Becoming a Landlord in the USA
If you decide to invest in physical property rather than real estate funds, you are essentially making the decision to become a landlord. With varying state and local laws in each of the 50 states, you must take into consideration the laws and regulations for your specific locale. However, we will guide you in the right direction by providing some common areas to investigate.
As a landlord, you are responsible for the following:
Abide by housing and building codes. You should be aware of the regulations for the specific areas where your properties are located. This can include the number of people allowed to reside in a property, as well as other restrictions when it comes to construction-related activities. Be sure to check out those for your specific neighborhood.
The property must be habitable. The property must be in a condition that people can live in it. This includes things like:
No pests, and if there are then you must have them exterminated
Working appliances and utilities
Trash cans provided and trash removal (unless you’ve outlined in the rental contract that the tenants are responsible for taking the trash to the curb on garbage day)
Any common areas must be maintained in a clean and safe manner (particularly in student housing)
Addressing tenant concerns. As a landlord, you must be available to address tenant concerns (especially in emergencies) or at least have someone available on your team.
Mortgage payments. You will be responsible for mortgage payments, of course, even in the event that you cannot find tenants or if they default on payments. This is why it’s so important to have a rental agreement. You can also require your tenant to have a co-signer in the event that they cannot pay rent themselves. This will help you to avoid potential losses.
Federal laws. It is essential that you are aware of the federal laws surrounding discrimination and false advertising when it comes to renting a property. You can find information on these laws. In particular, you do not want to engage in discriminatory advertising as that is unlawful and is not tolerated.
Rent increases. You are only able to increase the amount of rent each year by a specified amount. It’s important that you are aware of the amount, as it can vary between states. Make sure you are within these limits to avoid any unnecessary headaches.
Security deposits. Not all states allow you to require a security deposit from tenants, which is important for you to know. Of course, these will act as a security measure in states that permit this requirement.
Landlord-tenant acts. These acts govern the relationship between landlords and tenants, in addition to the rental agreement you have agreed upon. Each state has different rules surrounding landlord-tenant relations. However, there are some commonalities across the board which include the landlord responsibilities we’ve already listed. Be sure to check out the legislation for your particular state.
The rules also cover the responsibilities of your tenants. Some common elements include:
Responsible use of the property, which means no illegal activities.
Timely and full payment of rent as it comes due at the agreed upon rate
Behaving in a manner that does not cause health, safety, legal or financial concerns for other tenants residing in the home or the landlord.
Often, if a tenant violates any aspect of the landlord-tenant act or the rental agreement, you as the landlord reserve the right to evict them.
These are some of the different factors you must be aware of as a landlord when it comes to rental properties in the USA. To learn more you can check out our articles about how rental income is taxed and general steps to successfully rent out a property.
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