Best ways to research new and updated local laws for the New Year

As a landlord, it’s important that you stay up to date on the laws that impact you, your property, and your tenants. However, unless you are also a legal expert, it can be challenging to keep track of every law and a consultation with a lawyer can get expensive.

Because each state and even each city has its own laws, you need to know where to look. While search engines are a useful tool, it’s important to understand which sources you can trust and where to find the most up to date information.

When researching local issues, keep in mind that while federal and state laws take precedence, local law adds an additional layer of regulation to further protect the municipality. Because of this, it’s usually best to start at the federal level and work your way to local. 

Federal Law

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a primary resource for tenant-landlord law. You can use the search function on their home page or Google “your search term + HUD” to find information specific to your question.

Reviewing previous cases online can also be useful. The Legal Information Institute from Cornell University Law School interprets the law and specific cases by state or through various federal courts. The U.S. Code via Cornell University Law School provides helpful information on current statutes.

State Law

Once you have consulted federal law, it’s time to move to state law.  This will govern most of the issues you’ll encounter regarding landlord and tenant rights.

  • First, check with your state attorney’s general website, which often includes basic information relating to landlord and tenant laws.
  • You can also visit the HUD website; 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 USA.gov for information about complaints with housing. While this site primarily offers tenant resources, there are some useful to landlords as well. The Fair Housing Act details 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 and the best source will be 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 nuisances, and other regulations.

If your rental property is in a suburb or neighborhood association, you’ll have to also check with them for further guidelines. Some associations have bylaws on issues such as landscaping, outdoor decorations, and parking. These associations have regular meetings and officers. Bylaws don’t supersede city or state laws, but they often deal with specific aspects of rental properties, including where rental properties are allowed.

Other useful sources of information

Additional resources we reference: 

Conclusion

Understanding local law governing landlords and tenants begins with federal law and continues through to the local level and even down to an association level in some cases.

Following these laws as you manage your properties and tenants is essential and, as such, being able to find up to date information is crucial. Remember, when a question or concern arises, even if you have dealt with it before, you should check for any recent legal changes.

The State of the Housing Market

In 2020, despite the global pandemic, the number of home sales increased significantly and the housing market continued to boom throughout 2021. The nationwide nominal house price index is now 40% above its 2012 low-point and 4% above the peak reached in 2006.

Let’s take a closer look at the current state of the housing market in key regions.

New York and New Jersey

If you’re considering purchasing a property in the tri-state area, you’d better be ready to deal with a very competitive market. With demand rising and available properties in short supply, New York’s thriving real estate market showed no signs of slowing in the third quarter of 2021. Despite 18 months of rising property prices in New York state, prices remain lower than they were before the pandemic hit. The average rental price in Manhattan increased 8.3% between September 2020 and September 2021; in Brooklyn it dropped 5.8% and in Northwest Queens, it increased 1.7%

Mid-Atlantic Region

Those of you considering a property investment on the East Coast may wish to look at the mid-Atlantic region, from New Jersey to Virginia. Building permits are on the rise across the region with permits for new, single-family homes increasing by 32-50% during the first half of 2021.If you’re looking to set up a rental property, it’s best to examine the area on a city-by-city basis to ensure you can tap into a market willing to pay a profitable rental rate. Philadelphia hit a record high for apartment occupancy, with August of 2021 seeing a two-decade peak of 97.6%. Virginia Beach has also seen a steady increase with August 2021 seeing occupancy rates of 98.1%.

Southwest

The housing market in the Southwest has seen property prices skyrocket with Utah and Idaho witnessing the highest price increases nationwide. Rental prices have increased significantly with high demand, yet low availability of vacant rental properties pushing rent prices up even further. More people working from home during the pandemic translated to more people looking for spacious properties in the suburbs, and 2021 saw buyers frantically purchasing property in Texas where housing prices are over 30% higher statewide than a year ago. But, according to a research economist for the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, the buying frenzy is over. 

Pacific

The white-hot Seattle-area housing market has started to cool with fewer properties being listed and prices dipping, though the market is still very competitive. Affordability is a big issue and The California Association of Realtors expects home prices to rise by 5.2% next year and housing affordability to drop. While national rent growth is still going up from 11% to 13%, it’s lagging considerably in California.

Overall, 2021 closed with mortgage rates at a record low, a strengthening job market on the horizon, and rents surging.