How to Avoid Disputes with Your Tenant

Landlords can save time and money by taking appropriate preventative measures to minimize potential liability to a tenant.  Here are some suggestions to help you to avoid tenant lawsuits arising from the landlord-tenant relationship.

Thorough Screening

The screening process is your opportunity to develop detailed information regarding the tenant’s background and rental history.  This information is not only essential to your decision on whether to enter into a rental contract with the tenant, but could possibly be used to your advantage if a dispute materialized.  Make sure you check criminal records and credit history as part of your background check.  

Comprehensive Lease Agreement

Always create a comprehensive and all-inclusive lease or rental agreement, which will be the centerpiece of any dispute arising from the landlord-tenant relationship.  The agreement should include conditions both the tenant and landlord need to follow as well as all necessary details like terms of tenancy, security deposits, rent, occupancy limits, guest limitations, landlord’s visits to rental unit to repair or inspect the unit, and pets.

Inspection and Repair

Landlords should promptly acknowledge and address a tenant’s reasonable request for repairs and allocate a specific time to visit the property and inspect the damage.  Landlords typically will be held responsible for the injuries or damages caused by a defective condition on the property if not addressed in a timely fashion. 

Insurance Coverage

Maintain sufficient insurance on your property at all times. Besides insuring for property damage, you need to be sure that you are protected against lawsuits brought by a tenant. A tenant can sue you for numerous reasons, including not following proper eviction procedure, illegally entering the rental unit, or for injuries resulting from a dangerous condition at the premises. Proper liability insurance will cover the cost of litigation and will pay the damage award if you are sued.

Use Consistent Policies/Procedures

The Fair Housing Act precludes a landlord from refusing to rent a property to a tenant for reasons of race, religion, gender, national origin, disability or familial status. Asking questions about any of these factors is prohibited, and can result in a lawsuit or an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  A tenant or potential tenant who believes that his or her civil rights have been violated can sue you directly for violations of the Act.  Using consistent, anti-discriminatory policies and procedures will help you avoid the time, money and energy to fight the allegations.

The Fair Housing Act laws also requires property to be accessible to disabled tenants. Your property must comply with the Fair Housing Act’s “design and construction” requirements, which are applicable to multifamily buildings that were designed and constructed after March 13, 1991. You should allow any reasonable request from a disabled tenant or prospective tenant to make modifications to the rental unit.

Security Deposit

Always return the security deposit or provide documentation of the cost of repairs. After a tenant moves out, you can use the tenant’s security deposit to make repairs to damage that he or she caused. You must provide the tenant with an itemized list of repairs and their costs, and you must return any unused portion of the security deposit to the tenant. If you fail to do so, the tenant can sue you for damages.

Know The Law

Be sure you are familiar with your state’s legal requirements governing landlord-tenant relationships. This includes following the appropriate legal process before removing a tenant from your property. Otherwise, the tenant may have a legal right to recover damages from you.

Lynx can provide valuable assistance should an eviction become necessary.  We can handle all the paperwork necessary to commence and conclude eviction case, and our experienced staff is standing by to answer any questions you may have.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or info@lynxlegal.com.

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