Are You a Knowledgeable Landlord? | Pyramis Company

Are You a Knowledgeable Landlord?

 

Owning a property that you lease out doesn’t necessarily mean you understand all of the ins and outs associated with being a landlord. Most owners wouldn’t necessarily believe that they are doing anything unethical. In reality, they may not be treating their tenants fairly according to rules and regulations set out by the government. This can have serious repercussions if your tenant is adamant and better versed in landlord laws than you are.

 

Alternatively, an unknowledgeable landlord may be allowing their renters to walk all over them. Anytime the tenant cries out that they are being treated unfairly, you may give under the pressure and complaints. Knowing that you’re in the right can give you the peace of mind to make fair and ethical decisions, regardless of how your tenant feels about them or you.

 

Test out your knowledge of being a landlord with these frequently asked questions to see how you stack up.

 

Is credit a valid way to screen for tenants?

 

Absolutely. Checking the creditworthiness of a prospective renter isn’t considered discrimination. They are applying to rent your home which incurs a specific recurring expense on a monthly basis. Banks would check their credit if they were to apply for an auto loan or a mortgage to ensure that they have a history of repaying debts responsibly. Similarly, landlords can request a credit check of all applicants. Property management companies can help you with that.

 

The exception to this answer is if you make the decision to screen credit based on some other factor such as appearance, lifestyle, or the type of car an applicant drives. Adding requirements for some applicants that aren’t standard procedure for others would be considered discrimination.

 

Can you pop into the property anytime you feel it’s justified?

 

The answer to this question really depends on the laws for your specific area. In most cases, landlords are required to respect a tenant’s right to privacy. Simply because you have a key to the property doesn’t mean you can waltz in whenever you feel like it. Imagine how you would feel if you were the one living in the home. What if your landlord walked in on you dancing around the kitchen in nothing but a pair of socks?

 

Besides being an obvious issue of common courtesy, privacy considerations are protected by local and state laws in most areas. You will want to look into the specifics for your area before scheduling an inspection of the property.

 

Do you have to allow pets in the home?

 

The short answer to this question is generally no. A tenant isn’t necessarily given the legally-protected right to own a dog, cat, or even an aquarium full of exotic fish. Landlords should first and foremost be concerned with protecting their home long-term. If they don’t feel like a pet deposit could cover the potential damage done to the home by an animal, they aren’t required to allow tenants to have one.

 

If your tenant has a service animal, whether it’s a seeing-eye dog or an emotional support animal, it is considered discrimination to refuse an assistance animal. You also are not allowed to charge a pet deposit in this scenario, as it is considered unfair. The Fair Housing Law protects individuals who require an assistance animal under certain circumstances.

 

While it may seem unfair to you as a landlord, an assistance animal is considered a necessity for the disabled or handicapped individual who owns it. They don’t have the option of abandoning the animal and still maintaining their quality of life. Tenants who have a valid claim to the use of an assistance animal can request an investigation from a government agency if you deny them this right.

 

Do you have to rent to tenants who have children?

 

Unless your property is located in a retirement community or qualifies for status as a “seniors only” home (ages 55 and over), you can’t deny tenants based on their children. This includes basing a decision on the number of children that you will allow in the home. Landlords don’t have the right to discriminate based on the size or makeup of the family.  Landlords must adhere to Federal Fair Housing as well as state and local occupancy standards.

 

Are tenants required to do all home maintenance?

 

Not only will the courts refuse to support a tenant being required to perform all maintenance, it really isn’t in your best interest as a landlord either. Performing or supervising some of the home maintenance allows you to identify areas that may be a problem. You can ensure that tasks are completed properly, allowing the home to remain habitable.

 

Holding tenants responsible for all maintenance can leave landlords in the dark when it comes to major issues or shoddy workmanship. Without attention, you may end up with legal trouble for renting out an uninhabitable home.

 

How does the law define habitability?

 

The legal definition of habitable can be rather long and confusing, but it really boils down to one simple idea: the property must be safe to live in and tenants must be able to live there in relative comfort.

 

Before you panic, this doesn’t mean that you need to provide a fully furnished rental or restore the granite countertops. Luxury tastes aren’t taken into consideration when it comes to the idea of relative comfort. Instead, landlords should be concerned with whether or not the home is going to protect renters from the outside elements and have the basic amenities like electricity, plumbing or working bathrooms, and running water.

 

Patch the leaky roof and make sure that the water comes out clean. If the light switches spark when you turn them on, enlist the help of a qualified electrician. You can pass on repairs and changes that are more cosmetic in nature, as you are only required by law to make the property habitable.

 

Can a landlord ask leasers to vacate their rental?

 

Yes, landlords are well within their rights to ask tenants to vacate a property even if they have a current lease. However, the date by which they must leave the property has to be past the expiration date of the current lease agreement. It does not have to be extended far past the end of the lease though. Even just a single day will suffice.

 

Attempt to be considerate with this request though. Give your tenants advance notice that they are being asked to vacate the property at the end of their lease.

 

Do you know what you don’t know?

 

Did you get a perfect score on this short pop quiz of commonly asked questions for landlords? You may have known a few things about managing your own property, which is great. If you didn’t have the answers to these frequently asked questions, it may be time for you to do a little research into tenant laws and regulations in your area.

 

Until you’re faced with a specific situation, it’s hard to know what you don’t know as a landlord. Taking the time to research the specific laws for your area will give you a leg up as a successful landlord. It will prevent you from needing to be rescued in the future.

 

Being knowledgeable about your role and responsibility as a landlord is essential to protecting yourself and your tenants.

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Categories: Property Management, Tenants

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