Essential Landlords / Tenants Rules

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on June 13, 2006 under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

If you have invested in real estate as an avenue for extra income or if it is your only means of income, it is best that you familiarise yourself with rental laws that apply to property owners, whether they rent or indulge in sandwich (sub-leasing) leases.

The first law a landlord should get familiar with is the eviction proceeding, usually called a summary proceeding or unlawful detainer proceeding. This involves a lawsuit to obtain a court order to evict an unwanted tenant from your property. Bear in mind, when you remove a tenant physically from your property, you are taking a walk on the wild i.e. wrong side of the law. Regardless of how upset you are, desist from changing locks, shutting off the power or any other means of keeping the tenant out of the property he / she rented from you.

Now, before commencing eviction proceedings, you must terminate the tenancy. This involves serving the tenant with a Notice to Vacate as required by state law. If a tenant has not paid rent even after being served with a notice or has moved out after receiving it, you can commence court proceeding 3 to 5-days later. Usually, the entire process should take anywhere from 10 to 30-days.

Once the court rules in your favour by way of judgement or order, a warrant (writ) is issued. It is a legal document that directs a sheriff, marshal, constable or other local official to forcibly remove the tenant from your premises. Actually, not many tenants are physically thrown out; the official simply changes locks and removes the tenant’s personal belongings.

It would be wise for any landlord to learn about landlord / tenant laws of the state their rental property resides in. Not difficult to understand, still it is recommended a lawyer be hired when filing court proceedings, since the process is a very technical one. Minor paperwork flaws can result in the case being thrown out and having to start all over, again. On the subject of hiring a lawyer, do ensure you hire an experienced person, who also specialises in landlord / tenant practice.

As legal proceedings can prove to be expensive, the other way of getting rid of an unwanted tenant without taking the matter to court, is by bribing him / her to leave. For a landlord time is money, and the longer a rent defaulting tenant remains in possession of your rental property, the more you stand to lose. Talk to your tenant and tell him / her you are prepared to waive the rent owed and will also sweeten the deal with some cash if he / she leaves immediately. But, not before he / she has vacated, swept and cleaned the unit, handed over the keys and signed a written release of liability or general release against you.

Other laws a landlord should be aware of is security deposit reconciliation. This is one aspect of rental property that has to be dealt with whether a tenant leaves voluntarily or by legal force. State laws insist security deposit funds are to be returned within 30-days, and if not, a certified letter has to be sent to the tenant stating why it is being retained by you. You may be within your rights to keep it, but failure to comply with proper procedure can result in a lawsuit for improper withholding. Though a landlord can sue a tenant in the small claims court for rent owed and damages to property, he is not entitled to withhold the security deposit without following the rules.

As well, a landlord has to comply with State & Federal Disclosure laws. Often, lease / option gurus miss out on a minor detail, when they fail to mention if a tenant sub-leases his / her rented accommodation, in effect he / she becomes the landlord, and as such has to follow state and federal disclosure requirements. According to federal disclosure requirements, existence of lead-based paint hazards are to be disclosed and an EPA pamphlet provided to the tenant. As for, state law disclosures, they vary greatly, from radon gas to disclosure of known sex offenders in the area.

It would be worth your while to check with the state and county housing authority for required disclosures. As well, bear in mind some states consider a lease/option to be a sale for the purposes of disclosure. Thus, landlords are required to disclose the same items on a lease/option that they would on a sale.

Now that you have been primed about landlord / tenant laws, you can safeguard your property by adhering to the rules, without unwittingly breaking them.

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