What Are My Rights As A Landlord?

As a landlord, you have rights as the owner of the rental property.  Landlords may enter the rental property in cases of emergency or to make necessary or agreed upon repairs.  Landlords may initiate eviction proceedings in the event a tenant fails to pay rent, or otherwise materially defaults on a lease obligation, damages the property, or under other special matters.  In addition, a landlord may enforce certain rules, laws, policies or lease provisions regarding activities conducted on the property regarding the quiete enjoyment, legal use, and zoning of the property.

How Do I Evict My Tenant Who Has Failed To Pay Rent?

The legal action that is commonly used to evict a tenant is called an “unlawful detainer” action.  Every state has an unlawful detainer procedure whereby a landlord gets a court order to evict a tenant quickly and at low cost.  The proceeding commonly requires first serving the tenant with a “notice to quit," which notifies the tenant that the landlord is kicking the tenant out.  State law varies regarding how many days notice a tenant is entitled to before the tenant can actually be evicted, but it is usually between 3 and 7 days.  The landlord must then wait for the number of days to expire and then file an unlawful detainer action with the court.  If the landlord "wins" the unlawful detainer action, then the landlord gets a court order or judgment for possession of the property.  It is illegal for the landlord to physically remove the tenant, lock the tenant out or remove the tenant's belongings.  In most states, it is the sheriff who will enforce the judgment/court order and escort the tenant out of the unit. 

Should I Do A Formal Inspection Before I Move In And Move Out?

Where a refundable deposit is based upon the condition of the property, it is a good idea (and is often required by state law) for the landlord to provide documentation of the condition of the rental unit at the time of moving in.  Upon move out, the tenant is entitled to the full deposit refund or an explanation to why the full deposit was not refunded.  As such, a move-out inspection documentation helps both parties prevent disputes about any deductions for repairs to items.  Sometimes tenants take photographs of the unit upon departure to evidence the condition of the unit and/or particular items upon moving out. 

Can a Landlord Raise The Rent Whenever They Want?

Generally no.  In fact, one of the benefits of most leases is that the rent is fixed for the duration of the agreement.  In those cases, rent may only be increased when the lease term expires and a new lease is executed.  For month-to-month tenancies, the terms of the rent are only "fixed" for a month at a time - thus rent can be increased upon 30 days notice.  

Are Late Fees Allowed?

Generally, a landlord may not charge a late fee unless it is specified in the lease.  If the lease does allow a landlord to charge a late fee, most states do not require a grace period before charging the fee unless the term is specified in the agreement.

Can a Landlord Change The Locks for Late Rent?

In most states, a landlord may not use force to evict a tenant without a court order. This prohibits the landlord from changing the locks or retaining the tenant’s property.

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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