How To Understand Landlord Tenant Law: Landlord and Tenant Act

Learn About Tenant and Landlord Responsibilities

If you are planning on becoming a landlord in the near future or if you have just signed a lease as a tenant, you should familiarize yourself with the Landlord Tenant Laws. The act governing most states is the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Although "URLTA" is used by 13 states, the laws governing the Landlord Tenant Laws elsewhere in the country have similarities. In the following article we will summarize the major points of the URLTA to get a better idea of what the Landlord Tenant codes are in the United States and what the relationship between the two should be. This will help you better understand what the tenant and landlord responsibilities are as well. 

  1. What is the URLT Act? The URLT Act was created to clarify landlord/tenant rights and responsibilities, to impress upon both the importance of creating and improving the quality of housing, and to define what the relationship between the two should be.
  2. Terms and conditions of the Lease Agreement.  The lease agreement, by law, dictates the amount of rent payable to the landlord, the time frame in which the rent is due (weekly, monthly, etc.), and any other terms that the landlord and/or tenant decide on. The landlord may choose to bar pets from the apartment, have an anti-smoking policy for his apartment, or may include the stipulation that the tenant pays the heat and hot water for the duration of the lease. The document is legally binding once both parties sign.
  3. Things that cannot go into a lease. URLTA protects the tenant in the event that the landlord tries to add a clause into the lease that prevents the tenant from the ability to sue the landlord. Any clause of this nature is unenforceable, even if the tenant signs the lease. Additionally, any clause contrary to the URLTA (for instance, "Tenant does not need hot water.") will be considered unenforceable even if the tenant signs it.
  4. Disclosure. It is the landlord's responsibility to disclose his contact information as well as the property manager's contact information (if there is a property manager).
  5. Security deposit. The landlord may take an amount of rent equal to the first month's rent for a security deposit. He must return the deposit at the end of the duration of the lease or provide the tenant with a list of damages within 14 days after the termination of the lease. In the event that a list is not provided within this time frame, or the security deposit is not returned in the stipulated amount of time (which varies state to state), the tenant may seek twice the damages.
  6. Landlord to deliver and maintain premises in accordance with the law. Several paragraphs in the URLTA detail how the landlord must keep the apartment. He must provide access to hot and cold water, heat, and an adequately "safe" environment. He must maintain his dwelling so that it is up to federal, state, and local safety codes.  
  7. Tenant to maintain dwelling. The tenant also has responsibilities to maintain the premises. The tenant must abide by the federal, state, and local laws. He must keep the apartment adequately clean and safe; enough so that it does not, in the words of the URLTA, affect the "enjoyment of his neighbors." Any damages caused by the deliberate actions of the tenant or by his negligence are considered his fault and he may be forced to forfeit some or all of his security deposit.
  8. Access to unit. Landlords have the right to access the tenant's apartment with proper notice (2 days). Landlords have the right to immediate access in the case of an emergency. The tenant has the responsibility to provide access to his landlord in a reasonable manner.  
  9. Self-help/repairs to unit. The tenant has the right to fix a problem in the unit only if he has already given verbal and written notice to the landlord.  
  10. Penalties, etc. The act details the exact penalties due to both landlord and tenant in the event of default on any of the above issues. See Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act for the specifics.

The above represents a brief look into the laws that govern much of the country with regards to Landlord Tenant issues. It helps explain what the responsibilities of each should be. It is by no means a legal explanation and should not be considered as such. Refer to a lawyer for a legal interpretation, particularly if you have a question pertaining to a situation of your own.

The Landlord Tenant laws in this country are provided to protect both parties. Landlords, in particular, need to assess the laws and make sure they are adhering to them. Tenants' rights are well protected in all states, and as a result, tenants should read the laws and know their privileges with respect to the Landlord Tenant Law.  The act stresses the importance of having both parties act honestly, and with the goal of keeping an apartment or building safe for not only the ones who own it or live in it, but for those who live nearby.


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