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As a landlord, there are some things you cannot do legally, even though you own the property. Knowing the extent of your rights to access your property, choose your own tenants, and collect rent can help efficiently turn your investment into an income-producing property.

Various laws and regulations govern what you can and cannot do as a landlord of residential rental property. Some of the rules are federal and prevent you from unjustly discriminating against certain types of tenants. Other regulations are at the state and even local level.

Important

Each state has different landlord-tenant laws, sometimes with significant differences. Additionally, certain cities or counties may have their own regulatory schemes. Be sure to remain compliant with all the laws of your property’s location.

Running afoul of any tenants’ rights can end up costing you a lot of money, time, and stress. Passive income is great and can change your life, but required maintenance can be costly. However, it may cost you more money overall if your tenants take you to court, especially if you are in a tenant-friendly state.

To protect yourself and your investment, familiarize yourself with all the no-no’s that could get you in trouble. And always remember that while you own the property, your tenant considers it their home. Therefore, any confrontation will be emotional for them, as well as financial. Generally, it is cheaper for everyone involved to let cooler heads prevail rather than rush to a courtroom. Still, if you need to enforce your rights as owner, ensure you stay within the legal bounds to avoid further issues.

Enter Without Proper Notice

Every state has its own rules for when a landlord can access the property, and almost all require proper notice. Unless there is an emergency, most places require you to provide your tenants a 24-hour heads-up. There are also rules regarding how to notify the tenants you intend to enter their space.

Typically, you can negotiate in the lease when and how to notify your tenants of your intention to enter.

Discriminate Against Tenants

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the tenant screening process. Nationally, you are not allowed to deny any potential renters based on their:

  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • National Origin
  • Disability
  • Marriage or familial status

Other states may expand the list of prohibited reasons to deny tenants, but the Fair Housing Act sets minimum standards everywhere.

Unjustified Rent Increase

Once you and your tenant have reached a rental lease agreement, you typically cannot raise the rent for the duration of the lease. Unless the tenant wants to add another inhabitant or pet, the rent amount is constant until the end of the lease term.

In some rent-controlled regions, you are also limited in how much you can raise the rent once a lease expires. Additionally, some states require you to give additional notice of an impending rent increase.

Read more: How to write a notice to vacate letter

Refuse to Make Repairs

A rental unit must remain habitable for the duration of a lease. By agreeing to rent the unit, most places legally require you to offer a warranty of habitability, which is defined differently in various states. However, the standard warranty includes working HVAC, running water, electricity, and freedom from infestation or mold.

If you do not make repairs promptly to ensure your property is up to a standard of human living, you may breach the warranty. Tenants can then possibly withhold rent or seek damages from you.

Evict Tenants Without Proper Process

Before you try and remove a tenant from your property, make sure you follow all your jurisdiction’s eviction procedures. Some large cities feature a separate court to (hopefully) speed up the eviction process.

Without going through the proper legal process, you can face liability for an illegal eviction. First, you must notify the tenant of your intent to convict and give them the required time to remedy any breach of the lease, if required. Then, after the eviction notice, you can take the process to court.

Finally, avoid cutting off necessary utilities like electricity and water to the unit. In some states, these self-help eviction methods can expose you to additional legal consequences.

Wrongfully Withhold a Security Deposit

At the start of a lease, you take a security deposit to ensure the tenant does not damage your property. Some states have rules for how you keep the funds, whether on deposit or separate from your personal accounts. Make sure to follow these regulations.

Once the lease concludes, promptly determine the cost of any necessary repairs, and forward the tenant the remainder of the security deposit.

If you need to use the entire security deposit to cover repair costs, some states may require you to forward the tenant an itemized receipt of your expenses.

Extra Landlord Actions Not Allowed

Beyond the above points, there are smaller prohibitions on your conduct as a landlord. For example, in some locations, you cannot retaliate against a tenant who complains or takes you to court. In addition, during an eviction, you may not be able to take and dispose of the tenant’s personal property.

When you are in the process of renting your property, be sure to disclose all the unit’s unique conditions. For example, lead-based paints are common in older areas, and you may legally be required to let a potential tenant know about their usage.

Lastly, the best advice is to be professional. While a business transaction, there needs to be a lot of trust between a landlord and a tenant. Do not inquire too far into your tenant’s personal lives but be sure to be communicative about expectations and requirements.

When you are ready to set up a new lease, LawDistrict.com is here with our easy, step-by-step contract maker. Create a Residential Lease Agreement tailored to your location and your needs within minutes. And if you are encountering issues with a current tenant, LawDistrict.com also has simple Eviction Notice templates for you to begin the dedicated legal process.


