Best Ways to Research New and Updated Local Landlord-Tenant Laws

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 landlord-tenant 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 landlord-tenant laws 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 landlord-tenant laws. 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 laws, it’s time to move to state landlord-tenant laws.  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.

What Is the Eviction Process in Missouri

Sometimes a landlord has no choice but to begin the eviction process on one of their tenants.

Missouri offers landlords some specific steps which must be followed in order for this process to begin.

This formal process is required any time a tenant must be removed from a property, even when there is a potentially dangerous situation going on.

Most landlords will initiate the eviction process because of a failure to pay rent.

Any provision within a lease that is not met can also be grounds for the eviction process in Missouri to be initiated.

Evictions may also occur after a fixed term lease has expired without renewal or if a landlord wishes to terminate a month-to-month tenant.

No Specific Amount of Time Is Required

When the issue is for the non-payment of rent, there is no specific amount of time that is mentioned in the landlord tenant laws of the state.

As a general rule, however, landlords should give their tenants 5 business days in order to pay any rent that is due.

The amount of the demand may include a late fee as well if the rental agreement allows for these fees to be paid.

Paying the rent, but not the late fee, may be an active defense for a tenant fighting an eviction.

If the rent is not paid after the demand has been issued and an appropriate amount of time has passed, then a landlord may proceed with a rent and possession lawsuit against the tenant.

This allows a landlord to proceed with the eviction process in Missouri and seek a monetary award for the amount due them at the same time.

A court date will be set. If a tenant fails to show up for the hearing, then a default judgment will be issued.

This may result in an order to leave the rental unit, monetary damages being awarded, or both.

The Unlawful Detainer Process

When the issue is different than a failure to pay the rent, landlords must pursue an eviction process that is a little different.

 

This is known as the unlawful detainer lawsuit. It is used to remove tenants who have not met some component of their lease or have failed to move out after their rental agreement has expired.

This lawsuit against a tenant follows the same process as the rent and possession lawsuit, but with one exception.

Landlords are not allowed to pursue any monetary damages under this eviction process.

The court will only issue a writ of possession if landlords are awarded the judgment and the Sheriff’s office or other designated official are the only people who can enforce the court order.

Tenants are given 10 days to leave after a judgment has been issued.

Tenants Have the Right to Appeal

Tenants may lose their case, but that doesn’t mean it is the end of the story for a landlord.

Tenants can appeal a judgment against them within 10 days of that judgment occurring.

While the appeal is pending, however, a tenant must post a bond with the court that is equal to any monetary judgment that has been made against them. If the tenant wins the appeal, then the money is given back to them.

If not, the court will give the money to the landlord instead.

An appeal must be filed within 10 days if a tenant is still using a rental unit. If no appeal is filed and the tenant is still holding possession of the rental unit after 10 days have passed since the judgment, a landlord can file for a writ of possession.

This allows the Sheriff or designated official to remove the tenant from the property.

What About an Expedited Eviction?

Some landlords may be able to request an expedited eviction process in the state of Missouri.

This is allowed when the eviction is because the tenants or their guests are engaged in drug related activities or has allowed people in the rental unit or on the property that the landlord has not allowed.

If tenants caused damage to a rental unit that is equivalent to 12 months of rent, this process may also be requested.

If a landlord attempts to evict a tenant on their own, then the eviction process doesn’t necessarily stop.

Self-help evictions do open up a landlord to the possibility of being sued by a tenant because Missouri considers such actions to be illegal.

Any damages that result from turning off utilities, switching locks, or removing the front door [or other actions not listed here] are determined by the court.

The eviction process in Missouri is a streamlined process which is designed to help landlords manage their property effectively.

As long as these steps are followed and appropriate legal counsel is available, this difficult task can become a little bit easier.

Arkansas Security Deposit Law for Landlords and Tenants

If a landlord in Arkansas owns 6 or more properties or has an agent, such as a property manager, collect rent on their behalf, then the security deposit law applies to them.

Landlords who do not meet this qualification are not covered and the law does not apply. Here are the key points of the law that you’ll want to know.

