Some landlords hold multiple properties and have been doing so for years. These individuals often know the law as well as most landlord-tenants lawyers.

But the greater number of landlords own one or two rental properties, and this number will grow as the economy declines, making purchase and sale of homes more difficult. This group lacks the sophistication of the first group and is much more likely to walk into rental traps. I have both represented and litigated against these individuals, and this article represents my attempt to identify some of their more common problems.

Let go of the attitude of many inexperienced landlords, especially those who used to live in the rental home, that the house belongs to them and they can darn well do what they want with it. For instance, you cannot just go on the property when you want to. You must give 48-hour notice, except in the case of emergency or requested repair or clear abandonment. You have no other right of entry, and there are sanctions under the Landlord-Tenant Act.

Be sure to take photos of the premises before the new tenants move in. And make sure you give them a move-in inspection list. If you do not, you will have a difficult time attributing end-of-term damage to the tenants. It would be wise to take your own photos of the damage the tenants allege in their inspection list, and if you repair any of that damage, make sure you retain proof of doing so.

If the tenants attempt to exercise any of their rights under the L-T Act, be careful about trying to evict them, because the sanctions for retaliation are substantial. If you attempt to evict, make sure your case against the tenants is slam dunk.

At the end of the term, when you do your inspection, make it as close to the move-out date as possible and be sure to give the tenants notice so that they can attend.
If the tenants demand their security deposit back, make sure your response is postmarked no later than 14 days thereafter. Some judges require that the tenants’ demand be written, but the statute does not say that, so the wise move is to honor any demand for the deposit. You must move quickly so that the estimates for repair of damage are dated prior to your response.

If there are clauses in the lease that call for the parties’ initials, make sure those places are initialed. For instance, I’ve seen more than one landlord lose the right to attorney’s fees he/she would otherwise have had because these boxes were not initialed.

This is not a complete list. The wise moves would be to have a L-T lawyer review your lease before using it and to keep that lawyer on retainer for future questions.

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