Being a landlord can be complicated due to the rules and regulations you’re obligated to abide by. Landlord-tenant laws are designed to protect property owners and their tenants, which is why it’s crucial to stay up-to-date. In that way, you can be in compliance at all times, and avoid the risk of trouble with the law. Not only that but abiding by the law allows you to provide your tenants with the lives they deserve.
If you’ve enlisted the services of a property management company, they can ensure you stay up-to-date. But it would still be best to know for yourself what the laws are – as a rule of thumb, you should be able to stand on your own.
In this post, we put together a few of the landlord-tenant laws to follow when running a residential rental in South Florida.
Discriminations laws protect tenants and property owners from discriminatory acts. From the moment you market your property to the time you set rental rules, you need to comply with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and other laws. You should treat your tenants – and potential tenants – fairly. This involves how you advertise your property, as well.
If you own a multi-family property such as a condominium, enforce the rules to all tenants, regardless of their race, religion, etc. If you have penalties, impose them on all tenants on your real estate investment to avoid discrimination claims. For example, if an African-American and a Caucasian tenant fail to pay their rent on time, collect a late rent fee from the two of them, not only the former.
You shouldn’t keep secrets from your tenants, particularly if it affects their safety. For example, if a sex offender lives on the same street, you should disclose this detail to your tenant. Similarly, if the rental property has lead-based paint, the tenant should be informed about this, too. In short, the tenant should have a general idea of what they’re getting themselves into.
It’s worth mentioning that some states are strict when it comes to disclosure, so be sure to consult your property management agent about this.
Your basic role as a landlord is to provide your tenants with a habitable rental property. By habitable, we mean a property that’s safe, free from deficiencies, and comes with basic features. Tenants should have reliable plumbing systems, and they should be able to use the HVAC without failure, as well. Also, you are responsible for making sure the property is pest-free.
It’s worth mentioning that you are responsible for the upkeep of these features, as well. If you fail to provide your tenant with a habitable environment, they can terminate their rental contract early, and without repercussions.
That’s why it’s important to partner with a South Florida property management firm. In case of emergencies (e.g. a malfunctioning HVAC), they can contact their network of vetted vendors to get the HVAC in good working condition again, without wasting a single second. If you’re a long-distance landlord, it would be considerably more challenging to deal with repairs, so it would be best to partner with a company that can be on-site at moment’s notice.
Security Deposit Laws
You can choose whether or not to collect a security deposit from your tenants at the start of their stay. However, do note that this amount isn’t yours – it should be returned to your tenant when they move out. You can use part of the deposit to cover the costs of repairs, unpaid rent, etc., but the balance should be returned to your tenant.
If after the move-out inspection, you notice that the property needs repairs, you can deduct the cost from your tenant’s deposit. Remember to provide the tenant with a breakdown of deductions to make sure there’s no dispute about the amount.
Quiet Enjoyment Laws
Learn to leave your tenants alone! Even if it’s your property, you can’t barge in whenever you want, as you’re obligated to respect your tenant’s right to privacy. The moment a tenant has possession of your property (i.e. they sign the lease agreement), you can’t enter the property without advance notice (except for emergencies). In addition, you can only enter the property at a time that’s convenient to your tenant, and for a valid cause such as to conduct repairs, inspections, and so on.
Abandoned Property Laws
Your tenant’s belongings are not legally yours. In the event that a tenant leaves without warning, you are obligated to treat their things as abandoned property. With that said, you need to take reasonable steps to let the tenant know about the abandoned property. Plus, you need to safe keep their things for the time being.
If the tenant does not claim the property after a certain period of time, that is when you can sell the property or throw it away. However, if the tenant says they’ll claim their property, you need to decide on when and where to claim it.
Criminal Activity Laws
This is extremely important. If you are aware of criminal activity on your rental property, you need to evict the tenant immediately and inform the authorities. If you are found to have allowed the unlawful activity to continue, you will be held liable and you will undoubtedly be in trouble with the law. These activities involve drug use, drug distribution, and so on.
Last on the list is safety. As the property owner, you need to ensure your property is safe, as that’s one way to protect your tenants. To follow safety laws, be sure to add smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and more to your rental property. Remember to review the relevant laws on safety, as they vary by state.
A property management company such as Luxury Property Care can help you expertly manage your rental property. With our guidance, you’ll be guaranteed complete compliance with the laws, rules, and regulations that apply to your South Florida single-family home or multi-family.