Being a landlord is a profitable choice of professional. However, it can be legally complicated. There are many laws in place across the state and the country regulating landlord practices, and rightly so – tenants must be protected from bad landlord practices. As a landlord, it’s important to know these rules and follow them to the letter.
Breaking rules as a landlord can be a simple mistake with no ill intent. However, your intention doesn’t protect you from legal consequences. A simple misunderstanding or mistake can become a nightmare when it turns into a costly legal proceeding. The following is a list of some common legal mistakes landlords make:
1. Using outdated or generic leases.
It’s easy to find a generic lease with a simple Google search. However, just because a document is labeled a lease doesn’t mean it follows the law in your state or locality. Using the wrong form can get you into serious legal trouble. Rental laws vary so much, it’s almost guaranteed a generic lease will not be compliant with the laws in your state.
Using an improper legal document cutting off tenants’ rights could bring you to court at the losing end of a lawsuit. What’s more, some generic leases impose more restrictions on landlords than exist in your area – or anywhere in the country!
Don’t trust a lease you find online. These leases are almost always outdated, not applicable to your state, or simply not accurate legal documents anywhere. The best way to be sure your lease is up to the laws in your area is to enlist the help of a local property management company. Property management companies are well-versed in landlord-tenant laws and can draw up a lease specific to your situation and protect your rights.
2. Asking illegal questions during applicant screening.
Screening applicants before renting to them is an important practice for any landlord. You must protect yourself from tenants who can’t or won’t pay rent, or who may damage your property or break the terms of your lease. By screening tenants, you can avoid choosing someone who will get you into a legal headache.
However, there are laws in place preventing housing discrimination. If you ask the wrong question during a tenant screening, you could be breaking the law. It’s possible to accidentally ask an illegal question. Some landlords don’t know it can be legally considered discrimination to ask a couple if they are married or to ask a disabled person the details of their disability. Even if your questions are well meaning and you are just making conversation, there are some questions you must not ask. If you reject a tenant you have asked these questions to, even if your rejection was for a completely different reason, your disgruntled applicant may pursue a fair housing complaint.
Fear of asking the wrong questions should not prevent you from performing tenant screenings. A property management company can help you perform informative and legal screenings, so you get the perfect tenant while following the letter of the law.
3. Making promises you don’t keep.
If you make promises to a tenant for repairs or additions to a property, even if you don’t write them down, these promises are binding in some cases. If you promise a prospective tenant a fresh paint job, a parking space, or some similar service and don’t deliver, it can cause hard feelings. These hard feelings can sometimes lead to legal concerns.
A tenant who feels manipulated or cheated by promises you made and failed to deliver on may choose to sue you for the difference in value between what you delivered and your original promise. Even if the tenant doesn’t win the suit, this process costs you time and money.
4. Ignoring eviction laws.
Evictions are legally complex. It’s easy to get turned around when attempting to evict a tenant – especially since getting to that stage in the relationship in the first place is stressful at best. Every state has different laws for eviction. Typically, landlords are permitted to evict tenants who don’t pay their rent, fail to vacate after the expiration of their lease, violate their lease in some way, or cause significant damage to the property.
Even if you have a solid legal foundation on which to evict, your eviction case can be thrown out if you failed to follow proper procedure. You must provide an eviction notice to your tenant before filing an eviction lawsuit. Attempting to evict a tenant without involving the court is highly illegal, even if their lease is expired, and it may result in you having to pay damages to the tenant.
The best way to navigate the complicated legal ins and outs of eviction is to enlist the services of a property management company. Property management companies know both local and federal regulation regarding evictions. Your best chance of winning an eviction case is with experienced professional help.
Laws regulating the actions and practices of landlords exist to protect people. However, not all landlords who break these laws are bad people. It’s easy to unintentionally make legal mistakes as a landlord. To ensure you are legally protected and following your local regulations, contact Green Residential today. You will save time and money and be protected from legal trouble.