Federal Duties of Landlords in the U.S.

by RyanD on February 27, 2013

The required duties of landlords in the U.S. are clear, multifold, and numerous. Landlords must adhere to their financial, ethical, and contractual obligations in order to serve and protect all stakeholders. Understanding their role in the property management process is the key to establishing good relationships with tenants, maximizing profits, and securing long-term success.


History of Landlords

Landlords have been in existence since the Roman Empire and the Manorial System. Manorialism — a political, cultural and economic system responsible for mandating the affairs of an aristocratic estate – provided protection for its medieval peasants who were dependent on a powerful lord.


General Responsibilities

Today, landlord-tenant statutes do not favor one party; they strive to create a mutually beneficial arrangement for the lessee and lessor. Furthermore, the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) recognizes the interdependent relationship between landlords and tenants.

The obligations of the landlord are stated in the lease. Although the provisions of a lease are state regulated, the contract should be unambiguous regarding the terms, e.g., description of the unit, time period, fees, termination procedures, repairs, etc. Miscellaneous items such as parking spaces and appliances included with the unit should be specified. Omissions and ambiguity are the primary reasons for disputes.

Residential real estate transactions contain an implied warranty of habitability. It is an implication by law that by leasing or buying a residential property the landlord should make the property habitable prior to tenant occupation. Habitability includes safety requirements including smoke detectors and means for the prevention of criminal intrusion such as a door with locks. A stable roof, sturdy floors, and walls free from asbestos and mold are basic accommodations. Hot water and heat are essential.


Federal Laws

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) prohibits a landlord from refusing to rent any property because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The 1988 amendment to FFHA viewed people with disabilities as a protected class and gave them housing options.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 states that all citizens have the same rights to purchase or lease property. The Fair Housing Act of 1989 protects families with children under 18. It also made it illegal to deny loans for purchasing, construction, improvement, or maintenance of a dwelling. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) of 1972 mandates credit transactions and encompasses more than consumer loans.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are protected under FFHA. In January 2012, President Obama announced a new federal law that would make it illegal to deny access to federally funded or insured housing to homosexual people. This legislation ensures that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s programs are available to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

In May 2009, Obama signed a federal law mandating that tenants of rental properties sold in foreclosure are entitled to notification from the new owners before filing for eviction. In 2009, a jury in Ohio ruled against a landlord for sexual harassment of a tenant and the violation of the Fair Housing Act. In 2007, Connecticut landlords paid $15,000 to an Afro-American tenant because they failed to take action to protect the tenant from being victimized with racial slurs and death threats by another tenant.

Landlords should stay abreast of recent developments, trends, and laws. They should consult with a real estate attorney or property management association. Due diligence ensures the best outcomes for landlords and tenants.



This article was written together with Julian Lewis, an avid freelance writer who loves writing about various law-related articles throughout the web. He writes this on behalf of Remedy Roofing, your number one choice when looking to protect your houses. If you’re looking for a Texas Roofer, make sure to check them out.




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