As a landlord trying to run a profitable rental business, there are some legal requirements you need to understand and uphold. As with any relationship, sometimes differences may occur between you and your tenants. There are various laws that you need to follow to avoid costly fines and prosecution in such circumstances. These laws give you options for dealing with tenants who don’t honor their obligations. Above all, federal, state and local law for tenants protects them against unscrupulous landlords.
So what are some of the legal responsibilities of a landlord?
Legal Lease or Rental Agreement
A lease is a legal agreement between the landlord and tenant. It allows the tenant the use of the landlord’s property in exchange for rent. The lease is valid for a stipulated period and spells out the rights and responsibilities of both parties during the lease period. It also outlines the consequences of violations of any of the terms. Both parties should read and understand this agreement before signing.
There are federal, state and local laws outlining the things that must be included in the lease agreement. It is important to research such laws for your rental agreement to be valid and effective.
Better still, having a lawyer or property managers in Commerce City draft the lease agreement ensures you are covered.
Keep your rental premises habitable
Landlords are legally required to provide habitable rental premises for their tenants. In the state of Colorado, the implied warranty of habitability’ is a law for tenants to seek recourse if you don’t provide adequate repairs and maintenance. It allows them to withhold rent until you complete the repairs. It also allows tenants to sue you for injuries sustained due to defects in your rental property.
Follow the laws for terminating a lease or evicting a tenant
There are very specific laws that address the procedures for ending tenancy before the lease is up and eviction. Even if the tenant has violated the lease agreement terms, you cannot simply evict them. Failure to follow the law for tenants evictions will cause delays in the eviction and you may even face court fines. For example, you are required to give the tenant three days notice before filing an eviction. For more information on this, see the State Laws on Termination for Violation of Lease and the State Laws on Unconditional Quit Terminations.
Follow the laws on rent in your state
Every landlord’s dream is tenants who pay rent on time and without a fuss. However, if your tenants don’t pay up on time, there are state laws about the course of action available to you. Also, if you want to increase rent, some laws regulate the amount of notice you are required to give to tenants.
Observe Anti-Discrimination Laws
When looking for new tenants, it is important to understand fair housing laws. Your ads and application questions must not discriminate against anyone based on their race, religion, sex, family status, creed, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. You are free to reject applicants based on bad credit history and poor landlord references or other such factors. There are a few landlord exemptions to these laws against discrimination you can research.
Comply with Security Deposit Return Rules
Security deposit disputes make up a large percentage of lawsuits filed by tenants against landlords countrywide. Different states have different rules about this issue. These rules address the limits of how much of the security deposit you can withhold. They also state the period within which you should refund the deposit. Always make an itemized checklist when tenants move in listing the condition of the house’s fixtures and appliances. Make sure you both sign the checklist. When they move out, use this to determine the cost of repairs and the security deposit to be refunded.
Don’t Retaliate Against Tenants Taking Legal Actions Against You
In Colorado, it is illegal to retaliate against a tenant who has taken legal action against you. For example, if a tent sues you because your rental property is not ‘habitable,’ it is illegal to try to evict them or raise their rent. This law for tenants may expose you to some false claims. That is why you need to document every transaction between you. Keep all repair and maintenance receipts, letters of notice and other official communications well organized for future reference.
Follow Disclosure of Hazard Laws
Federal laws require you to disclose any hazardous substances on your property or structure. For example, you are expected to disclose any Lead-based paint to your tenant. Failure to disclose could result in hefty penalties.
Protect Domestic Violence Victims
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse are protected by law in regards to lease agreements. They can terminate their contract in emergency situations. As a landlord, you are not allowed to penalize them based on your lease agreement terms. You can also not terminate the lease based on their situation. The victim must provide proof of abuse for this law for tenants to be effective.
Follow the Uniform Residential Landlords and Tenant Act
According to this Act, you cannot rent your property to another tenant while the current tenant’s lease is still active. You can also not look for another tenant for a house under a lease. The tenant must enjoy exclusive use of the property till the lease expires or is terminated by either party.
Follow State Disposal of Abandoned Property Laws
Every State has regulations on how landlords should dispose of property abandoned on their premises by tenants. These regulations provide requirements for how and when to contact the tenant. They also inform the landlord on how to store or dispose of such abandoned property if the tenant does not claim it.
There are several other obligations a landlord may have to the tenant under federal, state and local laws. It may be a good idea to hire the services of a property management company in Commerce City to avoid the hassle of dealing with tenancy issues directly. It could also keep you on the right side of the law by complying with the necessary law for tenants.