Landlords collect rent from tenants, and they can evict tenants who fail to pay rent. But a landlord must ensure their rental property remains habitable while occupied by a renter.
In most states and cities, a landlord’s rental property must meet a standard called the implied warranty of habitability. This legal guideline states that a landlord must provide a rental unit that’s safe and livable for their tenant.
Landlord-tenant laws govern the relationship between a landlord and their renter. These laws vary by state and city.
Are All Real Estate Investors Landlords?
Landlords are property owners whose primary business goal is making money by collecting rent. They want to maximize their revenue. To do so, they limit their costs by handling the management of their rental properties themselves.
A landlord may hire a professional, such as an electrician, to repair their rental property. They may also pay a property manager or property management company to oversee their business. Alternatively, they might provide that service themselves, thereby reducing their costs and increasing their profits.
Real estate investors, however, focus on earning money by owning and selling property. Some real estate investors may rent their property while they own it, but doing so is a short-term tactic. For example, an investor may rent a condo for a year while they wait for their local housing market to improve.
A real estate investor who rents their property almost always hires a property manager or property management company to run things. Doing so allows the investor to focus on growing their real estate business, not managing rental properties.
Sometimes a real estate investor’s only goal is to cover the property’s monthly mortgage payment. They’re willing to pay someone to manage their rental property so they can focus on their business goal of growing their real estate investment business.
Understanding Rental Agreements
In most states, a landlord can choose not to renew or extend a tenant’s lease for any reason. Landlords are usually required to provide the renter with at least 30 days’ written notice if they’re opting not to renew a rental agreement.
Eviction Laws for Landlords
Landlords can’t evict a tenant as retaliation. Let’s say a renter reports a landlord to their local housing authority for violating building codes. The landlord can’t conduct what’s called a retaliatory eviction.
The best approach is for landlords to reduce the likelihood of eviction, starting with tenant screening. This step is part of the rental application process. It involves a landlord reviewing a potential renter’s credit score, credit history, and verifying their income. The goal of tenant screening is to ensure the renter poses less risk to the landlord.
Note that the Fair Housing Act applies during the rental application process. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to someone based on the protected classes listed above. And some states extend those protections to others. For example, California prevents discrimination based on a tenant’s source of income and sexual orientation.
Important Tenants’ Rights to Know
Most laws provide guarantee landlords access to their rental units for three reasons:
- To make repairs.
- To respond to an emergency.
- To show the property to prospective tenants or buyers.
This rule doesn’t apply if there’s an emergency. If there’s a gas leak, for example, a landlord has permission to access their property without prior notice to address the issue.
Tenants also have the right to a safe, habitable rental property. This rule means landlords must maintain their rental units, including making repairs as needed. Tenants who feel their landlords aren’t adhering to this standard have a few options. They can:
- Handle the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from their rent payment.
- Withhold rent until the landlord addresses the problem.
- Terminate their lease without penalty.
- Sue their landlord.
- Report the landlord to local authorities.
- Pay partial rent until the issue is resolved.