10 Legal Things a Landlord Needs to Know

Osprey Property Management   |   date December 2021

As a property owner, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the laws regarding your role. Many different regulations apply to the landlord-tenant relationship and how you conduct business within this industry. Violating these laws can lead to lawsuits and income loss.

Our Virginia Beach property management team will help you understand the law, stay out of trouble, and make sure your rental properties run smoothly. Today we cover ten legal things every landlord should know!

1. Anti-Discrimination Laws

Real estate investors must avoid discriminatory practices when marketing properties and managing renters. For example, the Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, familial status, national origin, disability, and other characteristics. In addition, the Fair Credit Reporting Act prevents rental property owners from discriminating against prospective renters based on their credit histories.

Both laws prohibit housing providers from denying housing opportunities to individuals based on these factors. These laws require landlords to provide fair housing advertisements and rental applications. In addition to the above regulations, property owners must follow anti-discrimination laws in Virginia.

2. Legally-Binding Leases

Even when using a free lease agreement, property owners must ensure that it complies with all regulations that make it an enforceable document. The rental agreement details the responsibilities of both parties and sets forth the rules and regulations that govern the relationship between the two parties. Landlords are responsible for making sure that the lease agreement is legally binding.

Close the key and the toy house on the table

Contact a property manager and work with your attorney to ensure that every lease complies with the law!

3. Required Disclosures to Renters

Property owners must provide occupants with details about relevant state laws, particular landlord rules, or facts regarding the property, either in the rental lease agreement or in another written document—typically before the tenant moves in. 

If applicable, this can include a warning of mold, lead-based paint disclosures, or other possible health or safety issues. A property manager can guide you through these disclosures. 

4. Providing a Safe Living Environment

Landlords are required to maintain their rental property in a safe condition. The implied warranty of habitability states that landlords must provide living spaces that are fit for human occupancy.

This means that property owners must provide renters with adequate heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical systems, and other amenities to live comfortably. A property owner who fails to meet these obligations could face legal consequences. For example, if a landlord fails to repair a leaky roof, they could be held liable for damages caused by water leaking into the home. 

5. Maintenance and Repairs

Property owner responsibilities include maintaining the property and responding to maintenance requests promptly. While it’s important for renters to report any issues with the property, including plumbing leaks, broken windows, or other damages right away, property owners must also resolve issues as soon as possible.

Failing to repair an issue that could damage a renter’s property or cause unsafe conditions can be a legal violation. 

6. Proper Handling of Security Deposits

Lease agreements require a tenant to pay a security deposit to cover damage caused by the tenants. The law dictates how property owners must collect and hold the deposit in reserve. Regulations also determine when and why property owners can use a renter’s deposit to recover lost rental income or cover repair costs for tenant damages. 

7. Tenant Privacy Laws

After a renter moves in, a property owner is prohibited from entering the premises unless there is a valid reason. If you plan to visit one of your rental properties, you must give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice to avoid violating tenant privacy laws. Dropping by unannounced can lead to lawsuits and legal action. 

8. Handling a Renter’s Abandoned Property

If a renter moves out and leaves personal belongings behind, rental property owners must follow the law when handling personal property. Consult a property manager and your attorney to learn if you must store the tenant’s belongings and when you’re able to sell or dispose of the items after a specific amount of time.

Real estate law

In addition to storing the items, landlords must notify the tenant of how to reclaim them. 

9. Reporting Criminal Activity

Property owners have a legal obligation to report any criminal activity in the property. An owner that fails to report these crimes could face severe penalties, including fines and jail time.

10. Keeping Residents Safe

To some extent, property owners are responsible for protecting their residents from possible accidents by installing fire detectors, extinguishers for any potential fires, peepholes at the main entrance, and locks on exterior doors. These measures help keep renters safe from potential bad actors trying to break into the home or in the event of a fire. 

Comply With the Law With Virginia Beach Property Management

Landlord-tenant laws can change over time and vary between federal, state, and local regulations. It’s always best to consult with our Virginia Beach property management experts who can help you follow regulations and protect your investments. Reach out to Osprey Property Management to learn more about how we help property investors stay up to date on current regulations!

Download the free “Expert Guide to Rental Property Management” to learn more about managing rental properties successfully!

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