Local Property Management

Landlord-Tenant Laws Every Landlord Should Know

Are you planning on investing in rental properties in Portland Oregon? If so, there are landlord-tenant laws every landlord should know.

While the process of finding a new tenant can be relatively straightforward, the tricky part is familiarizing yourself with landlord-tenant laws. And, even if you are familiar with them, rental laws are constantly changing. That’s why regularly keeping tabs on local regulations can help you better manage your rental properties.

While the best way to familiarize yourself with rental laws is to consult a qualified legal expert, this article offers a closer look at ten landlord-tenant laws that all landlords should research. 

1. Rental Licenses

Depending on where you live, you may need a rental license before renting out your property. Rental licensing programs exist to ensure that rental properties meet minimum housing standards.

Some states, like Oregon, require all landlords to have rental licenses for their properties. However, other states may only have mandates in certain counties, cities, or municipalities. For example, landlords in Philadelphia must be licensed, despite Pennsylvania not having a statewide requirement.

Failing to comply with these requirements could result in fines and other penalties, so review your state and local laws before leasing your rental properties. 

portland rental properties

2. Rent and Security Deposit Collection

Rent collection is the primary income stream for rental businesses, so it’s essential to be aware of any applicable rent laws for your state. States like Ohio and Virginia have no specific statewide rent regulations. Meanwhile, California law says landlords can’t require tenants to pay rent in cash.

Security deposits are also subject to specific laws that vary from state to state. Rhode Island landlords, for example, aren’t allowed to charge a security deposit of more than one month’s rent and must return the deposit within 20 days of the lease ending. 

Florida has no limit to how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. Still, if you decide to hold a deposit in an interest-bearing account, you’ll have to choose to pay the tenant either at least 75% of the annualized average interest rate or 5% simple interest per year. 

3. Late Fees and Grace Periods

late fee is an easy and enforceable way to encourage on-time rent payments, but states may have specific rules that apply to them. According to Tennessee law, landlords can impose late fees if they don’t exceed 10% of the rent price.

Before charging a late fee, you should also consider laws concerning grace periods. Tennessee has a statewide five-day grace period before landlords can consider rent late. 

In states with no laws concerning late fees and grace periods, landlords should include their policies in the lease for them to be enforceable.   

4. Required Clauses and Disclosures in Lease Agreements

Your lease agreement is a legally-binding contract that outlines rules and expectations both parties must follow during the lease period. To be an enforceable agreement, it must include locally-required clauses and clauses that don’t violate renters’ rights. 

States like New York, Minnesota, and Rhode Island all require the following clauses:

  • Landlord’s name, address, and phone number
  • Rent amount and due date
  • Length of the lease agreement
  • Description of the rental unit

Separate from clauses, landlords may also need to include specific disclosures in the lease as well. A common requirement in several states is to disclose all known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards with a warning and an EPA pamphlet

Some states may have more specific requirements. For example, landlords in Missouri must also disclose if the property was used as a site for methamphetamine production.  

You can research your local landlord-tenant laws to verify what clauses are required, but it can be helpful to include the clauses listed above in your written lease, even if there’s no statewide requirement. 

5. Marijuana Use

While laws surrounding marijuana use are changing in states nationwide, landlords are generally allowed to set their own policies for their rental properties. Similar to prohibiting cigar and cigarette smoke, you can also prohibit tenants from smoking marijuana in your unit. You may also be able to prohibit tenants from producing marijuana. 

For example, Wisconsin law prohibits the possession, sale, and manufacture of marijuana. Landlords can serve a non-curable five-day notice to quit to tenants who produce or distribute marijuana on the rental property.  

6. Pets, Emotional Support Animals, and Service Animals

Over half of US households own a pet, so understanding landlord-tenant laws in your state concerning pets can benefit your rental business. Some states, like Kansas, restrict how much landlords can charge for a pet deposit. Other states, like New Hampshire, have no limitations on pet fees.

It’s worth noting that emotional support animals (ESA) and service animals are not considered pets and are regulated differently. ESAs are animals that provide disability-relieving emotional support to an individual. According to the Fair Housing Act, disabled tenants with an emotional support animal may reside in housing with a “No Pets” policy. 

Landlords are allowed to request proper documentation for an ESA. However, landlords may not:

  • Charge a fee, additional rent, or a security deposit for having an emotional support animal
  • Ask the tenant about their disability
  • Require the animal to have any specific training
  • Refuse to house the tenant because their insurance does not cover ESAs

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are animals that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler’s disability. Because they aren’t pets, they can’t be subjected to pet fees. However, landlords can collect a security deposit to address any damage the animal may cause to the property. 

7. Property Abandonment

Occasionally, tenants may leave some of their belongings at the property after moving out. Before discarding the items, you may need to follow a certain procedure to confirm the tenant no longer wants them. 

These laws tend to vary from state to state. Michigan has no specific laws regarding the abandonment of property, while New Mexico landlords must store any of the tenant’s personal property left at the rental for at least 30 days and notify the owner of their intent following the 30 days. Discarding the belongings without following the right process can leave you susceptible to legal issues.

