Landlords can be prey to lawsuits from tenants who feel their rights have been violated. Fortunately, there are many laws in place that protect both landlords and tenants, but newer landlords, and even those who have been using their property as a rent house for some time may not know them all. There are some common issues that every landlord should be aware of so that they don’t make costly mistakes that can result in drawn out legal battles, fines and court costs.
Asking the Wrong Questions as a Landlord
With a lawsuit happy mindset in America, one of the things landlords should avoid is asking prospective tenants certain questions. While it may seem good policy to know as much as you can about who you may be renting to, asking questions that could be deemed discriminatory can get you into legal trouble as a landlord. Refusing to rent property to a tenant for reasons such as race, sex and gender, or national origin and religion is actually prohibited under the law. Asking about race, disability or family status can also be considered discriminatory intent under The Federal Fair Housing Act.
You definitely want to qualify your buyer with questions about ability to pay such as references and credit checks, but it is best to stay on topic with questions that pertain to the lease. If you turn down a potential tenant and you have asked them questions that made them feel singled out and discriminated against, you can end up in court with a discrimination case to fight.
Disregarding Tenant Privacy
Just because you own a rent house doesn’t mean you have the right to pop in the door unannounced. In fact, unless your lease agreement specifically states that you as landlord can enter the premises, you have no right to do so. The tenant is automatically granted what is known as exclusive possessory rights to the property during the term of their lease unless the lease specifies conditions where a landlord may enter the premises.
Texas laws are weaker on this point than other states. The state does not have a law on the books to protect tenants from improper invasion of privacy, while nearly forty of the states do have statutes on the books. It is still a good idea to give a tenant advanced notice whenever possible to avoid issues with invasion of privacy claims.
Accepting Partial Payments from Tenants
Another landlord mistake is accepting partial payments from tenants rather than enforcing the rental agreement. If you have tenants that lease from you for a lengthy period you may have gotten to know them. This can make a landlord go soft and accept a partial payment instead of requiring a full payment. This is a situation that can set up a precedent that can have a landlord losing out.
When a landlord accepts a partial payment, the court system often interprets this as the landlord accepting terms of the tenant. This can become a defining point if you have to eventually take your tenant to court for eviction proceedings. Having accepted partial payment can even get some eviction proceedings terminated for the period the partial payment covered.
Always enforce the terms of the lease including any late fees, and be sure that the lease covers these issues. Following the terms of the lease are essential when collecting rent so that if your once late tenant becomes habitually late, you can proceed with legal remedies to get your rental property back under your control.
If you find yourself in a rental property making costly landlord mistakes, with tenants who are more trouble than they’re worth, consider selling your rent house for cash so you can find a better fit for your time, energy and resources.