4 Things You Do NOT Have the Right to Do When Dealing with Bad Tenants
As a landlord, you have a lot to take care of heading into a new tenant’s lease. From getting their paperwork in order to get their unit set up for cleaning and prepping, it’s a full-scale job to open up a smooth transition for them from their previous location to yours. And while it’s important to keep things running smoothly, it’s also important to take note of different ways in which a tenant can bring a claim against you due to certain illegal acts.
While landlords have a wide range of responsibilities, they also have a wide range of opportunities to slip up and cross certain lines. With this in mind, it’s important to understand what lines can’t be crossed as a landlord and what you have to respect.
Here are a few things that landlords cannot do under the law and how to avoid them.
1. Barging in Without Notice
Tenants have a reasonable right to privacy in their own homes, even if they are renting from you. Although a unit is technically under the name of a landlord, they don’t have the right to enter someone’s home without notice. Many states have statutes that state that a landlord must provide at least 24 to 48 hours’ notice if they want to visit the unit or property. This can be anything from making repairs to picking up the rent check to showing the unit to prospective tenants.
There are exceptions to this rule, however, giving landlords the right to enter if there is an emergency, like a fire or gas leak, or if the landlord has reason to believe the tenant has, in fact, abandoned the unit or property.
2. Locking Out Tenants
A landlord will face a legal battle if they decide to end the rental arrangement or end the tenant’s occupancy of a unit or property before the lease ends. While a landlord may evict a tenant for many reasons, they do not have the right to end a lease without reasonable notice or explanation. Landlords who abruptly lock out a tenant without warning could be hit with burglary or trespassing charges.
The same goes for turning off utilities as this could be seen as intentionally putting the tenant in some form or level of danger. This is not the way of how to get rid of bad tenants. Landlords need to have verifiable reasons to end a lease agreement.
3. Charging More Money
Once a long-term lease is signed, there are very few situations in which the landlord can raise the rent rate. The only way the terms can be altered is if the increase meets predefined criteria in the lease. This could include a new tenant joining the unit or the purchase of a pet, for instance.
The Fair Housing Act lands on the side of the tenant in most cases in forbidding anyone, including landlords, from refusing to rent to an applicant based on items like race, national origin, sex, familial status, or handicap of any kind. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) operates as its enforcer and oversees cases where landlords have been hit with discrimination claims.
A landlord can’t advertise their property as being for a certain type of people exclusively or not permissible to a certain religion. Similarly, landlords can’t have fluid terms or agreements that change for one kind of person to the next.
Insure Your Business
While landlords need to be safe from being hit with these claims and more, they still have to operate efficiently and make sure their operations are protected. While landlords can’t kick out tenants without notice, they can pursue this action based on a few items such as rent not being paid.
Landlords can invest in tenant default insurance, which ensures that a landlord’s financial losses won’t harm them in a long-term capacity. Rent default insurance, which is meant to reimburse you for loss of rental income in the event of a defaulting tenant, is a financial backstop when the unexpected takes place.