Like any job, being a landlord has its benefits and pitfalls. Many landlords profit from the equity and increasing value of their buildings and land, extra income, and tax deductions, but they also have to deal with the downside. Ongoing maintenance and repairs, extensive time commitments, and reductions in income created by vacant units are all sacrifices that landlords must be prepared to compensate for, but the most difficult risk factor to anticipate is liability.
Landlords have the obligation to provide working plumbing, electricity, appliances, sanitary, and heating and ventilation systems, which are specified in basic landlord laws, but most landlords are sued over issues regarding security deposits. Any number of complaints can be the basis for a lawsuit against a landlord; even the behaviors of other tenants, which property managers aren’t always present or able to control when they occur.
These are some of the safeguards that you as a landlord or property manager can implement and maintain in order to avoid facing a lawsuit. The best way to be certain that you have all of your bases covered is to consult with a landlord tenant lawyer as you complete each of these steps.
- Understand and follow all state laws and regulations. – A landlord tenant attorney can be especially helpful in explaining confusing points of the law and being certain that your practices are compliant with them.
- Follow all anti-discrimination laws. – Be certain that your rejection of a tenant is based only on legally acceptable reasons like past credit history or negative references from previous property managers.
- Ensure that your units are habitable according to legal standards.
- Avoid security deposit issues. – Offer the tenant a written agreement, which includes a checklist of the condition of the property before the tenant moves in and before the tenant leaves.
- Make tenants aware of any disclosures you are required to make by law. – These disclosures refer mainly to security deposits and the presence of lead-based paint in units and can go a long way toward disarming a complaint lodged by a tenant.
- Provide a detailed written rental or lease agreement. – Make sure the agreement establishes your rights as a landlord as well as the tenant’s obligations.
- If eviction is necessary, follow legal procedures exactly and correctly. – Failure to adhere to landlord tenant law will jeopardize your ability to remove a problem tenant.
- If a tenant does pursue a complaint against you, don’t retaliate. – If you have protected yourself legally and are acting under the advice of an experienced landlord tenant attorney, you should not need to concern yourself further. There are, of course, situations in which a landlord may not be able to please certain tenants and a complaint doesn’t always mean that the landlord is legally at fault.
- Use all the legal resources available to you.– Seeking guidance from a credible landlord tenant lawyer and browsing landlord tenant reference books online are great ways to ensure you are getting the best information available.
Warren S. Dank, Esq., P.C. represents one of the largest commercial real estate developers in the New York City area and has the experience to advise and represent you regarding all phases of the landlord tenant relationship. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.