Are you about to rent out your property and become a landlord for the first time? If so, congratulations!
But before you pop open the bubbly to celebrate, you need to make sure you’ve considered every aspect of landlord tenant law. Renting your property to someone comes with its own set of legal obligations and responsibilities.
Before you sit back and wait to collect that first rent check, read on for your crash course in landlord law.
Have a Clear Lease Agreement
The Lease Agreement is the legal contract you sign with your tenant, so it needs to be both thorough and easy to understand.
This document outlines every detail of your landlord tenant relationship, from rental payments and security deposits to whether pets are allowed on the property. If you run into future problems with your tenant, this document is key to protecting your rights as a landlord.
Most importantly, it proves that both parties have agreed to a specific set of terms for the duration of the lease. Make sure it includes local housing laws that apply to your city, county, and state.
Screen Potential Tenants Effectively
To vet potential renters, ask them to complete a rental application. This gives you the information you need to verify their identity, employment, income, and credit rating.
No matter how nice they seem, make sure they can prove their income in the form of real pay stubs. It takes a lot less effort to find a suitable tenant than to evict someone who can’t pay the rent.
It’s wise to conduct both a credit check and background check to verify the information on the application. You might also consider contacting their previous landlords to see if they were good tenants who paid their rent on time.
Bonus tip: Get familiar with the Fair Housing Act to ensure you don’t discriminate potential tenants for the wrong reasons.
Collect a Security Deposit
A security deposit is a powerful motivator for the tenant to take good care of your property. In the Lease Agreement, make it clear that they’ll receive their deposit at the end of the lease provided there was no damage during their stay.
On the flip side, the deposit is a safety net for you, the landlord, should the tenant fail to care for your property. After they move out, you can use some or all of the deposit to make any needed repairs.
Understand Your Responsibilities & Rights
Make sure you understand and follow the terms of the Lease Agreement. You have many rights as a landlord, but your tenant also has rights.
For example, you have the right to enter the property (after providing sufficient notice) to do necessary maintenance work. You also have the right to evict your tenant if they fail to pay the rental—although the current health crisis has had some effect on this.
Laws vary by state, county, and city, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the current landlord laws in your locale.
Landlord Law 101: Class Dismissed
There’s an endless amount of legal advice for landlords out there, but this “crash course” is a good place to start.
Bookmark this page so you can refer back to it in the future if you ever have any questions about landlord-tenant law.