Common Legal Mistakes Every Landlord Should Avoid

Photo credit: Brian A Jackson /

To be a successful landlord or property manager, you would need a combination of know-how about the business, and a good work ethic to name a few important things. Where know-how is concerned, you have to be well-versed with every facet of the business. If you fail to do your homework as far as understanding the business you are in, you are opening yourself to a world of risk.

For instance, you can easily find yourself in legal trouble for a small slip-up. That said, we will look into some of the most common mistakes that landlord can make that would eventually land them in court.

Every landlord knows that it is important to have a lease agreement that both parties would have to sign. After that though, many landlords fail to see the importance of drafting their own agreement. One might think that a generic lease form would do because he or she only has one rental property and there should be no need to make that extra effort to draft a lease agreement when one can just find one online and print it.

The problem with using a generic lease form as is that you are not sure whether it is up to date. Let’s say that said lease form was made two years ago and last year, a particular regulation regarding tenancy in your state was amended. If you use the outdated lease agreement, you could find yourself breaking the new law in place.

Another major responsibility that a landlord has to shoulder is screening tenants. Without a proper screening system in place including interviews, one could find himself with a bad tenant. During the interview process though, the landlord should keep in mind that there are questions that could land him or her in legal hot water.

Some questions can be construed as a form of discrimination. Due to the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal for a landlord or the property manager to ask about possibly discriminating question regarding religion, disability, ethnicity, and similar things.

Charging late fees is a common practice for landlords to ensure that their tenant would be motivated to pay the rent on time. If you are going to do this, make sure that you charge only within the limits set by the government agency concerned. Going over the limit could result to the tenant taking you to court.

These are just some of the most common mistakes that landlord can commit which could lead to a bunch of legal problems. Whether you are going to manage your property on your own or you will hire a property manager, it is important that you commit these things to mind in order to avoid them.


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