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Understanding Landlord Rights: Protect Yourself & Your Renters

A strong understanding of landlord rights will help you better manage your properties while fostering positive relationships with your tenants.

Landlord rights are laws and rules established to protect housing managers and their property. A fair rental agreement should protect both landlord rights and tenant rights, ensuring a healthy landlord-tenant relationship and clear communication between parties. As a property manager or building owner, you must find the balance between accommodating the needs of tenants and protecting your property (and your wallet). Here’s what you need to know about landlord rights.

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When considering landlord rights, it’s important to always check the laws specific to your state, county, and city. Restrictions and allowances can vary based on your location, but many basic landlord rights (and tenant rights) hold true throughout the United States.

Non-payment of rent is a landlord’s number one concern, of course. It’s no wonder–rental properties make up an average 31% of a landlord’s annual income (even more for building owners and property managers who rely on their building as the sole source of income). This means landlords rely on tenants to pay their rent on time and take care of the property. It also means landlords need to know what they can do, should a tenant break their trust.

From requesting security deposits and assessing fines to compensation for damages, landlords and building managers are entitled to certain rights and privileges. Landlord rights are also important to understand as you draft and navigate a fair rental agreement with your tenants. With the law on your side, you’ll avoid the pitfalls many less-savvy landlords run into. Knowing which questions to ask potential renters will help you safely and legally find great renters who are reliable and who will stick around for the long term.

Here are three basic landlord rights that apply to nearly all property owners and landlords.

3 Important Landlord Rights

1. Landlords Have a Right to On-Time Rent Payments

As a building owner, you have the right to expect the rent to be on-time and paid-in-full. Simply put, rent is one of the most basic and implied landlord rights. Rent is compensation for the housing you’re providing and essential for maintaining the standards of the property. One late rental payment can mess up your building budget and cause undue stress to you and your staff.

If a resident is unable to pay their full rent amount or is continuously late, landlords may reserve the right to charge late fees. These extra fees are often used toward maintenance and building upkeep. The fees should be clearly outlined in your rental agreement.

To ensure timely rental payments, consider offering your tenants several different ways to pay. Many younger renters prefer paying online or with automatic withdrawal. Landlords should explore the many payment websites, apps, and auto-payment plans to help tenants remember to pay on time. This helps you avoid the old “check is in the mail” excuse and ensures the money is in your account on a set date.

Decide on a clear, consistent due date for rent and outline the grace period allowed in your rental agreement. While rules vary state-to-state, landlords can evict for non-payment after a certain period and can request damages and loss of income for the time the renter was non-compliant.

2. Landlords Have the Right to Compensation for Damages

The purpose of landlord rights is to protect you and all the properties you own. Whether you manage one building or several different apartment complexes, mitigating damages to the property is always a big concern. It’s important to know landlords have the right to compensation for any damages (above normal wear and tear).

Landlords can charge for any damages incurred from reckless renters. Damages may include holes in the wall, smashed light fixtures, and unfixable carpet stains. Of course, basic wear and tear are expected at the end of any renters’ lease, but any extreme damage may be charged to the resident. Many landlords choose to request a security deposit to offset any costs associated with basic repair.

Depending on the laws in your area, you may be within your rights to cover damages and cleaning charges with a leaving resident’s security deposit. Most landlords return at least a portion to the renter, provided they pay the final month’s rent when they leave. It’s very important to outline the agreement and expectations beforehand as part of your lease agreement. This ensures that any questions or disputes are easily resolved.

As a building owner, your reputation is important, especially if you want to attract new tenants. A strong, well-worded lease agreement should be clear. Careful wording will keep difficult situations to a minimum. Of course, should a situation escalate and legal concerns arise, your lease agreement will protect you even further. Wise landlords seek the input of legal counsel when wording their lease agreement so all bases are covered.

3. A Landlord Has the Right to Fair Housing Rules and Inspection

As a landlord, you have the right to establish rules about your property. You do NOT have the right to any discriminatory practices (this means refusing rental based on certain criteria, including but not limited to race, gender, marital status, and other factors). State laws vary, but within the United States, landlords must abide by Fair Housing Rules. This is one more reason why legal counsel is advised when crafting your rental agreement.

Landlord rights allow you flexibility in setting the rules and guidelines for your property. This means you can set up restrictions such as “no pets allowed” (although there are several reasons why you should allow pets in your rental properties). You can also set guidelines and preferences on garbage, recycling, overnight guests, and noise. These guidelines help your building become a more enjoyable, harmonious place for all renters.

Tenants have a right to privacy, but a landlord has a right to inspection of the property with notice. 24-48 hours is customary, but in certain emergency situations, less notice is necessary. It’s typically best to defer to law enforcement or emergency/rescue personnel in most situations, but understand that as a landlord, you may need to enter the apartment to address urgent issues like a burst pipe. Always try to give at least 12-hours’ notice in most cases.

Smart Landlords Learn Tenant Rights Too

In many legal cases, the law leans toward protecting tenants. While you aren’t responsible for damage to the tenants’ personal property in cases such as fire or flood, you may be responsible for providing them with temporary housing and accommodations.  It’s important to learn about the tenant rights for your state so you don’t misstep or end up in legal trouble.

The Implied Warranty of Habitability is a clause within the standard landlord-tenant code most states have adopted. This section of the model code states that tenants have the right to live in a property that’s up to code, safe, and habitable. If for any reason, a landlord fails to hold up their end of the agreement and provide this type of housing, tenants may legally stop their rent payments and use that money to pay for necessary repairs to improve the environment. They may also sue the landlord for damages.

At a minimum, all landlords should provide safe, habitable spaces for their tenants. In the competitive rental market, there are plenty of other issues to consider beyond the basics, but knowing your landlord rights and tenant rights is fundamental.

Your landlord rights matter! Take the time to reevaluate your current policies and rental contracts. Consider reaching out to legal counsel if it’s been a while since you’ve last updated your rental agreement. A successful landlord-tenant relationship is possible if each party respects the other’s rights.

Managing properties is no easy task, but understanding your landlord rights helps make the process a little bit easier!


Featured image via Pxhere. All photos licensed via Flickr and Pxhere Licensing.

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