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"Landlord Tenant Laws: A ‘Scratch-the-Surface’ Intro to Property Law"


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As a multifamily property investor, you must be aware of the landlord tenant laws in your state. Many states refer to this as landlord-tenant law, and have a "landlord tenant act" in place to govern rental property activity.


FUNCTION OF RENTAL PROPERTY LAW


Your state's landlord tenant act represents the "rules of the game" that you as a landlord must abide by at all times. Generally speaking, the rules govern things such as:

Failure to follow the rules could hinder your ability to evict a bad tenant, and could even expose you to litigation risk.

The good news is that these days, just about every state has its rental property laws posted online. A good resource to find the landlord tenant act in your state can be found here.


GENERAL COMMONALITIES


Even though landlord laws differ by state, they tend to share 3 common characteristics:

  • Landlords always have the right to receive the rent on time according to the terms of the lease.
  • Landlords are always responsible for providing safe & functional rental units for tenants.
  • Rental property law is the vehicle to resolve disagreements between landlords and tenants.

The best thing to do is to familiarize yourself with your state's laws, use common sense, and make sure you follow through on all your responsibilities. Click to learn more about landlord responsibilities.



EVICTIONS


Oftentimes, the biggest difference between the state laws relates to the notification requirements for the eviction process. But typically, the grounds for eviction are pretty similar from state-to-state.

Irrespective of your state, you are never allowed to simply change the locks, shut off the utilities, or coerce the tenant into leaving. Obey all your landlord legal requirements. Otherwise, your eviction case could get thrown out of court. You could also get sued for an unlawful eviction.

So again, as you familiarize yourself with the landlord laws in your state, pay particular attention to the eviction requirements.


GETTING AN ATTORNEY


In some states, you may need an attorney for every buy or sell transaction. In New Jersey, which is my state, an attorney is not necessary for the mortgage closing because a title company serves the same function.

If you are lucky enough to be located in a state where lawyers are not needed for regular real estate transactions, then you'll only need one if/when an issue arises.

Click for more information on the need for a property attorney.


BOTTOM LINE


You can't play this game without understanding the rules. Do not just read your state's landlord tenant laws. Study them. Strive to follow your state's rental property law to a "T." Doing this, as well as a utilizing a real estate LLC, will greatly reduce your business risk.



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5 Responses to Landlord Tenant Laws: A ‘Scratch-the-Surface’ Intro to Property Law

  1. Property Guru says:

    This is incredibly useful advice – good work! Evictions definitely are no fun for anybody, but delays associated with failing to follow your state’s landlord tenant laws can make it 10 times worse!

  2. paskap says:

    It’s a shame that for most things, landlord tenant laws are skewed in the tenant’s favor. And unfortunately this doesn’t only apply to rental property law. It’s enough to make me never want to be a landlord.

  3. Donald K says:

    I just read an article somewhere that a landlord actually got sued by a tenant over another tenant’s second hand smoke. I almost feel out of my chair after I read it. It’s sickening.

  4. Abanob says:

    Although this is good info, anybody who would read a website instead of consulting with an attorney when it comes to property law is just plain foolish. Again, this is a good primer but any serious legal issue requires a good real estate attorney. Just my 2 cents…

  5. tom says:

    I live in Houston, Texas.. does the owner have the right to enter a rental with a 24 hour notice, even without permission from the tenant. I need to do an inspection for a buyer investor, and I would have to get a lock smith.

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