Landlord Tenant Law

Landlord-tenant law is a part of real estate law that specifically deals with the relationship between landlords and tenants in the leasing property. While the laws vary from state to state, there are some general principles that all states follow in their individual statutes. Since tenants typically have less power and resources than landlords, some states have specific laws protecting tenant rights. Federal laws may also apply in a dispute that involves allegations of discrimination in housing.

Landlord and Tenant Rights

In order to protect landlords, the law provides certain remedies that landlords can rely on if the tenants breach their leases. Landlords are allowed to require security deposits and to evict tenants outlined by the law. They can also assess late fees if rent payments are not made on time. During the beginning of the process, landlords can require that tenants enter into written leases, submit written applications, provide references and allow credit and background checks. They can also prohibit pets from the property. Once leases are signed and tenants have moved in, landlords can enter and inspect the property after giving the tenant reasonable notice.

Tenants also have certain rights when they rent residential or commercial real estate. This includes certain rights to repairs, the right to receive advanced notice if the landlord intends to enter the premises, rights against discrimination in housing and the right to receive a notice to quit before an eviction. In areas where rent control laws are in place, tenants who have a rent-controlled apartment have rights against rent increases as well.

Common Areas of Landlord-Tenant Litigation

Common disputes that can lead to landlord-tenant litigation include a variety of different matters. In many cases, a tenant may have pets that are forbidden by their leases. In others, landlords can begin eviction proceedings if a tenant fails to keep the property clean. A landlord's failure to make needed repairs or a tenant breaking the lease can also result in a legal dispute.

Evictions and Unlawful Detainers

A major area of landlord-tenant law involves evictions and unlawful detainer actions. The process for eviction varies by state. Generally, however, the steps follow a similar pattern:

  • The landlord provides written notice to the tenant that notifies them of the breach and the number of days they have to remedy it or vacate.
  • The landlord drafts and files a complaint with the court.
  • The court issues a summons for the tenant to appear in court.
  • The court hearing occurs.
  • Judgment of the eviction is entered.
  • The eviction is completed by the local sheriff's department.

What Happens in Court

When the court date arrives, the parties can attempt to settle the matter through mediation. If an agreement can’t be reached, they can proceed to a hearing. Both parties are allowed to seek an attorney and present evidence to the court. If the court grants the eviction, the judge will give the tenant a limited number of days to vacate the property. If the eviction is denied, the tenant will not have to vacate the property, but they may still need to remedy the violation.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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