What A Landlord Cannot Do??

What a Landlord Cannot Do | The Secrets of not Getting Sued

Living in an overly litigious society is no joke. And Mr. Landlord, if you are doing what a landlord cannot do. Then that day is not far when a tenant will sue you.

“Yes, you are giving someone your place to live in it. But that doesn’t mean you can impose whatever you feel right.”

Do you know the below-mentioned terms are often searched queries on Google?

How can I sue my landlord?

How to win against my Landlord? 

How to get your landlord in trouble? 

How to make your landlord miserable?

In this section, I’m going to share the practices that you should stay away from if you want to become an even better landlord. It is always better you know what a landlord can do and cannot do with their tenants. So if you are up for it, let’s dive straight into it. 

Every state dictates the rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants under the Landlord-tenant laws. The state and federal laws clearly direct landlords to not play by their own rulebook but follow the guidelines. 

So, there are these few things you shouldn’t do as a landlord.

1. Violating the Fair Housing Act

 

Landlord cannot Violate Fair Housing Act

 

It’s my Property and I can choose who I rent my property to. So, let me build my own rental criteria.

 

No Unmarried Couples

No Blacks

Even no Browns

Only Whites

Just US Nationals

And Only Straight Orientation Individuals

 

No, Mr landlord, you can`t do this. Not legally at least. The Fair Housing Act defines protected classes and you can’t violate or discriminate against people belonging to these classes. Discriminating tenants on basis of race, religion, origin, sex, sexual orientation, age is a legal offense. So, if you deny renting to a tenant without giving a valid reason, be ready to get sued. 

 

Read: How to Build a Bulletproof Rental Criteria the Right Way?

2. Mishandling Security Deposits

 

The motivation of charging higher security deposits is understood. It gives a sense of security that the tenant will keep the business and rental property in good health. But hardly do you know that you can`t take more than a certain amount. Most States have specified limits on how much you can charge. Taking higher deposits is a violation of the law and a landlord cannot do it.  

 

The next in this line is not securing the security deposit. A brief reminder that you are required to keep the security deposit in a separate checking account or an escrow account. And until the tenancy does not come to the end of its fixed term or is terminated, you can’t use this deposit for any purpose.   

 

Does your tenant move out? When are you planning to return the deposit? 

No, the tenant has made a lot of damages, and I`m going to deduct his complete deposit. 

Well, you must be sending him the repair estimate then. Aren’t you?

What, Do I really need to do that? 

 

Yes, Mr. Landlord. You can’t deduct anything from the deposit unless you notify the same about your tenant. Send your tenant a detailed estimate of repairs for what and how much are you deducting. 

 

Even you got only 15 days to a maximum of 1 month to inform about the deduction or return the deposit to the tenant. Mishandling Security Deposits is what a landlord cannot do. And if you are not sure, how to handle security deposits properly.

 

Read: The Complete Guide To Handle Security Deposits 

3. Not Keeping up With Maintenance and Repairs

 

Mr. Landlord, 

 

I’m writing this letter to bring your notice on the Mold problem beneath the kitchen sink that I told you about last week on the call. I`m now attaching a few photographs of it, so you can see the extent of the problem. Please arrange to remove it as soon as possible. 

 

Sincerely,

Your Tenant

 

How fast do you usually act on such complaints? Or, are your tenants` complaints go unheard often? 

 

I`m so frustrated with my tenants calling every now and then for this and that repair. Now on, I will clearly tell them that they have rented the place so it’s their responsibility, not mine. 

 

Some Landlords really have this response when it comes to maintenance and repairs. But Mr. Landlord, you cannot do this. 

 

Landlords cannot spare themselves with maintenance and repairs. You need to maintain good living conditions for tenants at your property. If I have to quote this in terms of the law, “you are required to provide a warranty of habitability to your tenants.”

Just For Thought

Is the removal of Mold really your maintenance responsibility? Not sure? Then, you must read, what Maintenance repairs are Landlords responsibility?

4. Hindering the Right to Privacy

 

Landlord cannot hinder Right to Privacy  
 

It`s my Property, I can go in anytime I want. Well, you can but not after you rented it to tenants. The tenants living at your property have a right to privacy. You can’t really just enter whenever you feel like it. 

 

Hey, but I’m concerned about my property. I need to check it every week whether they are keeping it properly or not? 

 

Even if you are concerned, you cannot do it. You just can’t enter the property without prior giving proper notice of entry to your tenants. 

 

What the heck is this Notice of Entry???

 

Your tenants have a right to privacy and quiet enjoyment at your property. And your unannounced visit is not only prohibited by law but will also bother your tenant. They will likely move out if you continue to be a bothersome landlord. 

 

Don`t worry so much about your property, have an inspection every six months and your property will most likely stay fine without you. Additionally, you can document the move-in condition of your property. So that when the tenant leaves, you have the evidence of how you have handed the property to your tenants and take back the possession in the same condition.

5. Increasing Rent During Fixed Term

 

Ah! the greedy landlords out there, who just see the tenants as money stashes. Well, you cannot increase the rent in between the fixed term, no matter how desperately you want it. 

 

I have had a first-hand experience with one such landlord in my circle. I can`t tell you what a greedy landlord he is.   

 

He has a little bigger apartment in his multi-apartment building compared to other apartment buildings in the area. This exclusivity pushes the demand for his apartments. Now he likes to cash on this opportunity. He feels he can increase the apartment rent of older tenants even before the end of the term as he is getting lots of new prospects. 

 

Either you give me more money, or leave my apartment. I have someone to pay more for this place. 

 

You cannot do this. Landlords cannot increase rent anytime they want before the existing lease term expires. And if you do this sooner or later, your business will get affected because everyone will come to know about your ill practices.   

 

Read: How I Increase the Rent and still my Tenants want to rent from me?

