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Landlord and Tenant Regulations

What Are a Landlord's Duties?

A landlord has many duties with regard to their tenants. When choosing a tenant, a landlord may not discriminate based on race, color, sex, religion, or other protected areas. The landlord has a duty to maintain the premises, with a warranty of habitability. The landlord must also deliver peaceful possession.

Landlords must be responsible for any property they are renting out. At the start of tenancy the landlord must deliver possession of the property in a good state. These duties tend to vary depending on if the property is residential or commercial. There are usually extensive local and state code requirements that landlords must meet to legally rent out a residential property.

Some tenants may pay rent in part from a government program, such as Section 8 of the Housing Act, which is aimed at increasing affordable housing options for low-income households. In that case, there are usually further requirements that landlords must meet to ensure that the property is safe, free from defects, and accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This usually means that any prior tenant has departed, repairs have been made, and the property is clean and ready for immediate use by the tenant at the start of the tenancy. For example, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act would require landlords to ensure that property to be rented out is free from architectural barriers that would make it difficult or impossible for anyone in a wheelchair or with any other kind of mobility difficulty to access the property. This means that the landlord may have to install a ramp over steps, widen doors, or modify restrooms to make toilets, sinks, and showers accessible to the maximum extent that is feasible.

Tenants are entitled to quiet enjoyment of the property, which means they can use the property at their discretion without interference from the landlord. Thus, leases usually require that the landlord provide notice to the tenant before visiting the property and that the landlord only come onto the property on a limited basis to make necessary repairs and engage in necessary maintenance of the premises. The lease usually discusses how repairs are to be conducted and when the landlord may inspect the property.

The landlord also must maintain the rental premises. For example, if the furnace breaks in the middle of winter, the landlord must immediately repair it. The property is likely to be uninhabitable until the heating issue is fixed. If the issue is that a closet door sticks, the landlord likely still needs to make the repair, but the repair does not have to be done immediately.

Tenants are also entitled to peaceful possession, which means that there are no lawsuits or hostile actions by new property owners or former tenants that lead to attempts to throw the tenant out of the property.

Overall, there is an implied warranty of habitability that requires the landlord to maintain the property at a level that complies with all laws and building codes and ensures that it remains fit for human habitation.

Finally, a landlord may not discriminate when selecting a tenant on the basis of race, color, gender, familial status (whether a renter is pregnant or has a child younger than 18), or religion, or in violation of any other protected grounds. However, in certain cases, age can be a discriminating factor; for example, people younger than 55 may be excluded from active-senior communities and assisted-living communities.

Landlord Responsibility

Landlords must keep property that they rent out safe and free from hazards. Some of the most common safety features that landlords have in residential properties include a functional electrical system, smoke alarms on every level, and fire extinguishers in kitchens and other applicable areas.