Rental Law

Landlord-Tenant Law: What You Need to Know

A critical element of successful property management is compliance with state and federal regulations governing the landlord-tenant relationship. While the specifics of these regulations vary by state, here are the basics:

Tenants must:

  • Pay rent, in full and on time.
  • Take care of the property in a reasonable manner.
  • Not sublet the property or take in additional residents without the landlord's written permission.

Landlords must:

  • Not discriminate during the tenant selection process.
  • Put the lease agreement, including who pays for what utilities and who is responsible for what maintenance, in writing.
  • Keep the property in good repair.
  • Allow the tenant privacy and "quiet enjoyment" of the property.
  • Notify tenants in writing if the property changes ownership.
  • Neither impede the tenant's access to the property, nor turn off utilities.
  • Follow the legally specified notification process if requiring a tenant to vacate the property.

Further Resources

Need more information on the legal aspects of managing a property? Here are a few in-depth web-based resources that we recommend:

  • NOLO for Landlords: Featuring guidelines on everything from security deposit limits by state to "landlord liability for bed bug bacteria" to eviction rules, NOLO's landlord resources will help you stay on the right side of the law.
  • A comprehensive portal site for rental property owners, offers complete listings of rental laws by state as well as articles on advanced topics such as defining "normal wear and tear," handling Section 8 vouchers, forming a limited liablity company, and more.
  • Departments of Housing by State: In addition to the resources listed above, you can visit the web site of your state's Department of Housing to learning more about residential rental housing regualtions.
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