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Resources on Landlords and the Law

Tenants often enjoy legal processes designed to protect their right to stay in their homes. But the landlord still owns the building. It's the landlord who pays for the building and maintains it. So, most states work to protect landlords' (homeowners') investments.

Still, it's not always easy to navigate the various landlord-tenant laws and ordinances on the books. Here, to help landlords with this task, you will find links to:

  • Residential lease resources
  • State-specific landlord-tenant laws
  • Federal housing information and more

State Landlord-Tenant Laws

Landlord-tenant laws vary greatly across the states. But there are general concepts that just about every territory follows. Where possible, we provide you with overviews of how most states across the country will treat each issue. There are also links to resources that will take you to state-specific statutes (laws) that can help you get the most out of Findlaw.

As a starting point, you may wish to visit our pages on:

As you navigate these pages, keep in mind that your rental property and rental agreements are unique. Every lease agreement is different, and not every one contains the same disclosures. But no matter where you live, there are commonalities in housing laws. Landlord rights and landlord responsibilities are dictated by federal, state, and local laws. These statutes regulate the occupancy of real property by touching on:

Security Deposit Limits, State by State

Also known as damage deposits, security deposits are one area of the law where variations are common. In general, a landlord in any state will want to protect their investment by collecting a security deposit from their tenant. But when you get down to the specifics, every state has its own rules about what a property owner can and can't do in this area.

Security deposit laws work to protect both the landlord and the tenant in different situations. The security deposit works to protect the landlord's interest in making sure that they will be able to cover damage to their property. If a tenant doesn't take care of a rental unit properly, the landlord may be able to make deductions from their deposit. But security deposit laws also aim to balance the landlord's interest against that of the tenant's.

For instance, some states regulate the maximum security amount a landlord is allowed to withhold. In those states, the landlord may not collect security in an amount that exceeds one, two, or three months' rent. States also have laws about deposit accounting and return requirements.

At the end of a tenancy term, a landlord is generally required to return the tenant's security deposit after deducting permitted repair expenses. Generally, cleaning and repair costs for items damaged by a tenant are permissible deductions. But states vary on what other sorts and amounts of deductions may be made. Different jurisdictions also have distinct accounting requirements and timelines for when a landlord must return the balance of the tenant's security deposit.

To learn more about security deposits, visit our articles on:

Discrimination and Retaliation Laws

Federal and state laws protect renters from discrimination by property owners. As a general rule, a homeowner who wants to rent their property can't discriminate against people in a way that violates the law. The landlord's tenant screening process may not be discriminatory. They can't ask their property management company to filter out prospective tenants in illegal ways.

The law gives equal protection to people of all races and genders. Federal and state governments protect residents irrespective of their skin color, national origin, and sexual orientation. There are many other areas where renters are protected against discrimination. Some states go to further lengths to ensure equality, equity, and fairness. For example, some states may offer additional protection for age, familial status, and marital status.

Similarly, landlords are prohibited from retaliating against their tenants. Retaliation means punishing a tenant who is merely exercising their legal rights. For example, a tenant might complain that their roof is caving in. Or they might provide 30-day notice to the landlord that an infestation or hazardous lead-based paint needs to be removed.

The law requires that a landlord provide safe dwelling units to a tenant. A tenant must be protected when they exercise their legal rights to complain about a material problem affecting the rental unit's safety. But suppose that the landlord gets upset and threatens the tenant with an eviction notice. Or suppose the landlord punishes the tenants by cutting off their access to hot water, forcing them to vacate.

This kind of retaliatory behavior is prohibited in all 50 states. But as with everything in the law, there are always nuances between states in terms of what the law says and how it's applied to one's specific situation. To learn more about variations in the law, check out our resources on the following pages:

External Resources

Outside of Findlaw, the federal and state governments have resources that can help you educate yourself on other areas of landlord-tenant law. Here are some helpful starting points:

For more assistance, you can also contact your state's attorney general. For example, New York City residents can visit New York state's Attorney General's website for tenants and homeowners.

A Landlord-Tenant Attorney Can Help

Navigating through various laws can be mind-numbing, to say the least. Our resources are intended to be informational only. You might still need legal advice for your specific situation. How the law might apply to the specific facts of your case varies in every situation. For more information and to get the most out of the legal help available to you, set up a consultation with a landlord-tenant lawyer today.

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