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Landlord Tenant Law: An Overview

Landlord-tenant law is a part of real estate law that specifically deals with the relationship between property owners and the renters of property. While laws vary from state to state, there are some general legal principles that most all states follow. Since tenants typically have less power and fewer resources than landlords, some states have specific laws protecting tenant rights. Federal laws may also apply in a dispute that involves allegations of discrimination in housing.

Landlord and Tenant Rights

In order to protect landlords, the law provides certain remedies on which they can rely if tenants breach their leases. Property owners may require security deposits as part of the lease terms and assess late fees if occupants fail to make rent payments on time. They can also evict tenants under certain circumstances.

During the beginning of the process, landlords can require that tenants sign written leases, submit written applications, provide references, and allow credit and background checks. They may also prohibit pets from their property. Once both parties sign the lease and the tenants move in, landlords can only enter and inspect the property after giving the tenant reasonable notice.

Tenants also have certain rights when they rent residential or commercial real estate. This includes the right to certain repairs, the right to receive advanced notice if the landlord intends to enter the premises, rights against discrimination in housing, and the right to receive a notice to quit before an eviction. Local rent control laws can provide tenants rights against unreasonable rent increases as well.

Common Areas of Landlord-Tenant Litigation

Common disputes that can lead to landlord-tenant litigation include a variety of different matters. As noted above, a tenant’s lease may forbid keeping their pets on the property. A landlord who fails to make needed repairs can invite a legal dispute, as can tenants who fail to keep the property clean. Violations of a lease — can lead to eviction or abandonment.

Evictions and Unlawful Detainers

By far the biggest area of landlord-tenant law involves evictions and unlawful detainer actions. The process for eviction varies by state, but the steps generally follow a similar pattern:

  • The property owner or manager provides written notice to the tenant notifying them of an alleged violation of the lease and the number of days they have to fix it.
  • The property owner drafts and files a complaint with the court.
  • The court issues a summons for the tenant to appear in court.
  • The court hearing occurs.
  • If the property owner is successful, court enters a judgment of the eviction.
  • If the tenant still refuses to vacate, the local sheriff’s department enforces the eviction.

What Happens in Court

Before the court date arrives, the parties can attempt to settle the matter on their own or through mediation. If they can’t reach an agreement, they can proceed to a hearing. Both parties may hire an attorney to represent them and present evidence to the court.

If the court grants the eviction, the judge will give the tenant a limited number of days to vacate the property. If the court denies the eviction, the tenant will not have to vacate the property, however they may still need to remedy the violation.

Speak to an Experienced Landlord Tenant Law Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified landlord tenant lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.

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