May 9, 2014

Overseeing rental properties as a landlord comes with a lot of responsibilities and some legal obligations. Because the laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship can be complex and because violating these laws can result in lawsuits or other legal troubles for landlords, in this three-part blog, we will focus on some of the most common legal mistakes landlords should know about and avoid making when handling rentals and dealing with tenants.

It’s important to point out that the discussion herein is general in nature and that landlords are encouraged to contact Denver Real Estate Lawyer Thomas E. Downey if they need specific advice or representation for any matters of real estate law.

Mistake #1 – Refusing to make certain repairs to a rental property.

Landlords should avoid these mistakes to protect themselves from the possibility of being sued. Contact Thomas E. Downey if you need help with any real estate legal issue.

Landlords should avoid these mistakes to protect themselves from the possibility of being sued. Contact Thomas E. Downey if you need help with any real estate legal issue.

By law, landlords are required to provide rentals that are fit to live in. Generally, this means that units or properties should have safe and/or working heating, gas, water/plumbing, roofing, etc. When such essential elements of a property are in disrepair and landlords don’t take measures to fix them, tenants can:

  • Front the costs of the repairs and then deduct them from their rent
  • Get out of their lease agreements
  • Sue the landlord.

Mistake #2 – Failing to respect a tenant’s right to privacy.

Unless there is or has been an emergency, landlords typically have to provide tenants with at least 24 hours of notice before entering their unit. In other words, it can be considered to be a serious violation if landlords enter rentals without giving tenants’ any notice.

Mistake #3 – Not disclosing important info about a property to a tenant.

Failing to disclose important information about a rental is a common mistake that landlords make that can cause them to be sued by tenants.

Failing to disclose important information about a rental is a common mistake that landlords make that can cause them to be sued by tenants.

Landlords are legally obligated to disclose certain information about a particular property or rental to tenants. While the specific disclosures that must be made to tenants vary from state to state, generally, some of the most important types of these disclosures include that:

  • Lead-based paint may have been used in the rental property.
  • A person has died in the rental property.
  • A sex offender lives in the immediate vicinity of the rental property.

While not disclosing such information to tenants can give tenants a way to get out of their leases, it may also lead to lawsuits being filed against landlords.

Mistake #4 – Failing to return part or all of a security deposit.

Tenants usually pay security deposits with their first month’s rent prior to moving into a rental property. These deposits effectively protect landlords in the event that tenants damage the property while living there. When tenants vacate the property, the landlord is then entitled to keep the portion of that security deposit that is necessary for repairing damage caused by the tenant, such as cleaning up stains on carpet, fixing holes in walls, repairing broken locks, etc.

However, landlords are also legally required to provide a detailed list of the costs of these repairs to tenants to show how much of the security deposit was kept and why (i.e., what the costs of each necessary repair were). If landlords decide to keep all of the security deposit without providing tenants statements regarding the costs of repairs and/or without actually needing to conduct any repairs on the unit, the tenant may pursue legal action against the landlord to try to get the deposit (and possibly additional damages) back.

Mistake #5 – Asking discriminating questions on rental applications.

If you need help with a tenant-landlord issue or with any legal issue pertaining to real estate matters, you can count on Denver Real Estate Lawyer Thomas E. Downey.

If you need help with a tenant-landlord issue or with any legal issue pertaining to real estate matters, you can count on Denver Real Estate Lawyer Thomas E. Downey.

Federal law prohibits discriminating against potential tenants based on their ethnicity, gender, religion, etc. This means that landlords who may ask potentially discriminating questions on rental applications or in the course of the screening/approval process may put themselves at risk of being sued later.

While landlords are not legally allowed to discriminate among potential tenants based on the personal characteristics of an individual, they can, however, use financial screening methods (like, for instance, credit checks) to weed out certain possible tenants.

Mistake #6 – Violating a state’s eviction laws.

When a tenant has failed to pay rent, has substantially damaged a property or has done anything else that would warrant eviction, it’s important that landlords go through the proper legal channels in order to officially evict that tenant. If landlords fail to get an official court order for eviction, they could find themselves being sued by tenants and being order pay tenants compensation.

Mistake #7 – Failing to take some basic measures to ensure a rental property is safe.

Just as landlords are legally required to ensure that the rentals they have are fit to live in, so too are they legally obligated to ensure that the property is, in fact, safe. For instance, this means that rentals should have things like working locks and adequate outside lighting. When rental properties lack such essential safety features and, as a result, a tenant is injured (by, for instance, being the victim of a crime), the injured tenant may be able to sue the landlord for his medical bills and mental anguish, which could cost landlords a significant amount of money.

Denver Real Estate Lawyer at Downey & Associates, PC

If you need help with a tenant-landlord issue or with any legal issue pertaining to real estate matters, you can count on Denver Real Estate Lawyer Thomas E. Downey. Since 1983, Thomas Downey and the other legal professionals at Downey & Associates, PC, have been providing individuals and businesses in the Denver Metro Area and throughout the U.S. with the highest level of legal service for their litigation, property tax and real estate legal issues.

We have the integrity, experience and resources necessary to ensure that you will receive the highest level of personal service, the highest quality legal services and, ultimately, the best possible resolution to your case.

Contact Us for a Case Evaluation

From our law offices in Centennial, we serve clients throughout Colorado and the U.S. We encourage you to learn more about your rights and options, as well as our various services, by calling us at (303) 813-1111 or by emailing us using the contact form on this page.

Categories: Blog, Landlord-Tenant Issues, Real Estate Law