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Real Estate Newsletter

Landlord-Tenant Law and Security Deposits

Landlord-tenant laws govern the rights and liabilities of parties in a landlord-tenant relationship, as well as the transaction that takes place when a commercial or residential property is rented or leased. Landlord-tenant laws involve several different areas of the law, including legal principles of real property, contracts and remedies.

Who is a Landlord and Who is a Tenant?

A “landlord” is an owner of a rental unit, which may be an apartment, house, duplex, condominium, room, commercial office space or building. A landlord may be a person or company.

A “tenant” is a person or company that rents or leases a rental unit from the landlord. During the rental or lease term, the tenant obtains the right to the exclusive use and possession of the rental unit.

Security Deposits as a Common Obligation for Tenants in Most Jurisdictions

All states permit a landlord to require a security deposit from the tenant at the time the lease relationship is formed. The amount a landlord may require differs significantly from state to state and may include up to two months of rent.

Return of Security Deposits

Most states generally allow landlords to keep all or part of a security deposit if the tenant has not maintained the cleanliness or condition of a unit. However, there are regulations that require the landlord to provide notice to the tenant with respect to how much of the security deposit is being withheld. In addition, a landlord may also be required to provide an accounting as to how much is being withheld and for what purpose.

Some jurisdictions have laws that tend to be “tenant-friendly,” while other jurisdictions have laws that may favor landlords under certain circumstances. Several states developed their landlord-tenant laws based on the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, while other states enacted their own statutes. It is also important to note that in certain circumstances, common law or even federal law may also be applicable.

  • Landlord-Tenant Issues
    Due to the nature of landlord-tenant relationships, it is not surprising that they can often become contentious. To prevent or address problems between landlords and their tenants, the federal government and many states have enacted... Read more.
  • Lawful Entrance Into the Dwelling Unit of a Tenant
    A landlord’s right of entry into the dwelling unit of a tenant is usually based on state and local landlord-tenant laws, which can vary significantly. As such, the specifics of when a landlord may lawfully enter a rented dwelling... Read more.
  • AIA Standard Forms Designate the Architect as Arbiter of Disputes
    Architects generally play three distinct roles in the construction process: (1) agent of the owner, (2) independent contractor and (3) arbiter. An architect serves as an arbiter to settle differences between the owner and contractor... Read more.
  • Limiting the Use of Land by Restrictive Covenants
    Zoning laws and ordinances are the chief method that local governments employ to regulate the use and development of property. Similar results can also be achieved by private persons or entities through the use of “restrictive... Read more.
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