Believe it or not, there are not many spelled out landlord rights that pertain throughout the U.S. Instead, most laws regarding landlord/tenant relationships are dealt with at the state level. This can be a challenge, considering that many landlords own rental properties in multiple states.
The good news is that there are a few general landlord rights found throughout the States. These are identified in the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA). Perhaps the best way to explain your rights is to explain the duties of your tenants.
Tenants should comply by health and safety codes imposed on tenants by the local authorities. If they do things that make the home unsafe or unhealthy, you as the landlord have the right to take action.
There are several aspects for this. URLTA specifically calls out plumbing, for example. This is a common one, as many tenants will fail to properly clean the toilet, showers or sinks. Another example is the disposal of garbage and rubbish. If the tenant fails to do these simple tasks, your landlord rights allow you to do something about it.
Tenants also have the responsibility to use electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and all other equipment and appliances properly and reasonably. This is a fairly broad rule, but the idea is that if the tenant is doing something wrong- such as abusing the elevator or using the oven to cook things other than food- you can take action.
If a tenant is defacing and greatly damaging the property, you have the right as a landlord to take action.
Finally, tenants shouldn’t act unreasonable and disturb those around them. If they disturb their neighbors’ peace of the premises, you can take action against the problem tenant.
General Landlord Rights
On top of those above, here are a few rights you have, along with general warnings regarding the possible abuse of these rights.
You have the right to advertise vacancies at your properties. However, you cannot use phrases such as “great for families with no kids,” because it can be considered discriminatory towards children.
You can (and should) receive applications from potential tenants, but there are certain things you can’t include on the form. These are to prevent discrimination as well. Examples are race, age, and disabilities. What is considered acceptable is asking about drug use, past evictions, and employment/credit history.
You have landlord rights to make rules, whether you’re renting out a single family home or apartment. If you do so, there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that the rules should be enforced uniformly for all tenants. The other thing is the rules should not be considered discriminatory. For example, if you have the rule that children under 8 aren’t allowed in the gym, that’s discrimination. But if you phrase it as “children under 8 must be supervised by an adult over 18 years old,” that’s fine.
Finally, don’t be afraid to exercise your landlord rights to evict tenants. The important thing is to document the issue (or recurring issues) that caused the contract termination.