Landlord and Tenant Law
What is Landlord Tenant Law?
Landlord Tenant Laws regulate the relationship between one who owns real property (i.e., land, houses, buildings, etc.) and those to whom he or she gives certain rights of use and possession. Landlord tenant laws grew out of the English Common Law, and contains elements of both real property law and contracts, though most jurisdictions have added a number of more modern considerations, as well.
Residential and Commercial Leases
Many jurisdictions vary widely in their application of landlord tenant law based on the type of tenant. A residential tenant is one who seeks to take up personal occupancy in the premises for purposes of using it as a home. A commercial tenant is usually a business that takes up possession of the property for purposes of carrying on some form of commercial, retail, or industrial pursuit. Given the different values associated with each type of tenancy, the laws vary to meet these interests. For example, residential tenancies are usually given more protections against unannounced entry by the landlord (to protect privacy), greater habitability requirements (to ensure one can actually live in the property), and more protections against wrongful taking of deposits. Commercial tenancies, on the other hand, are granted more protections against activities that would harm a business interest or impede its operations, but have fewer considerations for privacy and habitability.
Eviction and Back Rent
In either type of tenancy, the usual tools for a landlord to enforce its right to collect rent is through the use of evictions. An eviction is a legal proceeding, usually with an expedited procedural calendar, that allows a landlord to put a tenant on notice of the failure to pay, file a lawsuit, and obtain a court order requiring the tenant to vacate the premises, often within a matter of weeks. Most states also provide a mechanism for recovering unpaid rent from the tenant in the event of a default, including, in some instances, rent that would have been due through the end of the lease term. Note, while jurisdictions vary, a landlord is typically not obliged to take any extraordinary measures to find a new tenant in the event one vacates early and breaks the lease, meaning the original tenant remains contractually liable for the full amount of the lease all the way to its original end date. As a result, it is rarely wise for a tenant to simply abandon a leased property, even if they know they are about to default.
A tenant has a number of rights, as well, and chief among them are certain implied warranties of habitability. If a leased property becomes uninhabitable, due to structural damage, mold, water leaks, fire, vermin infestation, or any number of other circumstances, the tenant may have a right to withhold rents or even vacate the property without penalty. Failure to provide a habitable property is the equivalent of a tenant failing to pay the rent: it amounts to a breach of the essential terms of the lease agreement, often excusing the tenant from further performance. Therefore, landlords typically have all maintenance and repair obligations associated with a leased property.
Landlords are also obligated, in many jurisdictions, to disclose how they will hold and use deposit money. If money is taken on deposit, the landlord must disclose whether the deposit is refundable or not and, in some jurisdictions, must disclose in which bank the money will be held, whether it will draw interest or not, and under what circumstances the money may be withheld from return upon the termination of the lease.
If you would like more information on Landlord Tenant Law, please visit the resources below. Additionally, since landlord tenant laws vary greatly by state and are always changing, should you have a specific question or issue, you may wish to contact a local attorney. You can find a list of attorneys in your area that focus their practices on landlord tenant law by visiting our Law Firms page.
Know Your Rights!
- How Do I Throw Someone Out of My House?
Ever had the house guest you just cannot get to leave? Maybe someone you thought you could share a relationship with and things did not work out, or a friend or family member who just cramps your lifestyle, eats your food, and does not contribute to the bills? Whatever the case may be, getting someone out who has overstayed their welcome can sometime be a very difficult task. So, how do you throw someone out of your house?
- How to Fight an Eviction
Getting behind on rent and receiving an eviction notice can be a traumatic experience. While every state is different, most share certain characteristics, and it is important to know how evictions work in order to know what you should do.
- When is it Okay Not to Pay Rent
Leases are tricky things. They are a combination of contract laws, agreements between the parties, and laws and regulations that relate to landlords and tenants, housing standards, zoning, safety, etc. As a result, although a lease agreement may say you have to pay rent always and under every circumstance, there are plenty of times when one of these other laws may intervene.
Articles on HG.org Related to Landlord and Tenant Law
- What to Do When a Commercial Tenant Vacates Before the Lease Expiration DateIt is rarely welcome news for a commercial landlord to discover that a tenant has vacated its leased premises prior to the expiration of the lease term, or that the tenant intends to do so. This is especially true when the failure of the tenant’s business, and not the tenant’s desire to expand or relocate, is the driving force behind the premature exit.
- When Do I Need a Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreement?Many commercial leases for business owners or management have subordination, non-disturbance and attornment types of agreements in the contractual documentation.
- Commercial Lease "Letter of Intent" - LOIsThe letter of intent (“LOI,” a.k.a. term sheet or MOU) [is]used for negotiating a commercial lease. The LOI comes early in the process, and it’s the best place to negotiate basic deal terms. An LOI clarifies the deal, and lets the parties know early whether a deal can get done, before they’ve invested a lot of money in the process. LOIs usually are non-binding.
