The landlord and tenant relationship can be complicated. You always want the best for the people who live in your property, but that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily friends. Instead, you must remember that the relationship is primarily legal, one that’s dominated by rental contracts. Understanding your legal rights and responsibilities is the best way to ensure that your landlord-tenant relationships are productive.
Landlord and tenant relationship: Laws you should be aware of
Since the relationship between landlord and tenant is one that is primarily a contractual matter, you’ll want to stop and consider the relationship in light of the laws that govern those particular contracts. Remember, as much as you might like to be ‘nice’ landlord, it’s important that you keep these laws in mind to both protect yourself and your potential tenants. Some of the legal situations that are commonly encountered by landlords are discussed below.
Partial rent payment
Partial payments are among the most difficult situations that the average landlord will have to deal, at least from a financial standpoint. As a property owner, your goal will always be to ensure that money is coming in. When your tenants can’t pay rent, though, it can be tempting to make sure that you’re at least collecting something. It’s important to remember that accepting a partial rent payment can interfere with the eviction process, especially if you commonly accept these payments without penalty. It’s always important for a landlord to stick to the letter of the rental contract in terms of how and when payments will be accepted.
Given recent discussions of immigration, it’s only natural to wonder what your duties are when it comes to checking your tenants’ immigration status. If you choose to check tenant immigration status for one tenant, you have to do it for everyone – otherwise, you can run afoul of the Fair Housing Act. You cannot check tenant immigration status to discriminate against a single tenant, but you can make it a part of your overall screening process if you are concerned. Remember, though, that everyone in the US is protected by the Fair Housing Act – regardless of immigration status.
Leasing to a police officer
What do you do when a police officer submits a rental application? Technically, you can do anything you like. There are no particular laws that govern renting to police officers. Given that police officers are not a protected class, it’s up to the landlord to decide if renting to someone in that profession is a good idea. It should be noted, though, that failing to rent to someone because they are in a protected class (race, gender, national origin, religion, etc) is illegal. Remember, you can generally refuse to rent to a tenant for any reason other than that person being a member of a protected class so you shouldn’t be pressured to rent to anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable or that might not have a great rental history.
How to collect rent from tenants
Learning how to collect rent from tenants is one of the most important things that a property owner can learn. You should absolutely make it a priority to get your rent in a timely manner, so learning how to enforce your policies and how to deal with tenants who don’t pay is important. Your rental contract should not only specify when the rent is to be paid but the form in which it ought to be paid. Failure to do so can land you in trouble, so pay attention to the contract.
Your rental contract has to follow certain guidelines. In general, that means not interfering with the quiet enjoyment of the property by the tenant and ensuring that you will maintain livable conditions. Another important policy, though, is the determination of how you’ll be paid and what fees are charged for violations of the agreement. It’s important that your contract lays out in plain language exactly what your tenant owes. The more clear your rental policies, they less of a problem you should have making sure that they are enforced and the fewer issues you’ll have with most tenants.
Collecting rent is an important part of the relationship between landlord and tenant. Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for the tenant to pay without causing financial problems for yourself. Give the tenant the date by which the rent is due in the lease, as well as instructions on how to get the money to you. Make sure to include language as to when you expect to see the money if a physical check is sent in the mail versus what you expect if the money is given directly to you. Most states tend to give landlords a fair bit of leeway when it comes to collecting rent, so long as doing so isn’t less lenient than the state’s minimum requirements.
Evicting a tenant
No landlord wants to evict a tenant. However, some situations make doing so a necessity. If you’re going to evict, make sure to follow the laws of your state to the letter. Arizona, for example, assesses fairly harsh penalties to landlords who try “DIY” evictions. You’ll need to ensure that you give your tenants proper notice of why an eviction could occur; give the tenant the necessary time to solve the issue if possible and let the tenant know precisely when you’ll be moving forward. Failure to do so only makes evicting a tenant more difficult.
Moral of the story
Being a landlord is never easy. If you want to ensure that you’re following the law to the letter, you want to work with a property management company like CENTURY21 Moneymaker to help you with the landlord and tenant relationship matters. CENTURY21 Moneymaker can screen your potential tenants and also help you through the eviction process if necessary. Make sure to visit us today to access our free 5 day eviction notice template.