10 Most Common Landlord Legal Pitfalls - And How to Avoid Them
Aug 31, 2020 MicroBilt News
The current pandemic has left many landlords in uneasy positions across the country. Ideas, like social distancing, have taken on new prominence in the natural order of things and left many landlords uncomfortable with things that were once normal acts for them. These are 10 common legal pitfalls landlords can fall into during pandemic if you aren’t careful to avoid them.
- Failing to conduct health and safety checks and monitor for hazardous conditions. As you seek to give your tenants privacy it can become quite easy to overlook basic safety checks, which could leave you on shaky legal ground later. Conduct these checks as normal, just keep safety in mind (tenant safety and your own) at all times.
- Mismanaging unhappy tenants. Even in a pandemic, customer service remains important. You need to treat all tenants in the same manner and handle conflicts as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Using generic lease agreements. Each lease agreement needs to be specific to your property and your expectations. Get it in writing and make sure it covers all your bases to protect you best.
- Failing to check tenant credit issues. Tenants who have poor credit may have difficulty paying rent on time – or at all. A simple credit check can reveal important details about their payment histories.
- Forgetting to conduct a criminal background check. You are responsible for the safety of all your tenants and want to rent to tenants who do not have a history of destroying former rental units. Violent histories as well as histories of property destruction are likely to show up in criminal background checks as well as histories as sexual predators or other activities that may place your tenants at risk.
- Neglecting to check for a history of evictions. Another important thing to check for potential landlords is past evictions. Tenants who have been evicted in the past may have long-term financial difficulties and may face eviction with you which places you at a financial hardship.
- Holding insufficient legal audits. It is important for landlords to stay up-to-date with local, state, and federal requirements, which are constantly changing. Regular legal audits can help you stay in compliance and avoid costly fees and legal judgments against you.
- Creating confusion by juggling multiple properties with a single account. Keep each property as a separate account to avoid confusion that leads to costly mistakes.
- Forgetting to have tenants sign liability waivers to protect you from normal practices and activities.
- Placing security deposits in the wrong account. Many states have clear requirements related to security deposits. You may either follow those guidelines religiously or eliminate security deposits for your properties completely.
The good news is that most of these issues have simple solutions available to correct them. The trick is to always remain compliant with current landlord/tenant laws in your city, state, and nation so you can avoid potentially costly legal entanglements.