avoid a lawsuit

Learn how to avoid a lawsuit

Being a landlord is not as easy as it seems. As a landlord, there are many legal responsibilities. You need to be aware of all the federal laws, state laws, and local laws, and more importantly, you must not only know your legal obligation but understand them because nobody wants to be involved in a lawsuit. They are expensive, stressful, and time-consuming.

 

Ignoring dangerous conditions in and around the rental property 

Routine maintenance is critical in keeping your tenants safe as well as your investment in good shape. We know handling maintenance can be complicated, especially when you have several properties, but you have to keep an eye on it because when not done well, it can lead to a lawsuit. There are legal responsibilities under the landlord-tenant law you have as landlords regarding maintenance. You need to make sure your rental property meets all local building and housing codes, and you also need to handle all major repairs in a timely fashion. You must keep the property in a habitable condition. If a tenant gets injured because you didn’t repair, you can be held liable. So don’t risk yourself to any lawsuits and respond to maintenance requests in time. 

Avoid a Lawsuit – Pro Tip: Be sure to regularly make inspections on your own, including testing the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and promptly inform tenants of potential hazards. Require tenants to keep their own renter’s insurance with liability. 

 

Unjustly withholding the security deposit

Each state has specific security deposit laws landlords and tenants must follow. Security deposit is usually returned to the tenant at the end of the lease terms, less an itemized list of repairs and their costs. Landlords can withhold from the security deposit for the following reasons:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Cleaning costs
  • Tenant-related repairs and damage (not ordinary wear and tear)
  • Replacing all included items from the rental including, but limited to furniture, keys, and remotes 
  • Terminating lease early 

Avoid a Lawsuit – Pro Tip: Promptly return the security deposit to the tenant. Include an itemized list of repairs and their costs. For your documentation, take before and after photos of repairs in case you ever need to show proof of completion. 

 

Violating the tenant’s right to privacy 

Even though the house is technically yours, you can’t enter the property whenever you want. Most states give landlords the right to enter their rental property but only under specific circumstances. There are legal notice requirements, so check your state’s laws because rules vary from state to state. Each state has detailed rules on when, for what reasons, you can enter the property. Here are some common reasons: 

  • Make repairs, such as to fix a broken stove
  • Inspect the property for safety or maintenance problems
  • Show the rental unit to a prospective tenant toward the end of a tenancy

Avoid a Lawsuit – Pro Tip: Always give sufficient notice to the tenant when entry to a property is needed. Typically 24 hours notice is adequate (emergencies excepted). Having a conversation with the tenant allows them to give input on the best time someone could accommodate an interior visit or repair. Follow this up with something in writing, confirming the agreed time. 

 

Discriminating against current or potential tenants

The Fair Housing Act prohibits a landlord from refusing to rent a property to a tenant for reasons of race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or familial status. A tenant or potential tenant who believes his or her civil rights were violated can sue you, and even if you are innocent, it will cost you time, money, and energy to fight the allegations. You must learn the basics of fair housing laws and treat everyone the same. 

Avoid a Lawsuit – Pro Tip:  Have set criteria on requirements needed to rent the property, such as credit, income, rental history, and don’t deviate from this. Don’t charge one person for something, and not another. Decide ahead of time about Pets, Rental amount, deposit needed, etc. 

Managing a property fulltime is a job full of legal responsibilities, which is why hiring a good property management company can be one of your greatest assets. At House Match Property Management, we have the experience, tools, and resources to manage your property effectively. Call us today and let us take care of the hassle of property management. Sit back and relax. 

 

This blog post is for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. Always consult your appropriate legal jurisdiction authority before acting. 

 

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