What a Landlord Can and Cannot Do: A Guide to Tenant Law

Landlord Tenant Law

Many people rent their homes, apartments, and properties; rentier income is a big part of the economy. This leads to some interesting dynamics between the tenants and the landlords since they share the same property but have different incentives. However, it is essential to know that tenants and landlords have certain rights and responsibilities, ones enforced by the law. Being a landlord also comes with its rights and responsibilities, and there are certain things that landlords can do and there are things they can’t do. Both come as part and parcel of being a landlord; some might see them as landlord pros and cons, but that is not the case. 

landlord tenant law

The power dynamics in the relationship between the landlord and the tenant are pretty obvious: they are tilted towards the landlord since they own the property. However, landlord dos and don’ts ensure that discrimination does not happen because of this, and for the protection of tenant’s rights, landlords are barred from doing a couple of things, as set by the tenant law, an essential facet of real estate law.   

Let’s look at these landlord dos and don’ts and understand the reasoning behind these. 

Landlord don’ts: what landlords cannot do

Landlords are part of a contract or agreement signed by the tenant. However, tenant law that is enacted widely prevents landlords from doing certain actions despite the residence in question being their legal property. Let’s look at what landlords are barred from doing. 

Entering the premises without due notice

Despite owning the property, there are certain rules that landlords need to follow, and one of the basic ones is prior intimation or notice before entering the premises. Since the house or apartment is considered a personal place for the tenants, any attempt to enter the premises without due notice or intimation is considered encroachment or breaking in and can be contested in a court of law. If the landlord wants to visit the property, they must clear it with the tenant first and decide on a visiting time with them. Once a time has been agreed upon mutually, the landlord may visit the property. Otherwise, it will constitute as breaking. 

Unlawfully evict tenants

The case of evicting tenants is very sensitive, considering that one is robbing another person of their shelter. Even in extreme situations, evicting tenants requires the completion of a legal process. To evict the tenant, the landlord must provide ample proof that the tenant may have balked at their rent payments despite repeated notices. They must also provide proof that they served the tenant with a formal eviction notice and enough time to vacate the premises. Once that has been done, usually, a court order is issued that directs local law enforcement to help evict the tenants and vacate the property. Simply throwing the tenant’s stuff out after a week of non-payment will not stand up in a court of law. 

Using a tenant’s space/ storage

Much in tune with how landlords are not allowed to enter the rented premises without the tenant’s express permission, the same is true for storage or space that might be rented out. For instance, if a property that has been rented out has a storage space or a barn-house that can be utilized as space, the landlord will need express permission from the tenant to use it, even if the tenants themselves aren’t using it. If a landlord uses said space or storage without permission from the tenant, they might be committing an unlawful act. 

Increase rent without notice

Many states allow rent to be periodically increased, subject to acceptance by the tenant. However, doing so without any notice is certainly not allowed. In increasing the rent, the landlord must provide a notice intimating the rent increase a month prior, and even then, local rules and regulations will apply. For example, in places enforcing rent control or rent stabilization, increasing the rent is subject to the local government regulations, not the landlord. And simply increasing the rent without notice to drive the tenant out is an offense and can be challenged in a court of law. 

Discriminate against potential tenants

Landlords are also not allowed to discriminate against potential tenants, and any person who may apply to a house or an apartment can only be rejected based on credit score or previous convictions or warrants. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, mental or physical disabilities, and sexual orientation is illegal. If a landlord bars a potential tenant’s application for any of these reasons, the applicant may pursue legal action against the landlord. Nobody can deny anybody else shelter and a safe space owing to these affiliations. 

What landlords can do

However, this doesn’t mean landlords haven’t been empowered to take action. Landlords are also protected against liabilities, damages, and the worst offender: a tenant who fails to pay rent despite repeated requests. Let’s take a look at what landlords can do. 

Remove squatters

Squatting is becoming a problem and is increasingly being displayed as a sign of urban decay. Absentee landlords or property owners who might not be near their property can fall victim to squatting, which is when people may occupy the home without permission and their dues, which is when the landlord has the right to evict, forcibly if necessary, to vacate the property. However, several states also have informal ‘squatter rights’, so landlords usually proceed with caution on that. 

Evict defaulted tenants 

Provided all the legalities are followed, of course. Landlords reserve the right to evict any tenant who fails to pay their dues despite timely reminders and notices. While some jurisdictions may require a legal proceeding before the judge can order an eviction, many other states and countries do not require a legal proceeding. This means that once sufficient time has passed and the landlord has ample proof of reminders and non-payment of rent, and they may contact local authorities for eviction over the failure of payment. 

The bottom line

Tenant law is drafted to ensure the tenants’ rights since paying rent is a considerable expense and merits certain rights that protect the basic need of people: shelter. That said, tenant law does not give tenants undue powers and gives the landlord the authority to initiate eviction proceedings in court over non-payment. A good tenant-landlord relationship will not have any issues as long as the landlord accepts and acts on reasonable requests of the tenant and the tenant pays their fair share without any hassle.

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