Laws Covering Security Deposits, Rent Increases, Late Fees

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on September 27, 2006 under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits, Rents and Deposits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Ques. How much security deposit is a landlord allowed to charge a tenant?
It is permissible in all states to allow landlords to collect security deposit from a tenant at the time he / she moves in. A security deposit is a necessary requirement as landlords use it to cover unpaid rent, or for repairing or cleaning up a tenant’s messy house-keeping, after he / she has moved out. States limit the security amount landlords can charge, which is usually not more than a month or two worth of rent.

State laws state it is a requisite for landlords to put the deposit in a separate account, which is to be paid back to tenants plus interest.

Ques. How can a tenant protect his / her security deposit?
A tenant does not always get back the full security deposit amount plus interest, as more than a few landlords withhold all or part of a tenant’s security deposit on a tenant’s departure as a matter of course, to pay for house cleaning, carpet cleaning, and perhaps repainting. However, unless absolutely necessary due to a tenant’s mis-adventurous use of the rental, it is not legal for a landlord to make such deductions. He / she cannot use security deposits for ordinary wear and tear that occurs during a tenant’s occupancy.

Ques. Is there a grace period for late rent before landlords can begin charging late fees, and are they legal?
Unless, a lease or rental agreement specifies otherwise, most states do not have a legally recognised grace period for late rent. It means, if a tenant has not paid rent on time, a landlord can usually terminate the tenancy with a ‘pay or quit’ notice a day after its due date. However, some leases and rental agreements do provide a five-day grace period for late rent.

As well, there are some landlords, who charge fees for late payment of rent, or for bounced checks, and if reasonable, these fees are usually legal. Laws relating to late fees can be found in a state’s landlord / tenant statutes.

Ques. Is it a legal requirement to pay rent on the first of the month?
Custom demands rent to be paid monthly, in advance, often, on the first day of the month. However, it is perfectly legal for a landlord to ask for rent to be paid at different intervals or on a different day of the month.

Ques. When can a landlord increase the monthly rent?
A landlord can raise the rent, of course, subject to rent control laws with a proper written notice, usually 30-days, if a tenant has a month-to-month rental arrangement.

In the case of a fixed-term lease, the rent cannot be raised during the lease term, unless the increase is specifically called for in the lease, or unless the tenant agrees. When a lease expires, the landlord may raise the rent, again subject to rent control laws, if any.

Ques. How do rent control laws work?
Only five states i.e. California, Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York -have rent control laws, limiting the amount of rent landlords may charge.

Rent control ordinances (also called rent stabilisation or maximum rent regulation) limit rental increases. These rent control laws also require landlords to have a legally valid reason for wishing to terminate a tenancy, e.g. if the tenant does not pay rent, or if the landlord wants the rental property for personal use.

However, to avoid expensive litigation, landlords should as a rule screen prospective tenants and employees thoroughly, weeding out undesirable elements with past evictions or criminal pasts. Visit for tenant screening and background check services.

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