Best places to research local laws

As a landlord, you may have to deal with many tenants’ issues.

You can’t possibly know every law that impacts your property and residents.

At the same time, you don’t want to ask an attorney every time you have a question or concern.

Because each state and even each city has its own laws, you need to know where to look when you require information.

Even when you're researching local information, you must know the federal and state laws regarding the matter since those will take precedence.

Local laws cannot go against these laws, but they often provide even more restrictions or regulations to further protect the local municipality.

State Laws
Your primary concern should be with state laws since they govern most issues you'll encounter with landlord and tenant rights.

They'll pertain to your property regardless of where in the state you live.

  • First, check with your state attorney general website, which often includes basic information about laws relating to landlord and tenant law.
  • You can also visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or "HUD," website for information. Under the "state info" tab, you can select your state. Under “Get rental help,” you'll find information about tenants’ rights and laws. This section deals with laws specific to that state and provides a list of tenants’ rights and landlords’ responsibilities.
  • Visit for information about complaints with housing. Remember that many of these websites focus on helping the tenant, but the resources are valuable to the landlord as well. You can access the Fair Housing Act, which will provide many regulations for rental properties, especially in the area of discrimination. However, many states further define discrimination beyond this act, which is why you will also want to refer to the state statutes.

Local Laws Regarding Landlords and Tenants
Cities and municipalities often provide their own regulations in addition to state and federal laws.

The best way to find these ordinances is through the city’s website. You can also contact a city office or the local library for more information.

The local level is where you'll find ordinances about noise or trash, public displays, and other regulations.

If your rental property is in a suburb or neighborhood association, you'll have to also check with them for further rules.

Some associations are laid-back and have only a few basic rules.

Others provide rules on landscaping, outdoor decorations, and even where you can park cars.

These associations have regular meetings and officers.

You can attend a meeting or ask a board member if you're unclear about a regulation. It’s better to learn about these bylaws before you receive a citation for violation.

These bylaws can’t be contrary to any city or state laws, but they often deal with different aspects of rental properties.

They'll even tell you where you can have rental properties in certain areas, which you should know before you make a purchase.

Federal Laws
HUD is the primary place to research about laws regarding tenant-landlord relations.

However, you can also review previous cases online to help you in specific situations.

To access prior cases, visit the Legal Information Institute from Cornell University Law School.

This site provides materials that help interpret the law and specific cases by state or through various federal courts.

You can also access the U.S. Code, which will provide helpful information on current statutes.

Learning the local laws for landlords and tenants often begins with federal laws and continues through to the local level ... and even within an association.

You must follow all of these laws as you manage your properties and tenants.

Posted on Oct 15, 2015


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