If you've decided to become a landlord, you're likely excited at the prospect but also overwhelmed at all that must be done. To help ease your fears and to ensure that you're on the right path, take a look at the three most common legal mistakes that new landlords make below and learn how you can avoid them.
1. Using a Generic Lease Agreement
As a new landlord, it can be helpful to take a look at different leases and rental agreements. It's important, however, that the lease agreement you use is specific to your area and addresses all issues that are specific to your rental.
It can be easy to pull up a generic agreement online, print it out, and use it as your own. Using a generic agreement, however, may lead to legal issues down the road if the lease agreement you printed out is not valid in your area. As laws vary widely from state to state, it's important that you consult with a real estate attorney in your area who understands local laws inside and out and who can help you draw up an appropriate lease agreement that will protect your rights as well as the rights of your tenants.
2. Not Understanding Fair Housing Laws
While there are a number of boundaries that you're allowed to set as a landlord (i.e. not allowing tenants to have animals), certain boundaries may be crossing the legal lines and can get you in serious trouble.
One such boundary that landlords are not allowed to put into place is those that discriminate against families. If a home or apartment that you're renting out has enough bedroom space for a family (usually two people per bedroom, depending on your area), you cannot decide not to rent to them simply because they have young children who may disturb the peace or cause more wear and tear than adults. It's always a good idea to brush up on local fair housing laws and ensure that all policies you currently have in place are legal and free from discrimination.
3. Failing to Address Safety or Health Issues
As a new landlord, you have every intention of ensuring the safety and well being of your tenants. Sometimes, however, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with landlord duties and allow certain tasks to fall by the wayside.
To avoid legal issues, however, it's absolutely vital that you understand your state's building codes and health ordinances and that you address issues which violate those codes and ordinances as quickly as you possibly can. If you find yourself struggling to meet these codes, consider hiring on a property manager to care for any and all issues that arise in your rented apartment or home. This will cut down on the amount of time your tenants will have to wait for repairs and decrease the odds of you violating a major safety code.
To learn more about how you can avoid a legal nightmare as a landlord, consult with a real estate lawyer in your area. To learn more, contact a law firm Garcia, Kinsey & Villarreal, P.L.C.