Landlord Help

Landlord-Tenant Laws and other Relevant Information
With landlord-tenant laws being so extensive, it’s hard to know where to start, and who to turn to for help. With SmartFormz landlord-tenant resources below, you will not only understand all of the processes better, but you will be able to see why so many landlords turn to legal documents for reassurance. Click on the category below to view information you are interested in.

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A landlord may evict a tenant if they:

  • Fail to pay rent
  • “Breach” (break) the lease
  • Commit “waste” (damage the place)
  • Give the landlord any other “good cause” to evict

Laws on eviction proceedings vary widely by state and are known as unlawful detainer lawsuits. Eviction laws are very detailed and must be followed precisely for the landlord to successfully evict someone. Most states have special restrictions on eviction that apply only to residential leases. These restrictions must be met very precisely before the landlord is permitted to evict a tenant. To find more information on state laws and eviction proceedings go to Landlord Association of America.

A Notice to Quit must be given to the tenant before starting an eviction proceeding. If the rent remains unpaid or other breaches go unsolved, and the tenant remains after the expiration of the period provided in the notice to quit, the landlord may then file a lawsuit. Normally a landlord cannot remove a tenant at the expiration of the notice period, they must first serve the tenant with the legal papers normally referred to as a summons or complaint. A hearing is usually held within a very short time.

At the eviction hearing, the tenant may present any appropriate defences, such as:

  • A mistake in the accounting of the rent
  • The right to deduct rent because of the condition of the premises.
  • In some states, that the tenant has cured a monetary default by paying the landlord all his damages because of the tenant’s failure to pay rent.

The tenant may also provide any evidence that the landlord wants to evict the tenant in retaliation for some action of the tenant, such as:

  • Asking for repairs
  • Complaining regarding housing discrimination
  • Organizing other tenants against the landlord
  • Reporting housing code violations or asking for code inspections

When or if the landlord wins the court case, the tenant is usually given a short period of time to move out before the landlord can begin proceedings to forcibly eject the tenant. If the tenant doesn’t voluntarily leave after the eviction lawsuit, the landlord can ask law enforcement officers to assist the landlord in completing the eviction process.

The landlord must not engage in any acts of self-help, such as changing the locks, removing the tenant’s belongings, turning off utilities or attempting to forcibly remove the tenant. Self-help is flatly outlawed, and in most states is a crime.

Different Types of Eviction Notices

If a landlord is wanting to evict a problematic tenant, there are a few different types of notices that must be given out to them.

Notice to Pay Rent or Quit:

This notice is used for non-payment of rent. It notifies the tenant that he or she must either pay the rent within a specified number of days (usually 3 or 5 days) or vacate the rental unit. If the tenant cannot pay, he or she will normally leave the rental unit. If the tenant does neither, then you can start the eviction process. If you accept a rental payment from the tenant after he or she has been served with this notice, the termination notice is cancelled for that rental period. You cannot continue an eviction after accepting payment.

To download your Notice to Pay or Quit, Click Here

Notice to Cure or Quit:

If the tenant violates a term of the lease or rental agreement, this notice must be sent to them since it gives him or her a chance to remedy the situation. Under the laws of most states, the tenant has a specified amount of time in which to correct or cure the violation. If the tenant fails to rectify the situation, you may begin eviction proceedings.

To download the Notice to Cure, Click Here

Unconditional Quit Notice:

This notice can only be used in a limited number of situations, which vary from state to state since it is the most detrimental. The notice orders the tenant to vacate the rental unit within the statutory period (usually 5 to 10 days) and does not provide a period in which the tenant can pay back rent or cure the violation. Under the law in most states, these notices are to be used only when the tenant has:

  • Repeatedly violated a significant lease or rental agreement clause
  • Been late with the rent on numerous occasions
  • Seriously damaged the premises
  • Violated the lease or rental agreement in such a way that the violation cannot be corrected
  • Engaged in serious illegal activity on the premises

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Signing the Lease

A lease is the legal agreement, or contract, between the landlord and tenant, which spells out both parties rights and responsibilities, and allows the tenant to use the property for a specified period of time. Also specified on the lease are the rules and regulations, the length of the tenancy, the rental amount, and all important terms and conditions.

The lease, aside from tenant screening, is the most crucial moment of the business relationship. At this time, when both parties discuss their concerns, obligations and anything else relevant. All points in the lease should be gone through together, putting extra emphasis on the most important topics. Always highlight the length of the lease, as well as, any underlying terms and conditions. Before turning over your valuable possession, make sure the tenant(s) understand the lease and agree to all aspects.

