Why is it so important for landlords to know tenant rights? The answer is because knowing them helps you follow them, and following them helps you avoid costly lawsuits.
Whether you’re a first-time landlord or a long-term one, you should learn more about tenant privacy rights to protect yourself. Here is a guide to help you understand some of your tenant’s most vital rights.
Gossiping About a Tenant
As a landlord, you might want to start learning about tenant rights by asking, “what information can a landlord disclose?” When you’re talking to other people, what can you say about your tenants?
Well, the answer depends on the situation. A landlord gossiping about tenants to other tenants is illegal. You can’t tell other tenants things about your tenants.
You also can’t tell random people bad things about your tenants or say discriminating things.
If you’re in a situation where you need to reveal tenant information, you might be able to, depending on the situation.
For example, if you must hire contractors for repairs, you can provide them with the necessary information to make the repairs. You can’t badmouth your tenants to repairmen, though.
If you receive a call from another landlord who is completing a check on an application, you can reveal basic details about the tenant. For example, you can state if they paid their rent on time or not.
You can also state if you would rent to them again. You can’t discuss specifics about the person, though. Again, saying less is usually the best way to handle this situation.
Entering the Unit for the Wrong Reasons
The second right a tenant has is to have privacy. In other words, you can’t enter the tenant’s unit unless you have a good and valid reason for entering.
For example, if the lease states that you must enter the unit each month to complete maintenance tasks, you can enter it. If the lease doesn’t state this, you’ll need to let your tenants know when you’re coming.
Even if the lease gives you the right to enter the unit, you must still give notice to your tenants unless there is an emergency situation.
Another thing you might wonder is, “can a landlord touch your personal possessions?” Can you touch things inside your tenant’s apartment?
The answer is no. You shouldn’t touch anything in the unit unless you are fixing it. If you touch your tenant’s things, they can sue you if they find out. Therefore, you should avoid this when you enter occupied apartments.
Failing to Give Notice When Entering the Unit
One mistake that some first time landlords make is failing to give notice to their tenants before entering their rental properties. As mentioned, you can’t enter occupied units unless you have an emergency or valid reason.
Anytime you plan on entering a tenant’s apartment, you must give them notice. The amount of time needed for this depends on your state.
If there is an emergency to deal with, you can enter the apartment without providing any notice. For example, if a fire breaks out in a unit, you can enter inside to try to put it out.
Spying on the Tenant
Landlord invasion of privacy is a big deal, and it basically means that your tenants have the right to privacy. One thing you should avoid as a landlord is spying on your tenants.
When you spy on them, they lose their right to privacy.
How might a landlord spy on someone? Landlords can do this in several ways. One way is by installing hidden cameras, which is against the law.
Another way is by parking by their apartments and watching what they do. Your tenants have the right to privacy, and doing these things violates that right.
If you suspect that your tenant is involved with something illegal, contact the police and let them handle it. You’ll need to supply the police with facts and evidence for them to pursue this request.
Contacting a Tenant at Work
Another thing you can’t do is to contact your tenants at work unless you have an emergency. Tenant confidentiality is important. When you contact them at work, you can break this principle.
If you have questions to ask your tenants, you might want to call or text their cell phones. You can also send them emails, leave a note on the door, or send them a letter.
You can’t call their workplaces, though, especially if you are calling to remind them to pay their past-due rent.
Changing the Locks
Finally, you should never change the locks on a rental property without the legal right to do so. Some landlords decide to change the locks when their tenants don’t pay their rent.
While this might seem like a fair thing to do, it’s against the law. You can’t lock a tenant out of their apartment, even if they haven’t paid their rent.
The only way you can change the locks is if the tenant moves out of the unit or the court approves an eviction. If the court approves an eviction, they will give the tenant time to move out.
They will also give the tenant a date on which they must move out. You can’t change the locks on the door until this date passes.
If you decide to evict a tenant, you must go through the legal process required in your area. You can’t simply evict a person yourself. If you try this and fail to follow the law, your tenant might sue you.
Learn the Tenant Privacy Rights in Your State
Learning more about the tenant privacy rights in your state is vital if you own rental properties. When you know the laws, you can follow them and avoid lawsuits.
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