Get Your Legal Documents Now

As a landlord, there are some things you cannot do legally, even though you own the property. Knowing the extent of your rights to access your property, choose your own tenants, and collect rent can help efficiently turn your investment into an income-producing property.

Various laws and regulations govern what you can and cannot do as a landlord of residential rental property. Some of the rules are federal and prevent you from unjustly discriminating against certain types of tenants. Other regulations are at the state and even local level.

Important

Each state has different landlord-tenant laws, sometimes with significant differences. Additionally, certain cities or counties may have their own regulatory schemes. Be sure to remain compliant with all the laws of your property’s location.

Running afoul of any tenants’ rights can end up costing you a lot of money, time, and stress. Passive income is great and can change your life, but required maintenance can be costly. However, it may cost you more money overall if your tenants take you to court, especially if you are in a tenant-friendly state.

To protect yourself and your investment, familiarize yourself with all the no-no’s that could get you in trouble. And always remember that while you own the property, your tenant considers it their home. Therefore, any confrontation will be emotional for them, as well as financial. Generally, it is cheaper for everyone involved to let cooler heads prevail rather than rush to a courtroom. Still, if you need to enforce your rights as owner, ensure you stay within the legal bounds to avoid further issues.

Enter Without Proper Notice

Every state has its own rules for when a landlord can access the property, and almost all require proper notice. Unless there is an emergency, most places require you to provide your tenants a 24-hour heads-up. There are also rules regarding how to notify the tenants you intend to enter their space.

Typically, you can negotiate in the lease when and how to notify your tenants of your intention to enter.

Discriminate Against Tenants

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the tenant screening process. Nationally, you are not allowed to deny any potential renters based on their:

  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • National Origin
  • Disability
  • Marriage or familial status

Other states may expand the list of prohibited reasons to deny tenants, but the Fair Housing Act sets minimum standards everywhere.

Unjustified Rent Increase

Once you and your tenant have reached a rental lease agreement, you typically cannot raise the rent for the duration of the lease. Unless the tenant wants to add another inhabitant or pet, the rent amount is constant until the end of the lease term.

In some rent-controlled regions, you are also limited in how much you can raise the rent once a lease expires. Additionally, some states require you to give additional notice of an impending rent increase.

Read more: How to write a notice to vacate letter

Refuse to Make Repairs

A rental unit must remain habitable for the duration of a lease. By agreeing to rent the unit, most places legally require you to offer a warranty of habitability, which is defined differently in various states. However, the standard warranty includes working HVAC, running water, electricity, and freedom from infestation or mold.

If you do not make repairs promptly to ensure your property is up to a standard of human living, you may breach the warranty. Tenants can then possibly withhold rent or seek damages from you.

Evict Tenants Without Proper Process

Before you try and remove a tenant from your property, make sure you follow all your jurisdiction’s eviction procedures. Some large cities feature a separate court to (hopefully) speed up the eviction process.

Without going through the proper legal process, you can face liability for an illegal eviction. First, you must notify the tenant of your intent to convict and give them the required time to remedy any breach of the lease, if required. Then, after the eviction notice, you can take the process to court.

Finally, avoid cutting off necessary utilities like electricity and water to the unit. In some states, these self-help eviction methods can expose you to additional legal consequences.

Wrongfully Withhold a Security Deposit

At the start of a lease, you take a security deposit to ensure the tenant does not damage your property. Some states have rules for how you keep the funds, whether on deposit or separate from your personal accounts. Make sure to follow these regulations.

Once the lease concludes, promptly determine the cost of any necessary repairs, and forward the tenant the remainder of the security deposit.

If you need to use the entire security deposit to cover repair costs, some states may require you to forward the tenant an itemized receipt of your expenses.

Extra Landlord Actions Not Allowed

Beyond the above points, there are smaller prohibitions on your conduct as a landlord. For example, in some locations, you cannot retaliate against a tenant who complains or takes you to court. In addition, during an eviction, you may not be able to take and dispose of the tenant’s personal property.

When you are in the process of renting your property, be sure to disclose all the unit’s unique conditions. For example, lead-based paints are common in older areas, and you may legally be required to let a potential tenant know about their usage.

Lastly, the best advice is to be professional. While a business transaction, there needs to be a lot of trust between a landlord and a tenant. Do not inquire too far into your tenant’s personal lives but be sure to be communicative about expectations and requirements.

When you are ready to set up a new lease, LawDistrict.com is here with our easy, step-by-step contract maker. Create a Residential Lease Agreement tailored to your location and your needs within minutes. And if you are encountering issues with a current tenant, LawDistrict.com also has simple Eviction Notice templates for you to begin the dedicated legal process.


Get Your Legal Documents Now