6. Enforcing Invalid Terms

 

For, ‘I make my own law’ kind of landlords out there. You write some clause in the lease doesn`t make it valid. It has to be a legal clause. And if it’s misleading and unfair, it can be challenged, even making your complete lease unenforceable. Why do you want to take such chances? A Landlord cannot write invalid terms in the lease.

 

Take, for example, the clause prohibiting tenant`s guests at the property. I have done this in the past. One of my tenants has her boyfriend staying at the property with her every weekend. The boyfriend then moved in permanently creating an illegal roommate situation.

 

Read:  How to Deal with Illegal Subletting?

 

For this reason, I added a clause in all my future leases that prohibit overnight guests. I had no idea at that time that I can’t deny my tenants having guests at the property unless they break any rules. This is not right. Glad I got it right now. 

 

Earlier my lease says: No Overnight Guests at the Property. 

 

Now it says: The Guest can stay a maximum of 14 days or 7 days consecutively in a 6 month period. Any guest staying more than this period will be considered a tenant and has to be added to the lease.  

 

"A lease is a legal agreement between two parties and if it has any illegal clauses, it automatically becomes void."

Do You Know? 

Not Every lease you get is legally enforceable unless it is state-specific. Save yourself from those tough times and get a legally enforceable, state-specific lease from Rocket Lawyer.

Get Your Lease

7. Ending Tenancy During Fixed Term

Pay more or Move out

Again those greedy landlords!

 

Move out of my property in a week. I`m getting people who can pay more than what you are paying for my property. 

Hey` but our lease is still in place and it hasn’t expired yet. 

I don`t care, just move out or you pay extra. You have a week.  

 

No, Mr. Landlord, you cannot repossess your property back and end the tenant’s tenancy during the fixed term until 

 

  • The fixed-term comes to an end.
  • There is a Break Clause in the Lease where either Party can break the lease by serving a proper notice.
  • The tenant has violated the lease and is evicted. 

 

When you have a lease agreement in place, you and your tenant are obliged to comply with its terms. A fixed-term lease assures the tenant that he can continue to rent the place until the lease term ends. 

 

Even if your tenant is on a month to month lease, you are required to serve a one month notice before you can repossess your property back.

8. Constructive Eviction

 

Oh Okay! So, you will not handover my property back to me. Now you will see what I do.

 

Be it for any reason that you want your property back? Maybe an asshole tenant who is in months of rent arrears, or someone violating the lease. You just cannot do constructive eviction. Not even when you are on the verge of evicting the tenant.

 

Constructive eviction can be

  • Changing the Locks of your property so that tenant can’t enter
  • Turning off the Heat, Water or Electricity  
  • Not making necessary repairs

 

Landlords have a legal responsibility to provide the warranty of habitability.  And doing anything that hinders the quiet enjoyment of the tenant at your property is charged under constructive eviction. 

 

The case of constructive eviction discharges the tenant of his lease obligations and he need not pay any rent further. And, if the tenant wants, he can file a lawsuit against such a landlord. Get ready to get sued. 

 

Read: Should I incorporate under LLC?

9. Levying Unreasonable Charges 

 

I have seen some landlords who levy unreasonable cleaning and repair charges after the tenant moved out. Don`t think you still have their deposit and can deduct whatever you want from it. You cannot be unreasonable or be ready to get sued. 

 

When a tenant moves out, landlords mostly have 15- 30 days to return the deposit. Some crap landlords see it as an opportunity and deduct high charges from the deposit claiming anything ranging from

  • The tenant did not clean up to the satisfaction 
  • Some scratches on the wooden floor
  • Scuff Marks on the Wall Paint

and the list goes on…… You get the idea…..

 

When you deduct anything from the deposit, you are required to send an itemized bill to the tenant. And if the tenant finds it unreasonable, he can sue you in the small claims court. Be mindful of what you deduct and whether the charges are fair.  Levying unreasonable charges is what a landlord cannot do.

10. Imposing Your Way

Landlord cannot impose his way

If you want to rent from me, get these things clear in your mind. It is my property and I want you to follow the rules. 

Well, what are these rules???

 

Rule1: You can’t have pets when you stay at my property. 

Rule2: No children. 

 

Such a dictator Landlord!

 

And there can be a lot of such things that landlords try to impose on their tenants and many of which are even illegal. A Landlord should only abide by the lease and cannot impose his way on the tenants. 

Say, for example, telling a prospect that he can’t rent from you because he has small children and children are very noisy. It’s a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act and you can be prosecuted for it. 

Even, no pet on the property is still questionable and has a gray area. In some states, a lease stating no pets at the property becomes unenforceable. No blanket bans on pets anymore. The landlord instead of prohibiting pets should allow tenants to have pets with Landlord’s consent. You can deny a tenant to have pets at your property but with a reasonable objection    

The Bottom Line

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you become a landlord. And if you do something a landlord cannot do, it can cause greater problems for you.  Hence, you should keep a watch on your actions. Let your tenant live with peace, respect their privacy and act on your duties in time, and you will do just fine. 

 

Also Read: The 12 Landlord Mistakes To Avoid

 

Additionally, you can consider including an Arbitration Clause in your lease. An arbitration clause binds two parties to resolve their disputes through arbitration and no party will seek to sue the other in court. 

 

But having said that, you must consult a lawyer or a legal attorney regarding the same. Some clauses can make your lease unenforceable.

 

Have a story to share of getting sued by your tenant? Do share it in the comments section. And if you find the information helpful, then you should sign up for our Landlord weekly newsletter.

 

Do You Know? 

Not Every lease you get is legally enforceable unless it is state-specific. Save yourself from those tough times and get a legally enforceable, state-specific lease from Rocket Lawyer.

Get Your Lease

 

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