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  • Writer's pictureJRealty Contributor

Six Things a Landlord Can Not Do

Landlord and Tenant arguing and pointing fingers at each other.
Landlord and Tenant arguing and pointing fingers at each other.

Becoming a landlord sounds like a straightforward job. All you have to do is kick back, relax, and let the property generate steady revenue for you. You get to decide who lives or leaves… sounds fun right? There are a few caveats you should know about.

For one, there are certain boundaries you should never cross as a landlord.

Tenants have rights that encompass a wide range of actions and you should be aware of the things that could be violating them. Plus, these tenant rights also vary based on city and state, so your local laws could be slightly different.

Here are six things that landlords can’t do.

Enter a Tenant’s Rental Unit Without Notice

Landlords have the right to enter the rental unit without notice in emergency situations only. Otherwise, landlords must give formal notice to their tenants before entering their homes.

Increase Rent Without Notice

You may be incurring additional expenses due to mortgage, property tax, and expensive repairs but you can’t pass those costs to your tenant – at least not without giving them prior notice. If you plan on increasing the rent, you must inform your tenant first. This usually means at least thirty days in advance. The details about increasing the rent should be mentioned in your rental agreement.

Discrimination Against Tenants

Landlords are forbidden by law to deny a lease to tenants based on the following factors:

  • Race

  • Color of skin

  • National origin

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • Familial status (families with children under the age of 18 or who are expecting a child)

  • Handicap (if you or someone close to you has a disability)

These laws fall under the Fair Housing Act, which you should familiarize yourself with if you want to become a landlord.

Landlords should publicly post their Leasing Criteria and treat all applicants the same.

Also worth noting is that you can’t increase a tenant’s rent or impose extra restrictions based on the above factors.

Refuse to Make Major Repairs

Landlords must make their rental units safe and habitable. This means that refusing to make major repairs could open you up to a volley of lawsuits, especially if the problem affects their safety or health. For example, if there is mold in the rental unit and you don’t take care of the problem right away, your tenant has the right to sue you.

Not Returning the Tenant’s Security Deposit

It is common practice to collect the security deposit at the beginning of a lease, typically a few months’ rent, to cover the damage to a rental unit caused by tenants. Most landlords place the security deposits in separate escrow accounts for the duration of the tenant’s lease term.

Landlords are allowed to keep a portion of the security deposit if the tenant causes major damage to the rental property. This does not apply to regular wear and tear. The tenant has every right to sue the landlord in small claims court if their security deposit is not returned to them.

It’s worth noting that most states allow landlords to keep the security deposit if the tenant decides to break the lease early. This will allow the deposit to cover the unpaid rent.

We recommend all landlords maintain and publish their Security Deposit Guidance.

Unlawfully Evicting Tenants

Landlords can evict tenants for several reasons, but they must go through the proper channels first.

Before you lock the tenant out of their rental unit, you are required to present them with a formal eviction notice stating that they must resolve the issue or vacate the property by a certain date (this depends on where you live).

If your tenant fails to comply with the notice, the next step is to file your eviction in court. If the judge rules in your favor during the hearing, you will get a court order for an eviction, which your tenant will have to follow.

The eviction process is long and expensive. You may want to resolve these differences outside of court.

Want to stay on the right side of the law? Many landlords are delegating their duties to professional property managers who can collect rent, tend to major repairs, stay on top of maintenance, and develop a healthy relationship with tenants. Property managers help you run a profitable business while complying with the law at all times.

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