Legal Issues Landlords Need to be Aware of

Landlord-tenant relationships can be dicey, but if landlords deal with potential issues before a rental agreement is signed, many common problems can be avoided. Here are some tips that landlords should keep in mind when dealing with tenants:

Don’t Use Old, Boilerplate Forms

It is critical that lease and rental agreements are in writing to avoid ambiguity, but generic forms often miss the mark because they:house-1407562_1920

  • Include outdated laws that are no longer applicable
  • Leave out critical tenant rights that could make the entire lease clause unenforceable
  • Include wording that imposes greater obligations and restrictions on landlords than applicable state law does

For these reasons, landlords are typically better off drawing up a tailored lease that is applicable to current state law and protects both landlord and tenant.

Avoid Personal Questions

When a landlord asks applicants illegal questions during the background screening process, he could be setting himself up for a discrimination charge. Some topics to avoid include:

  • National origin
  • Familial status
  • Disability or handicap
  • Religion
  • Race or color
  • Sex, including sexual harassment

To be on the safe side, landlords should steer clear of asking a potential tenant any personal questions that could be interpreted as discriminatory.

Promptly Return Security Deposits

Many states have deadlines by which landlords need to detail their use of the security deposit and return any balance to the tenant. In some states, if a landlord drags his feet on returning a deposit for an extended period of time, he might end up in small claims court and be ordered to return two to three times the deposit to the tenant. To protect yourself from penalty, designate a clear time frame for deposit return in the lease and make every effort to comply with it.

If you have questions regarding a lease or rental agreement, contact a real estate attorney at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys online, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 (toll-free) today.

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