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.

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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 lesseeā€™s exercise of a contractual option to purchase the building?

The option holder sought specific enforcement of an option contract.  The owner argued that to exercise the option the option holder had presented a lease that no reasonable lessor would ever sign.  The owner counterclaimed for an alleged lost opportunity to sell the property to a third person.

The court denied both parties requested relief. 

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]

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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 both the landlord and its attorney violated both state and federal law by demanding an amount that included the additional amounts as rent.

The case is important because it has implication for landlords in every American jurisdiction, not just New Jersey. Several courts have held that attorneys who regularly perform evictions for landlords are debt collectors for the purposes of the FDCPA.[2] And although evictions are brought through state law processes, the Section 8 program is governed by federal law. [3]Continue reading

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 the eviction notice form requirements. For example, in Seattle just cause eviction ordinances must be complied with and arguably change the eviction notice form requirements. In Tennessee, an eviction notice may be a prerequisite to bringing an eviction in some metropolitan areas, but not in a more rural county.

When in doubt consult a landlord-tenant attorney in your area.