Rental Law

The Landlord's Guide to Rental Property Law

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for any legal, advisory, tax or other professional advice or service.

The latest Fair Housing Trends Report reveals that 33,007 fair housing complaints were levied against landlords in 2022. Across the board, fair housing complaints are on the rise, with 17% race-based complaints and 8% familial status complaints at the top of the heap. Beyond Fair Housing, many other rental laws restrict and define a landlord’s role in managing their properties.

This rental law guide, combined with professional legal advice where you’re still unsure, will ensure you stay compliant while protecting yourself and your tenants.

What is Landlord-Tenant Law?

Simply put, landlord-tenant law describes the rights and duties of landlords and their residents.

There are myriad laws that apply to landlords and tenants across the United States, including federal, state, and local rules. Federal laws apply to everyone, such as Fair Housing and Fair Credit, but local laws can vary greatly, depending on where you live. For example, California, Florida, and Texas all specify different regulations surrounding a tenant’s security deposit. In Massachusetts and New York, there are subtle differences in the eviction process.

Landlords should stay informed about evolving state and local laws to protect their property, profitability, and tenants.

Overview of Rental Property Laws

Rental property laws are regulations put in place to protect both landlords and tenants in their rental agreements. These laws outline the rights and responsibilities of both parties, ensuring that all transactions are conducted in a fair and legal manner. Rental property laws cover various aspects of the rental process, including security deposits, rental agreements, habitable conditions, rent payments, eviction proceedings, and more. Both landlords and tenants must understand and abide by these rules.

Benefits of Understanding Rental Property Laws

Both landlords and tenants must understand rental property laws as it provides a solid framework to protect their respective rights and interests. By having a comprehensive knowledge of these laws, landlords and tenants can avoid legal disputes, manage compliance with regulations, and maintain a positive rental experience.

Benefits for tenants: For tenants, understanding rental property laws safeguards their rights and welfare. It protects from unjust treatment, discrimination, or unlawful eviction. Rental property laws also establish guidelines for rent payments, security deposits, and repair requests. By being aware of these laws, tenants can assert their rights, seek proper remedies, and address any issues that may arise during their tenancy.

Benefits for landlords: On the other hand, landlords benefit from understanding rental property laws by avoiding costly penalties and legal proceedings. By adhering to the regulations governing rental properties, landlords minimize the risk of fines and sanctions. Knowledge of these laws empowers landlords to create and enforce fair lease agreements, including clauses related to rent increases, maintenance responsibilities, and entry to the rental unit.

Additionally, understanding landlord laws enables landlords and tenants to resolve disputes in a fair and equitable manner. Knowing the legal avenues available for dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, can help parties avoid lengthy and expensive court proceedings. 

Federal Rental Property Laws

Federal landlord-tenant laws are regulations that landlords must adhere to when renting out their properties. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, or disability, guaranteeing equal treatment for all tenants. Similarly, the Fair Credit Reporting Act outlines the proper procedures for handling tenant background checks and credit reports, safeguarding tenant privacy rights. It is important to understand and comply with these laws to maintain a fair and legal rental process and protect landlords from potential legal issues.

State Laws About Rental Properties

State laws regarding rental units vary by location but commonly address key aspects that landlords must understand. These laws typically pertain to lease and rental agreements, security deposits, tenant rights and responsibilities, eviction processes, and maintenance duties. Landlords must grasp the specific requirements for providing habitable living conditions, issuing proper and reasonable notices for entry or lease termination, and establishing legal grounds for eviction. Many states also enforce regulations on rent control, tenant privacy, and security deposit handling.

Learn more about property management law by state

Top Landlord-Tenant Laws

Landlords should be aware of the following laws and guidelines in all properties they manage.


The Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminatory practices that make housing unavailable to persons because of race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. Statistics show that even the best landlords are humans who act upon implicit biases without thinking. Instead of assuming you’re doing the right thing without bias, the best practice is to put safeguards, such as blind applications, in place to protect both yourself from a lawsuit and your potential tenants from discrimination.

Lease Documents

A lease agreement protects landlords and tenants alike. As such, it must contain a few essentials to be considered a legal document. Make sure your leases and rental agreements are in writing, as a verbal agreement is binding. It should also contain:

  • Start and end dates of the lease term
  • Legal names of all involved
  • Occupancy details
  • Financial details
  • Landlord’s right of entry
  • Condition of the property at move-in time

Required Disclosures

While discrimination is strictly prohibited, tenants might have to disclose certain information to landlords such as income information and any criminal history if asked. Again, this can vary based on location. Landlords must also disclose information about the property, such as any lead-based paint present in properties built before 1978 or the presence of asbestos. Landlord disclosures vary state-to-state so you may need to do some research to stay compliant.

Safe Environment

Tenants want a safe place to call home. Creating a safe, clean environment is a two-way street. Tenants can procure renter’s insurance and lock all doors and windows to protect themselves. At the bare minimum, landlords must keep the property in habitable condition and provide working locks. The savvy landlord understands the importance of safety features and goes above and beyond what’s required by law to attract tenants, with security features like outdoor lighting or camera-monitored communal spaces.


In many states, landlords are responsible for making reasonable repairs on the property during a tenant’s stay. In some cases, tenants can actually legally withhold rent payments from landlords who refuse to make repairs within a reasonable timeframe. To avoid this, plan ahead by putting money aside specifically for repairs when they arise. Even if your state allows you to pass along the cost of repairs to tenants, you’ll find that landlords often complete repairs, especially in multifamily buildings.

Security Deposits

Security deposit laws vary state-to-state but generally outline how much you can charge, what a security deposit can be used to cover, and where the deposit must be held during a tenant’s occupancy.

Tenant Rights to Privacy & the Right to Quiet Enjoyment of the Leased Premises

Every tenant has a right to privacy that’s protected by the “Quiet Enjoyment Law” or “The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment”. These are legal protections that care for landlords, tenants, and the property itself. To remain conflict-free, landlords must be aware of what they can and cannot do while a tenant occupies their residential property.

Abandoned Tenant Property

A typical lease outlines that the tenant must leave the property in the same condition as they moved in by removing all their belongings upon moving out. However, this isn’t always the case. When tenants leave before their lease is up or leave things behind, a landlord is often left with many unwanted belongings. Laws regarding how long the personal property must be stored vary from state to state, so landlords must follow state guidelines before donating or dumping any personal property left behind.

Resident Safety

Landlords have a general responsibility to support resident safety on rental property premises. This is accomplished through safety measures and precautions. Get ahead of the issue by carefully screening tenants and including explicit phrases in the lease that guarantee eviction for those found to be involved in illegal activities.


The eviction process is lengthy and frustrating—it shouldn’t be undertaken without planning, sufficient reason, and extreme patience. If you’ve determined that eviction proceedings are the next step, you’ll want to document everything and keep extra copies in case of possible litigation.

Staying compliant with the ever-evolving landlord laws that apply to landlords can be a massive undertaking, not to mention a headache. Because of this, many landlords choose to work with a property manager to minimize legal frustrations and stay compliant.

Keep in mind that, even when frustrating, all landlord-tenant laws are in place to minimize disputes and make properties easier to manage. In the end, this creates a safer environment for everyone, landlords and tenants alike.

While property management firms are not legal professionals, they do have the experience and expertise to offer landlords on the topic of rental laws. See if there’s a local property management company that fits your needs—start your search today.

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