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.

One website states that a landlord may not lock out the tenant or turn off the utilities. This is true enough in almost any jurisdiction. The same website goes on to advise landlords to “convert the property to a shelter” by informing the tenant that the landlord “will be allowing a number of other people to share the property and they should be expecting them soon”.

This is really bad advice and will subject the landlord to liability for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment and/or constructive eviction in almost any jurisdiction.

The same website encourages the landlord to conduct regular inspections. While most states allow the landlord to conduct regular inspections, abusing the right can lead to liability. The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) prohibits the landlord from abusing the right of entry. The URLTA has been adopted in various form by many states.[1] Even in states that have not adopted the URLTA similar laws are common.[2]

The same site also states – without indicating a jurisdiction – that the notice period is 7 days for non-payment of rent, damage to property, health and/or safety hazard of the property, illegal drug activity (if provided for in the lease) and 30 days for violation of any clause in the lease which allows for termination, not vacating the property after the lease expires, or for trespassing.

This is an example of something that is completely different in each state. In many states the notice period for non-payment of rent is 3 days. In other states there is a 3 day notice period, but no right to cure. In other states failure to give the tenant the option of curing is a complete defense to the eviction.

In some states, failure to vacate the property after the lease expires entitles the tenant to no pre-litigation notice at all (though the landlord must serve a summons and complaint and seek a writ in court).

The site also indicates the notice can be served by mail. That is fine in some states, while in others it is absolutely not proper service and will lead to a court dismissal of the eviction.

One could go on ad nauseam. The point is that the eviction process is completely different in different states and a landlord is well advised to seek information – and formal legal advice – in the jurisdiction where the property is located.

[1] Currently a version of the URLTA has been adopted in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

[2] See, for example, RCW 59.18.150 (Washington); Urbana Landlord/Tenant Ordinance Sec. 12.5-16.

Posted in Landlord Tenant Law.

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