • Make repairs
  • Inspect the property
  • Show the property to prospective tenants
  • Address an emergency

In all instances, except during an emergency, a landlord must provide verbal or written notice of the intent to enter the premises 24 hours before the entry. There are exceptions for emergencies, such as water leaks or gas leaks.

Landlord Tip #5: Make Repairs Quickly

A landlord has a duty to repair and maintain a rental property in a way that is fit for occupancy. The law refers to this as an implied warranty of habitability. Most states require landlords to allow tenants to subscribe to utilities like water and power. Failing to provide these basic features is a violation of the law. When a tenant requests repairs to a necessary fixture in the unit and the landlord fails to make the repair, the tenant has several options. Most states will allow a tenant to:

  • Withhold rent
  • Make the repair and deduct the cost from the rent
  • Move out
  • Inform state or local building inspectors
  • Pay the rent and sue the landlord for the difference between the rent and the real rental value of the property

If an injury occurs because of the landlord's failure to repair, the tenant may sue the landlord for compensation.

Below are additional resources for landlord tips.

Landlords and the Law—Basics

Advertising Your Property

Choosing a Tenant

Legal Help For Landlords

The landlord tips above may help you avoid common problems landlords face when dealing with tenants and property management. For more help, you can turn to a landlord-tenant attorney for specific advice. Find a landlord-tenant lawyer for more information.

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