1. There Is a 2x Monthly Rent Maximum That Can Be Charged.

This means if a single family home is being rented out at $1,000 per month, the maximum security deposit for that home would be $2,000.

The amount being requested should be placed in writing within the context of a rental agreement.

2. Landlords Have 60 Days To Return a Security Deposit.

A landlord does not need to give a security deposit back at the same time a move-out occurs.

An itemized list of any deductions is required, along with the amount being refunded, within 60 days if the landlord is covered by the law.

If not covered by the law, a tenant may need to make a demand for their security deposit.

3. Sometimes a Landlord Can Keep An Entire Security Deposit.

Tenants have 180 days to make a demand for their security deposit if it has not been received. If they do not make this demand, then a landlord may be able to keep the full amount.

The issue here is that if a landlord does not return a deposit with an itemized list, a tenant can sue in small claims court for 2x the deposit amount plus reasonable attorney’s fees.

4. Wear And Tear Is Not Charged To a Security Deposit.

What constitutes “normal” wear and tear is usually reflective of the type of damage that occurs.

One person puts less wear and tear on a carpet than 7 people and 2 dogs.

If there are dog scratches in the carpet that expose the padding, this may be considered damage. If there are just heavy wear patterns, they may not be considered damage.

The Arkansas security deposit law is designed to protect landlords from needless and costly damage to their property while giving tenants an insurance policy against the unexpected.

Remember that a tenant can be evicted for damages because of unreasonable use, even if the damage was caused accidentally, and that may allow a landlord to keep a security deposit and sue for repairs.

Because of this, if you have specific questions that are not covered in this guide, it is best to seek out professional legal assistance.

Navigating Month-to-Month Leases in DC

The real estate market in Washington, D.C. is booming, with increasing home prices leading to a high number of renters. But D.C. has one of the most strictly regulated rental markets in the country. One unique feature of D.C.’s rental market is that tenants have the right to opt for a month-to-month lease after their initial one-year lease expires. This means any tenant can choose not to renew their lease, but are allowed to remain in the unit under the same terms as their previous agreement as long as rent is being paid on time.

The D.C. government has a number of resources for landlords and management companies interested in learning more about this or any other regulation. But here are the main points to get you started!

  • Every tenant has the right to chose to live in the unit month-to-month. When moving into a new unit, all tenants are expected to sign a one-year lease. But when that initial lease expires, the tenant can chose not to sign a new one. It’s not legal for a landlord to ask a tenant to waive that right as part of their initial lease.
  • The terms of a month-to-month agreement are the same as the previous lease. Any clause in the initial lease is still valid under a month-to-month arrangement, but the tenant does not have to sign any paperwork for it to go into effect. Any changes to the terms should be made on a case-by-case basis and should be in writing, but be sure to check with the D.C. Housing Authority to ensure the change is legal.
  • Rent increases are allowed on month-to-month units. Depending on the rent control status of the building, the percentage of a per-year increase will vary. But landlords are allowed to raise rent once per calendar year after filing the increase with the city. The tenant will receive written, formal notification of the increase, and their rent will go up the following month. But be sure to file all necessary documents, or the increase will not be valid or enforceable.
  • Some changes can be made using voluntary agreements. A voluntary agreement is a document outlining proposed changes to a building and the terms for tenants. It is put to a vote by all tenants, and if 70% of tenants agree to the terms, it goes into effect. This is one way to make repairs or change lease terms for a building when many tenants are month-to-month.
  • Tenants must provide 30-day notification when moving out. As is common with month-to-month arrangements, any tenant who wants to terminate their vacancy must provide the landlord or management company with 30-day written notice. If notice is not given, they are still required to pay rent.
  • Evicting a month-to-month tenant is not easy. Although the tenant can leave with 30-day notice, a landlord can’t ask the tenant to leave for no reason. Unless the tenant violates a clause of their original lease, the only reason a tenant can be evicted is due to non-payment of rent.

More information on month-to-month tenants can be found at D.C. Housing Authority, and many questions can be answered by calling the Tenant Advocacy Hotline. As with any city regulation, it’s important to fully research and understand all facets of the law. Although these points will get you started, please visit the website above to learn more.