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Real Estate

Tenant and Landlord

A “Landlord” is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, or land which is rented or leased to an individual or business, who is referred to as the “Tenant”.

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In the United States, landlord-tenant disputes are governed by the individual state’s law (not federal law) regarding property and contracts, including residential lease agreements, commercial lease agreements, deed in lieu, etc. State law and, in some places, city law or county law, set the requirements for eviction of a tenant. Generally, there is limited number of reasons for which a landlord can evict his tenant. Some cities have laws establishing the maximum rent a landlord can charge, also known as rent control.

A rental agreement, or lease, is the contract defining such terms as the price paid, penalties for late payments, the length of the rental or lease, and the amount of notice required before either the landlord or tenant may cancel the agreement. In general, the landlord is responsible for repairs and maintenance, and the tenant is responsible for keeping the property clean and safe.

Many landlords choose to hire a property management company to take care of all the details of renting their property out to a tenant. This usually includes advertising the property and showing it to prospective tenants, and then, once rented, collecting rent from the tenant and performing repairs as needed.

Duties of the Landlord

The landlord has two common-law duties. The first is to give the tenant possession of the land; the second is to provide the premises in a habitable condition – there is an implied warranty of habitability. If landlord violates either, the tenant can break the lease and move out, or stay and sue the landlord for damages. Either way, it is always best to consult an attorney who is an expert in this area of law.

The lease may also include an implied covenant of quiet enjoyment, where the landlord will not interfere with tenant’s quiet enjoyment. This can be breached in three ways.

1. Total eviction of the tenant(s) through direct physical invasion by the landlord, or anyone acting on the landlord’s behalf.
2. Partial eviction – when the landlord keeps the tenant off part of the leased property (even locking a single room). The Tenant can stay on the remaining portion of the property without paying any rent.
3. Partial eviction by someone other than landlord – where this occurs, rent is apportioned. If landlord leases tenant 100 acres of land, but it turns out that 40 of those acres belong to another person, tenant only has to pay 60% of the rent.

Landlord’s Tort Liability

Under the Common Law, the landlord has no duties to the tenant to protect the tenant or the tenant’s licensees and invitees, except in the following situations:

  • Failure to disclose latent defects of which the landlord knows or has reason to know. Note that the landlord has no duty to repair, just to disclose.
  • For a short term lease (3 months or less) of a furnished dwelling, the tenants are treated as invitees, and the landlord is liable for defects even if the landlord neither knows nor should know of them.
  • Common areas under landlord’s control (e.g. hallways in an apartment building), if the landlord failed to use reasonable care in maintaining them.
  • Injury resulting from landlord’s negligent repairs – even if the landlord used all due care.
  • Public use, if the following three factors exist:
    1. Landlord knows or should know that the tenant makes public use of the land (e.g. the land is rented for use as a restaurant or a store);
    2. Landlord knows or should know that there is a defect; and
    3. Landlord knows or should know that the tenant will not fix the defect.

Duties of the Tenant

Under the common law, the tenant has two duties to the landlord. These are to pay rent when it is due, and to avoid waste of the property.A tenant is liable to third party invitees for negligent failure to correct a dangerous condition on the premise – even if the landlord was contractually liable.