Landlords and the Law: 11 Things you need to know

As a landlord, it’s important to be aware of the things you cannot do when renting out your property. In most cases, you want to rent out your property as quickly as possible. However, there are some restrictions in place that you need to be aware of. For example, tenants have a right to quiet enjoyment, which means landlords can’t interfere with their day-to-day activities. And even if a tenant violates the lease terms, landlords can’t carry out an illegal eviction such as moving their personal belongings out of the property. So, before you start advertising your rental property, make sure you are familiar with the 11 rules landlords should abide by.

The 11 things a landlord cannot do

1. Discriminate against a tenant

Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This means that landlords cannot refuse to rent to someone based on these factors. They also can’t charge a higher rent or deposit to someone because of any of these factors. Additionally, landlords cannot evict a tenant based on any of these factors.

The Fair Housing Act also prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income. This means that landlords cannot refuse to rent to someone because they are receiving government assistance or their salary level.

In addition, there are certain questions a landlord simply cannot ask. You should not enquire about a tenant’s future plans for children or marriage or imply that they should not rent your property as they might not match the local demographics.

2. Enter the property without notice

What’s more, as landlord, you cannot enter a tenant’s property without prior notice. This means that landlords need to give tenants 24 hours’ notice before entering the property, except in the case of an emergency. If a landlord enters the property without giving notice, they could be considered trespassing.

As with your own home, you would not expect to wake up one morning to have your bank manager strolling around the kitchen, and likewise, your tenant has a right to quiet enjoyment the property, meaning they are not to be unduly disturbed.

3. Pressure a tenant to leave the property

Landlords cannot force a tenant to leave the property. If a tenant violates the lease terms, a landlord may issue a warning and/or terminate the lease agreement; however, you cannot create an environment that would be unpleasant for the tenant in an attempt to make them move out. This means you cannot intimidate or threaten the tenant, even if they have missed a payment. You must follow the legal procedure for securing an eviction.

4. Change the Locks

Landlords also cannot change the locks on the property to prevent the tenant from returning. This is true whether the tenant is paying their rent or are in arrears. If you do this, you are considered to be committing an illegal eviction.

5. Remove a tenants’ personal belongings

Whether or not you have reasonable cause to evict your tenant, you cannot go through or remove a tenant’s possessions from your property unless those items remain on the property after the eviction is complete.

Even then, your state may require you to contact the evicted tenant and offer them an opportunity to collect the possessions or instruct you to dispose of them.

6. Turn off the utilities

Disconnecting the gas in the middle of winter might feel like the ideal way to get rid of a troublesome tenant, but the fact is that doing so will result in a judge agreeing that you unlawfully evicted them. This could result in legal penalties for you and an ongoing loss of income if the tenant is permitted to remain on site.

7. Unfairly raise rents

As a landlord, you want to get the most rent possible from your tenants. However, there are rules in place that prevent you from unfairly raising rents. The lease agreement between you and the tenant sets out the required amount of monthly rent, and this usually cannot be changed before the lease runs out unless otherwise specified within the lease.

In addition, your area may have laws governing the amount you can raise the monthly rent, including at renewal.

8. Refuse to repair

Landlords are responsible for repairing their properties, which includes both the interior and exterior of the property. This includes fixing any damage that may have been caused by the tenant, such as holes in the walls or a broken window.

Landlords must also make sure that all appliances and facilities within the property are working correctly and must provide heat and hot water to the tenants. Boilers and other essential systems must be routinely maintained and certificated obtained to prove the work has been done.

9. Use any of the space on the property

Despite the fact that it is your property, if you rent it out in its entirety, this means you cannot take possession of parts of the space unless specifically agreed upon in the lease. Such as storing tools in the garage or having a locked room or cabinet with item can be prohibitive. The tenant should have free and unrestricted access to every area of the property.

10. Ban service animals

Many landlords have a no-pet policy, which there are entitled to do so. However, you cannot prevent a tenant from having a service animal, as this would discriminate against those who need them. You may request to see appropriate documentation, but otherwise, you cannot prevent or hinder the animals from being on-site.

11. Refuse to return the deposit due to wear and tear

As a landlord, you are not allowed to refuse to return the deposit to a tenant due to wear and tear. This is because this is considered damage that is inherent in the use of the property and is not caused by the tenant. As such, it is up to the landlord to fix any wear and tear before they rent out the property again.

Is it worth being a landlord?

As a landlord, you want to rent out your properties as soon as possible. It’s important to remember, though, that there are a number of things that you cannot do related to the property once a rental agreement is signed by a tenant. Failing to follow these guidelines can cause you more grief than simply waiting for the eviction notice period to pass, so don’t be tempted to take matters into your own hands.

For most landlords, renting out their properties is an enjoyable and mostly passive income, and building up their portfolios is the most important thing on their minds. If you have a similar mindset but lack the capital to dive into buying multiple properties, you may wish to consider is a refinance investment properties plan.

Why refinance your investment properties?

The great thing about owning property is that it is a stable investment that typically only goes up in value, and on those rare dips, you simply need to hold until the recovery. As such, it’s hard to lose with property investment.

If you already own one or two properties and wish to invest in more, it is possible to scale, all you need to do is refinance investment properties. essentially taking out new mortgages that release equity back to you and allow you to use that as the deposit on another property that is also mortgaged. In this way, you can grow your portfolio, keeping each property rented out. Most tenants are reliable, hard-working types who will pay you for years, as long as the property is maintained and you do not violate their rights to quiet enjoyment.