Landlord-Tenant Laws Every Landlord Should Know

While locating a new renter can be pretty simple, the tough part is becoming acquainted with landlord-tenant rules. Even though you are familiar with the laws, they are continuously changing. That is why being up to date on local legislation can help you manage your rental properties more effectively.

While consulting a trained legal expert is the best method to become acquainted with rental regulations, this article provides a closer look at ten landlord-tenant legislation that all landlords should examine.

1. Rental Permits

Before renting out your house, you may need to obtain a rental license in your area. Rental licensing procedures are in place to verify that rental units adhere to minimal housing standards.

In some areas, such as Oregon, all landlords must hold rental licenses for their properties. On the other hand, other states may only have mandates in specific counties, cities, or municipalities. Despite the fact that Pennsylvania does not have a statewide requirement, landlords in Philadelphia must be licensed.

Noncompliance with these standards may result in fines and other consequences, so check your state and local legislation before leasing your rental units.

2. Collection of rent and security deposits

Rent collection is the principal source of income for rental enterprises, thus you must be informed of any applicable rent rules in your state. States such as Ohio and Virginia have no statewide rent laws. Meanwhile, landlords in California are not permitted to demand tenants to pay rent in cash.

Security deposits are also subject to state-specific legislation that differ from one another. Landlords in Rhode Island, for example, are not permitted to charge a security deposit greater than one month’s rent and must restore the money within 20 days of the lease expiration.

Florida has no cap on how much a landlord can demand for a security deposit. However, if you keep a deposit in an interest-bearing account, you must pay the renter at least 75% of the annualized average interest rate or 5% simple interest every year.

3. Penalties and Grace Periods

A late charge is a simple and enforceable approach to encourage on-time rent payments, but each state may have its own set of restrictions. Landlords in Tennessee are allowed to charge late fees as long as they do not exceed 10% of the rent.

Before imposing a late fee, you should understand the legislation governing grace periods. Landlords in Tennessee have a five-day grace period before considering rent late.

In states where there are no rules governing late fines and grace periods, landlords must include their policies in the lease in order for them to be enforced.

4. Lease Agreement Requirements and Disclosures

Your lease agreement is a legally binding contract that specifies the norms and expectations that both parties must adhere to during the lease time. To be enforceable, the agreement must include locally needed elements as well as clauses that do not infringe on renters’ rights.

New York, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, for example, all require the following clauses:

  • Name, address, and phone number of the landlord
  • Rent amount and deadline
  • The leasing agreement’s length
  • The rental unit’s description

In addition to clauses, landlords may be required to make particular disclosures in the lease. Several states mandate that all known lead-based paint and lead-based paint dangers be disclosed with a warning.

Some states may have stricter criteria. Landlords in Missouri, for example, must declare whether the property was used for methamphetamine manufacture.

You can check your local landlord-tenant regulations to see what conditions are required, but including the clauses described above in your written lease can be beneficial even if there is no statewide requirement.

5. Marijuana Addiction

While marijuana regulations are changing across the country, landlords are generally permitted to determine their standards for their rental properties. You can prevent tenants from smoking marijuana in your unit like you prohibit cigar and cigarette smoke. You might also be able to bar tenants from growing marijuana.

Wisconsin, for example, outlaws the possession, sale, and manufacture of marijuana. Tenants who cultivate or distribute marijuana on the rental property might be served a non-curable five-day notice to quit.

6. Emotional Support Animals, Service Animals, and Pets

Because more than half of US families own a pet, knowing your state’s landlord-tenant rules around pets might help your rental business. Some states, such as Kansas, limit the amount landlords can demand for a pet deposit. Other states, such as New Hampshire, do not have any restrictions on pet fees.

Emotional support animals (ESA) and service animals are not considered pets and are governed differently. ESAs are animals that provide emotional support to people with disabilities. The Fair homes Act allows disabled renters with an emotional support animal to live in homes with a “No Pets” policy.

Landlords might ask for valid documents for an ESA. Landlords, on the other hand, may not:

  • You can charge a fee, extra rent, or a security deposit if you have an emotional support animal.
  • Inquire about the tenant’s impairment.
  • Is it necessary for the animal to have any special training?

Refuse to house the tenant since ESAs are not covered by their insurance.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service animals as animals specially taught to accomplish labor or perform duties that help their handler’s impairment. They cannot be charged pet fees because they are not pets. On the other hand, landlords might request a security deposit to cover any damage the animal may bring to the property.

7. Abandonment of Property

Tenants may occasionally leave some items at the property after moving out. You may need to follow a specific protocol before dumping the belongings to ensure the tenant no longer wants them.

These laws differ from one state to the next. Michigan has no explicit regulations surrounding property abandonment, however landlords in New Mexico must store any personal goods left at the rental for at least 30 days and notify the owner of their intent after the 30 days. You may face legal consequences if you discard your possessions without following the proper procedure.

8. Releasing

If your renter intends to be away from the home for an extended period of time, you may want to discuss subleasing as a strategy to keep your rental income steady. But what are the rules of subleasing?

Landlords in most states can base their subleasing policies on their lease agreements. Generally, landlords will include a clause about subleasing in the written lease or, if necessary, add one with a lease modification.

Certain states, such as New York and Virginia, have more precise restrictions, so double-check your state’s policy to avoid complications.

9. Renewals of Leases

You should check your state’s lease renewal rules whether you’ve put an automatic renewal clause in your contract or identified high-quality tenants you’d like to keep.

Some jurisdictions require fixed-term tenancies to automatically terminate at the end of the set period and be converted to month-to-month tenancies with ongoing occupancy and payment by the tenant. Automatic renewal terms must be mentioned in other states, and the landlord must remind the renter during a defined notice time.

Knowing how to handle lease renewals in accordance with local landlord-tenant legislation can assist you in covering your bases and communicating openly with your renters as a contract expires.

10. Evictions

Evicting a problematic renter is sometimes the only solution. This eviction process is detailed and varies by state, so understanding the laws is critical if you intend to pursue an eviction.

While the eviction procedure varies by state, it usually begins with determining valid grounds to evict a renter. Some of these causes are as follows:

  • Rent nonpayment
  • Lease term violation
  • No lease or lease termination
  • Violations of material health or safety

Understanding that a landlord must have a valid legal justification to start the eviction procedure is vital. Furthermore, most states regard self-help evictions to be illegal. This means landlords cannot evict a renter by changing locks, disconnecting utilities, accessing the property, taking the tenant’s things, etc.


Screening tenants and understanding rental rules will help you prepare for the numerous circumstances you may face as a landlord and give you the confidence to deal with them. If you have any questions, consult a legal expert to help you better comprehend local ordinances.

Read more: How to Buy Rental Property with No Money?

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