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Landlord Obligations Under Landlord-Tenant Law

What a Landlord is Legally Responsible For

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There are some general obligations a landlord has to his or her tenants under landlord-tenant law. While the obligations will differ slightly on a state by state basis, there are some basics duties or services every landlord must provide. Be sure to check your state and local landlord-tenant laws to discover additional or different obligations that may apply in your area.

A landlord’s obligations under landlord-tenant law are usually broken down into five parts:

  • Security deposit
  • Disclosure
  • Delivering Possession of the Unit
  • Maintenance
  • Liability

Manage Security Deposit or Prepaid Rent

Every landlord has the right to charge his or her tenants a security deposit. This deposit never actually belongs to the landlord. Instead, it is a form of security for the landlord in case the tenant fails to pay rent, damages the property or otherwise breaches the lease agreement.

Even though landlords have the right to charge this deposit, they are obligated to follow the statewide and local laws regarding this deposit. For instance, certain states set limits on the maximum amount of security a landlord can charge a tenant for a deposit. There are also specific rules for storing the security deposit, returning the security deposit and what to do with the security deposit if you sell your property. Landlords are obligated to follow these laws or they can face legal consequences for failure to do so.

See Also: The Complete Guide to the Security Deposit

Disclosure

It is the responsibility of the person who has signed the lease agreement with the tenant, whether it be the building’s owner, the landlord, or another individual who is acting as the landlord’s agent, to disclose to the tenant:

The names and addresses of the individual or individuals with the power to manage the building, collect rent, make repairs, address complaints or issue notices.

This disclosure should usually be made in writing and should occur before the actual tenancy begins. If any changes occur during a tenant’s tenancy, the tenant must be notified of the change.

The purpose of this obligation is to ensure that the tenant knows the correct contact person for various activities such as rent collection and maintenance requests as well as for any legal issues that may arise.

If this disclosure is not made to the tenant, the person collecting the rent becomes the go to person for handling all matters related to the property.

Deliver Possession of Unit

The next obligation for landlords under landlord-tenant law is to deliver possession of the unit to the tenant. This involves having the unit vacant for the tenant on the move-in date that was specified on the lease agreement. If the unit is not available for the tenant on the specified move-in date, the tenant may be able to pursue legal action against the landlord for failure to honor the lease agreement.

In addition, if there is a squatter in the unit or another individual who does not have the legal right to be there, the landlord may pursue legal action against this individual and recover damages.

Maintain the Unit

A landlord has the responsibility to his or her tenants to maintain the property. This includes keeping the property clean, safe and habitable.

See Also: Landlord Obligation to Maintain Premises

Limitation of Liability

A landlord is liable for following the obligations set forth under landlord-tenant law. This includes adhering to the terms of the lease agreement. In many states, a landlord is relieved of this liability once they sell the property and notify the tenant in writing that the property is under new ownership or management. The new owner then becomes liable for adhering to the terms of the lease agreement and for following the landlord-tenant law in the state.

The original landlord is still responsible for the tenant’s security deposit. The landlord usually has two options:

  1. Transfer the deposit to the new owner minus any allowable deductions and notify the tenant in writing that the new owner is in possession of the security deposit. The original landlord will then be relieved of any further liability.

    or

  2. Return the deposit to the tenant minus any allowable deductions.
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