What is Landlord / Tenant Law?
Landlord/Tenant law covers all aspects of renting a property. Lawyers can help landlords create an enforceable lease without any illegal provisions. Landlords will probably find landlord tenant attorneys and invaluable source of information regarding the laws for security deposits, repairs and maintenance, and eviction.
Similarly, tenants may need to consult with a lawyer when they believe their landlord has done something illegal, such as failing to repair a faulty electrical system. Tenant attorneys are also very familiar with the various government aid programs designed to help struggling tenants find housing.
Terms to Know:
- Lease: The agreement between landlord and tenant which controls the rental relationship.
- Security Deposit: Money that the landlord holds for the tenant and uses to repair damage to the rental unit.
- Eviction/Summary Process; The process by which a landlord may remove a tenant from a rental unit.
- Repair and Deduct: A strategy in which the tenant repairs the rental unit and deducts the cost of the repair from the rent.
Practice Area Notes
Like most of real estate law, landlord/tenant law is governed by the states, which means the rules and deadlines in one state may not be valid in another state. Additionally, many cities have special renting laws that only apply within city limits. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City have rent control laws in place that set limits on how much a landlord can charge for rent, but most other cities within California and New York have no such laws in place. Some cities, such as Washington D.C., have height restrictions on buildings that commercial landlords must consider before building a new property. Since landlord/tenant law varies by area, it is very important to speak with a local attorney if you have an issue with your rental.
Finally, if you wish to speak with a landlord/tenant lawyer, be sure you contact an attorney that habitually represents people in your position. Many landlord/tenant attorneys exclusively represent landlords and will be unable to represent tenants without creating a conflict of interest. Other attorneys exclusively represent tenants, while some firms represent both landlords and tenants.
- Real Estate: Real estate law concerns ownership and possession of land, and renting a home is one way to possess land.
- Land Use: Restrictions on land use, either through zoning or covenants, may impact a landowner's ability to rent her property.
- Bankruptcy: Rent is one of the debts that may be discharged through bankruptcy in certain situations.
- Personal Injury: Landlords have a responsibility to keep the land around their rental units safe. Poorly maintained property may injure tenants and their guests, who may be able to sue the landlord.
- Toxic Chemicals Litigation: Some properties may expose their occupants to toxic chemicals, such as lead or asbestos. In general, it is the landlord's responsibility to keep these chemicals away from tenants.
- Small Business: Some people may find it useful to think of renting properties as a business enterprise.
- Criminal Law: Landlords have a responsibility to keep crime out of their rental properties. A basic understanding of crimes and the criminal process is necessary to fulfill this responsibility.