As a new landlord, there are likely a number of questions, concerns, and requirements that you may not be aware of. While there may be some things that can be learned along the way, legal issues are something you should educate yourself on before you find yourself in a troublesome situation.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from legal trouble as a landlord is to entrust the care of your rental to professional Fort Collins property management services. Property managers have in-depth knowledge of the legal obligations and requirements for landlords and those that apply to tenants as well. Being a landlord can be complicated if you are inexperienced, but with help from a property manager and investing time into learning your legal responsibilities, you can avoid a number of legal mistakes.
1. Asking Discriminating Questions During Tenant Screening
Tenant screening is an extremely important tool used by property owners to help them find renters who are more likely to pay rent on time and care for the home. While it is a necessary step to protect your investment, you must be careful to avoid asking any discriminatory questions. There are many questions that may seem understandable to ask, but the Fair Housing Act prohibits you from turning away a potential tenant for discriminatory reasons.
Be careful to avoid asking any questions outside of income, employment, or standard background and criminal history. In general, you should make sure not to ask questions regarding
- Skin Color
- Sexual Preference
- Relationship or Family Status
2. Using Lease Forms That Are Not Up-To-Date Or Compliant With Your State
Having a written lease agreement is a necessity for any landlord. You must, however, be careful to use the correct forms to avoid a potential problem in the future. Be careful not to download a standard lease form without first verifying that it is state compliant and current to the year. Working with an experienced property manager will ensure that all forms are current before they are given to tenants, but also ensure that they have been filled out correctly after they’ve been turned in.
3. Failing to Disclose Information About the Property
You are required by law to disclose certain information about the property before a tenant has moved in. This information can include suspicion or existence of mold, if lead-based paint had been used on a property built before 1978, deaths that have taken place at the home, or information about sex offenders in the area. Be sure that you are well informed about other standard disclosures before you rent out your home.
4. Failing to Maintain a Safe Environment
One of your greatest responsibilities as a landlord is to maintain the property in proper condition in order to ensure a safe environment for your tenants. You are legally obligated to take all reasonable actions for limiting dangerous or hazardous situations at the home. This includes performing routine inspections of the condition of the home, disclosing important information, and ensuring that the property is equipped to prevent criminal activity or the effects of criminal activity.
5. Failing to Make Necessary Repairs
It goes without saying that you are responsible for any major repairs on the property that could affect the health or safety of your tenants or affect the habitability of the property. Your rental must provide tenants with heating, plumbing, electricity, and gas that are up to code and in proper working condition, but you must also ensure a safe structure including flooring and roofing.
6. Violating Tenant Privacy
Although you own the home, you do not have the right to violate the privacy of the people living in it. For non-emergency situations, you must provide the tenant with notice before you can enter the unit regardless if it is to make a repair or perform an inspection or other situation.
7. Withholding Security Deposits Without Just Cause
Security deposits are required to help cover the cost of any damages done to property by the tenant. If you deduct money from that security deposit you must provide an itemized statement of the damages that were repaired and you are required to return the remaining balance back to the tenant. You cannot use security deposits to upgrade appliances or make cosmetic changes. It is meant to cover the cost of any damages that go beyond normal wear and tear or conditions outlined in your rental agreement.
All Property Services offers extensive experience in property management services in Fort Collins and other parts of Northern Colorado. We are able to provide a detailed understanding of these and other legal obligations for property owners. Contact us today to learn more about the ways that we can help to protect you as a new landlord.