Landlords Ensure Compliance with Local, State, and Federal Laws
An experienced property manager such as Martin Feinberg knows that laws relating to rental housing exist to protect the tenant as well as the landlord. Knowledge of and compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations is essential for renters and property managers a like. Without compliance from everyone involved, the landlord/tenant relationship suffers and legal consequences ensue.
Property managers must understand their rights as well as their legal obligations in order to protect themselves, their rental business, and the investment of the rental property owners they represent.
There are two major federal Acts that affect all property managers: The Fair Housing Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Fair Housing Act “protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.”
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, on the other hand, “helps to ensure the accuracy, fairness and privacy of the information in consumer credit bureau files. The law regulates the way credit reporting agencies can collect, access, use and share the data they collect in your consumer reports.”
Property managers must make sure that they are in full compliance with both acts at all times.
State laws typically concern such things as the rights and responsibilities of tenants and property managers, terms and conditions that can be set as part of a lease, lease terminations, and rules regulating evictions.
Sometimes state laws also dictate how much a property manager can charge for security deposits, how those funds must be handled, and how property managers must use trust accounts for rental income.
State laws are often unique to the state in which they exist, so knowledge of one state’s laws does not often translate to knowledge of a different state’s laws. This can even be true of different areas within the same state. In California, for example, some cities have laws that control how much a landlord can charge for rent, while in other areas it is left completely up to the discretion of the property manager and property owner.
PROPERTY MANAGERS’ LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY
It is essential for professional property mangers to become familiar with landlord-tenant laws that are specific to their state and city, as well as those which exist country-wide. Ignorance of the laws will not save a property manager or rental property owner from being sued for not obeying them, even if they were unaware of the laws’ existence.
Property managers should also understand that local, state, and Federal laws are subject to change, and do so often. They should periodically seek legal counsel, and re-evaluate their rental policies, to ensure they are always in full compliance with the changing legal landscape.