Landlord-Tenant Law

The modern law of landlord and tenant has historical roots dating to medieval England.  Today in the U.S. landlord-tenant law is governed primarily by state law.  The law differs widely from one jurisdiction to another.

Federal law plays a role.  Federal fair housing laws apply nation-wide.  Usually there are state and local fair housing laws that may amend the federal law with additional protections and requirements.  Also, federal law concerning lead based paint applies to residential tenancies.  Some tenants may receive Section 8 voucher benefits which are regulated by federal law.

Different laws usually apply to commercial tenancies as opposed to residential tenancies.  In some jurisdictions there are laws specific to other types of tenancies, such as mobile home lots.

Though there is a great variation in landlord-tenant law there have been some attempts at more uniformity, most notably the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.  Even so, the various states that have adopted the URLTA have often amended it upon and/or after adoption.  Also, the courts in these states may not interpret the URLTA consistently.

Landlord-Tenant Blog

Landlords Beware

Don’t believe everything you read. There is bad advice for landlords on the web. Some of the advice is really, really bad. First and foremost, landlord-tenant law varies greatly by jurisdiction. What is sound practice in one state may be completely illegal in the next.

Recent D.C. Opinion on Lease and Option

In a recent opinion the Chancery Court of the District of Columbia considered what it characterized as an “unusual” and even “bizarre” question: Does the contract law of the District of Columbia require the owner of a building to accept a lease that no reasonable lessor would ever sign simply to facilitate the lessee’s exercise […]

Essential Lease Terms

A lease may be formed by a meeting of the minds as to the essential terms even in the absence of a formal, signed lease document.[1]

Landlords and Lead Based Paint

Upon sale or leasing of residential property built before 1978 the seller or lessor must comply with federal lead based paint disclosure requirements.[1] Failure to comply with these requirements may result in substantial fines. Even minor deviation from the required language may result in penalties as high as $11,000 per violation.[2]

Section 8 Tenants and Federal Fair Debt Collections Law

In an important decision the New Jersey Court of Appeals held that landlords and their attorneys violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) by demanding in eviction pleadings more rent than allowed under both state and federal law.[1] The lease in question defined late fees and other charges as additional rent. The court held […]

All Eviction Notice Forms are Not the Same

All eviction notice forms are not the same. It really does matter in what state or jurisdiction the rental property is located. Some states require 7 days notice to the tenant for failure to pay rent. Many require 3 days notice. Some none. Even within a state local county or city landlord-tenant law may change […]

Ohio Supreme Court Holds Landlord Not Liable for Hostile Housing Environment

The Ohio Supreme Court has held that a landlord is not liable for a failure to prevent racial harassment of one tenant by another.    In a recent decision, Ohio Civil Rights Commission v.  Akron Metropolitan Housing  Authority, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission brought a lawsuit against Akron Metropolitan Housing after a series of racially […]

Just the Fax – The Tenant May Appear and Defend the Eviction by Fax

A tenant who responds to a summons and complaint has appeared in the eviction action and is entitled to notice. Victory by default is no longer possible and the landlord must set a hearing in order to evict the tenant. Though courts have held phone calls to an attorney constitute an appearance, there has been […]

New Mold Disclosure Law

New Mold Disclosure Requirement A new law went into effect July 24, 2005 that requires Washington landlords to make disclosures to all tenants regarding potential health hazards of mold.  The legislature found that “residents of the state face preventable exposures to mold” and that such exposure has “been found to have adverse health effects”. The […]

New Law Makes Taking a Default Judgment Against Tenants More Difficult

A recently enacted law requires all plaintiffs, including landlords, to provide evidence that defendants, including tenants, are not in military service before taking a default judgment.  This affects virtually all civil actions, including evictions.    Alternatively, the landlord may submit a declaration establishing that the landlord has no knowledge as to whether the tenant is […]