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.
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.
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:
- LandlordStation Blog Posts
- Norada Real Estate Investments
- Scotsman Guide
- Community Impact Newspaper
- National Low Income Housing Coalition
- Global Property Guide
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.