- Can My Landlord Make Me Smoke Outside When My Lease Does Not Mention “No Smoking”?Smoking has become one of the top priorities in removing from all establishments and property due to the adverse effects the smoke has on the house, unit and other persons’ health. Because of this, many landlords have installed smoke detectors, drafted clauses in leases about no smoking and similar actions.
- Preventing Commercial Lease Dispute Complications with Expert Witness TestimonyBefore signing a commercial lease, individuals may consider possible ways to protect themselves before the lease, during the tenancy and after it. An expert witness can provide assistance in discussing commercial lease disputes and settlement negotiations.
- Remedies for Landlords when a Dispute with a Tenant ArisesResidential complications often occur when a tenant has a dispute about something. This may be maintenance, the lease terms, parking, utilities or similar matters. However, there are certain remedies available to landlords if disagreements occur depending on the factors of the issue.
- Rights of Domestic Violence Victims in Rental PropertyVictims of domestic violence suffer from various issues that stem from the abuse that has been inflicted upon them. Because of these problems, they are more prone to needing therapy and time to get over the psychological trauma. This means they are unable to retain gainful employment in most circumstances until they have resolved the matter with the individual in the home.
- Important Legal Tips for Selling a House to a RelativeSelling a home is often difficult when taking all involved factors into account. However, when the buyer is a relative, this may be complicated. If the individual feels he or she should be provided some kind of discount or lower purchase price, the dealing may fail before it begins.
- LGBT Protections under the Fair Housing ActProtections for gay, lesbian, transgendered and similar individuals are not often found in the United States. However, the Fair Housing Act has been amended to include these persons when in regards to renting and buying homes so that they are not discriminated against without legal action possible.
- Importance of Negotiating Assignment Clauses in Commercial Lease TransactionsCommercial spaces may be difficult to obtain depending on the city where the businesses reside. Because of this, there are many different clauses in leases that deal with transactions, permitted activity on the land and various other concerns that often need the assistance of negotiation to resolve.
- All Real Estate Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Real Estate including: construction law, eminent domain, foreclosure, homeowners association, land use and zoning, landlord and tenant law, property law, property management.
Landlord and Tenant Law by State
Landlord and Tenant Law - US
- ABA - Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section
Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section - ABA The Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section is a leading national forum for lawyers, and currently has over 30,000 members. The Real Property Division focuses on legal aspects of property use, ownership, development, transfer, regulation, financing, taxation and disposal. The Trust and Estate Division focuses on all aspects of trusts, estate planning, employee benefits, insurance, and probate and trust litigation.
- Landlord and Tenant Law - Overview
Landlord-tenant law governs the rental of commercial and residential property. It is composed primarily of state statutory and common law. A number of states have based their statutory law on either the Uniform Residential Landlord And Tenant Act (URLTA) or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. Federal statutory law may be a factor in times of national/regional emergencies and in preventing forms of discrimination.
- The National Landlord Tenant Guides
Landlord Tenant Law for all 50 states. Summary of Tenant Landlord Laws, Articles and Landlord Tenant Discussion Board.
- Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act
In the 1960s, at the time of the civil rights movement and heightened concerns about the legal rights of the poor, the federal government funded a legal aid project to write a model landlord and tenant act. The model code drafted at that time was given to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, who drafted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) in 1972.
- US Department of Housing and Urban Development
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.
- USDOJ - Fair Housing Act
In the United States, the fair housing (also open housing) policies date largely from the 1960s. Originally, the terms fair housing and open housing came from a political movement of the time to outlaw discrimination in the rental or purchase of homes and a broad range of other housing-related transactions, such as advertising, mortgage lending, homeowner's insurance and zoning. Later, the same language was used in laws. At the urging of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) in April 1968, only one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr..
Organizations Related to Landlord and Tenant Law
- Landlord Association.org
Landlord Association.Org is a dynamic online company developed by property investors and landlords who want to extend information and services to others who are involved in real estate investing throughout the United States.
- National Housing Institute (NHI)
NHI is a nonprofit organization that examines the issues causing the crisis in housing and community in America. Tenants may seek the assistance of NHI, which provides information and referral to local tenant organizations.
- National Tenant Network
For more than 25 years, National Tenant Network has been focused on a single goal: to help property owners and managers make the best leasing decisions possible. We care about your bottom line, understand the importance of maintaining the integrity of your rental property and strive to provide exceptional service to every subscriber.
- RHOL - Landlord/Tenant Law
The RHOL family of webs has been the most extensive and comprehensive rental property resource on the Internet since 1995. Our thousands of supporting members make it possible for us to continue to add content and services to the rental housing community.
Publications Related to Landlord and Tenant Law
- Landlord Entry Right and Tenant Privacy
A landlord can enter a rented dwelling to make emergency repairs at any time. A landlord may also enter to make necessary, non-emergency repairs after providing notice, the amount of notice in each state varying as indicated in this article.