Terms To Include in a Lease

A lease agreement sets out the rules and regulations that landlords and tenants agree to follow in their business relationship. Important details include how long the tenant can occupy the property for and the amount of rent that will be due each month. Whether the lease agreement is as short as one page or longer than five, typed or handwritten, it must always cover the basic conditions of the tenancy. The most important are listed below.

Names of Tenants.
Every adult who is taken into consideration for responsibility of the rental unit should be named as tenants and sign the lease agreement. This makes each tenant legally responsible for all terms, including the full amount of the rent and the proper use of the property. A landlord can then legally seek the entire rent from any one, if others skip out or are unable to pay. If one tenant breaches an important term of the agreement, you can terminate the tenancy for all tenants.

Limits on Occupancy.
The agreement should clearly state that the rental unit is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the lease and their minor children, if any. This guarantees your right to determine who lives in your property and to limit the number of tenants. This clause will give you grounds to evict a tenant who allows someone to move in, without your permission.

Term of the Tenancy.
Every agreement should state whether it is a month-to-month or a fixed-term lease. Rental agreements usually run from month-to-month and self-renew unless terminated by either party. Leases, on the other hand, last for a specific period of time.

Repairs and Maintenance.
All leases must clearly set out the landlord and the tenant’s responsibilities for repair and maintenance in before the tenancy begins. Some responsibilities of the tenants includes keeping the premises clean, and to pay for any damages caused by them. They must also alert you to defective or dangerous conditions in the rental property by giving you specific details on procedures for handling the requests. Nothing is to be installed without the landlord’s permission. Normal wear and tear of the rental unit is acceptable.

Deposits and Fees.
The use and return of security deposits is a frequent source of friction between landlords and tenants. To avoid confusion and legal hassles, your lease agreement should state clearly the dollar amount of the deposit, when and how it will be used, how it will be returned at the end of the tenancy and if there will be any deductions for repairs, as well as any non-refundable fees that will be charged.

Your lease agreement should specify the amount of rent to be given, when it will be due, and how it is to be paid. To avoid common disputes with tenants, spell out details clearly. Details can include what acceptable payment methods are, whether late fees will be charged, and if there are any charges when a cheque bounces.

Entry to Rental Property.
To avoid tenant claims of illegal entry or violation of privacy rights, your agreement should clarify your legal right of access to the property and state how much advance notice will be provided.

Whatever you preference for pets may be, be sure to state it clearly on the agreement. If you don’t allow pets, make sure the tenant knows that. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets or a requirement that the tenant will keep the yard free of all animal waste.

Illegal Activity Restrictions.
To avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from anyone in the surrounding area, you should include an explicit clause prohibiting disruptive behaviour.

Other Restrictions.
Be sure your lease agreement complies with all relevant laws including rent control ordinances, health and safety codes, occupancy rules, and anti-discrimination laws. State laws are especially key, setting security deposit limits, notice requirements for entering rental property, tenants’ rights to sublet or bring in additional roommates, rules for changing or ending a tenancy, and specific disclosure requirements such as past flooding in the rental unit.

Important rules and regulations covering parking and use of common areas should be specifically mentioned in the agreement as well.

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Notice To Enter

After signing a lease, the tenant is technically the “owner” of the property. They are allowed to quietly enjoy the premises without interruption. For this reason, a landlord cannot enter the premises without authorization unless it is an emergency or to protect abandoned property. Unless the lease states otherwise, a landlord cannot enter without permission, even for investigate of repairs or to actually make repairs.

A tenant cannot withhold consent for a landlord to enter the premises to show the property to prospective renters or buyers. At any rate, it is advisable for a landlord to provide ample notice and give specific times before entering to make repairs or allow prospective renters or buyers to see the property.

To review our Notice to Enter, Click Here

Notice To Quit

Most states generally require a landlord to provide a “notice to quit” before the landlord can terminate the tenancy and begin the eviction proceedings. The notice must be in writing and contain complete information on landlords, tenants, the property, lease, reason for this notice and the date. Failure to follow the exact specifications may invalidate this notice. If it is a tenancy at will, the notice should provide at least 30 days advanced notice.

It is best to hand deliver notices to quit, though some states allow them to be mailed or left at the tenant’s residence. If they are mailed, the landlord should use certified mail to ensure the tenant has received it. During an eviction proceeding, a judge could dismiss the case if the landlord cannot prove the tenant has received the notice.

To review our Notice to Quit, Click Here

Notice To Vacate

If you have provided the tenant with a notice to quit, and they still refuse to pay rent or correct a violation, the only thing left to do and present them with a Notice to Vacate. This shows the tenant that they now have no choice but to leave the premises by the date mentioned. If they do not vacate, legal action will be taken.

To review our Notice to Quit, Click Here

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