8. Subleasing

If your tenant plans to be away from the property for an extended period, you may discuss subleasing as an option to keep your rental income uninterrupted. But what are the laws surrounding subleasing?

In most states, landlords can determine their subleasing policies based on their lease agreements. Generally, landlords will include a clause about subleasing within the written lease or add one with a lease amendment if necessary. 

Certain states like New York and Virginia have more specific requirements, so verify your state’s policy to avoid any challenges. 

9. Lease Renewals

Whether you’ve included an automatic renewal clause in your lease or found high-quality tenants you’d like to retain, you should verify your state’s lease renewal laws. 

Some states mandate that fixed-term tenancies terminate automatically at the end of the specified period and convert to renewing month-to-month tenancies with continued occupancy and payment by the tenant. In other states, automatic renewal clauses must be disclosed, and the landlord should remind the tenant during a specified notice period. 

Knowing how to handle lease renewals per local landlord-tenant laws can help you cover your bases and communicate clearly with your tenants as a lease ends.   

10. Evictions

Sometimes, the only way to deal with a problem tenant is by evicting them. This eviction process is highly specific and varies from state to state, so understanding the laws is essential if you plan to pursue an eviction. 

While the eviction process may differ between states, they generally begin by identifying a legal reason to evict a tenant. Some of these reasons include:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violation of lease terms
  • No lease or end of lease
  • Material health or safety violation

It’s important to note that there must be a valid legal reason for a landlord to begin the eviction process. Furthermore, self-help evictions are considered illegal in most states. This means landlords can’t try to evict a tenant by changing locks, cutting off utilities, entering the property, removing the tenant’s belongings, and so on. 


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emotional support animals

The Landlord’s Guide to Understanding Emotional Support Animals

As a landlord, you may have heard of emotional support animals and wondered what they are, how they differ from service animals, and what it means for you as a landlord.

The concept of emotional support animals can be confusing but understanding them is important for landlords. By learning the basics of emotional support animals, you can create a rental agreement that is fair for both you and your tenants.

This guide will help you understand the requirements for emotional support animals, how to determine what animals are allowed, and how to handle requests for emotional support animals. With this knowledge, you can create a rental agreement that allows for emotional support animals while still protecting your rental property from damage.

What are emotional support animals?

An emotional support animal is an animal that provides therapeutic benefits to an individual who has a mental or emotional disorder. An emotional support animal is not trained to perform tasks that assist with a physical condition.

Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals, which receive special training to help individuals with disabilities. Service animals are welcome in places that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, and stores, while emotional support animals are not recognized as a part of ADA law and have no special rights.

Some people who have no diagnosed mental or emotional disorders also have emotional support animals. Individuals who do not have diagnosed mental or emotional disorders may have an increased chance of being denied tenancy or having their animals removed from the property.

Persons who are diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder and have a letter from a mental health provider confirming their need for an emotional support animal should not be denied tenancy or have their animal removed from the property.

What are the differences between support animals and service animals? 

The most important aspect to understand about the differences between emotional support animals and service animals is that only service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service animals are specially trained animals that perform tasks for individuals with disabilities.

These animals are allowed in all public places and are protected by the ADA. Emotional support animals are animals that provide therapeutic benefits to an individual with a mental or emotional disorder. There is no special training for emotional support animals, and they are not legally allowed in public places.

To understand the differences between emotional support animals and service animals, it is helpful to understand the differences between emotional support and mental health conditions. Emotional support is when someone benefits from the companionship of an animal. Mental health conditions are diagnosed disorders that affect how a person thinks, acts, or feels.

Someone with a mental health condition benefits from an emotional support animal, in the same way, someone without a mental health condition benefits from a pet. People with mental health conditions may have a pet granted an exemption under the Fair Housing Act and may live with their animal in certain places that don’t allow pets.

Legal requirements for emotional support animals

There are no legal requirements for emotional support animals. There are specific legal requirements for service animals.

The only thing that you need to verify is whether the person requesting the emotional support animal has a mental or emotional disorder. If so, you can ask for a letter from a mental health provider confirming the diagnosis and need for emotional support. One important caveat to these legal requirements is the Fair Housing Act.

This act does not have specific requirements for what animals are allowed, but it does have specific protections for service animals. This means that individuals with mental health conditions who have documentation from a mental health provider allowing them to live with an emotional support animal do not need specific legal requirements but may fall under the Fair Housing Act.

How to determine what animals are allowed 

As a landlord, you can require the same type of documentation for emotional support animals that you would require for service animals.

This means that if your rental property allows service animals, it will also allow emotional support animals. If your rental property only allows service animals, then it won’t allow emotional support animals. You can also determine what animals are allowed by following the rule of reason.

The rule of reason means that you must act reasonably given the circumstances of the rental property. For example, if you have a rental property in a suburban area, you can allow dogs but not Great Danes, since they are too large for the space. If you have a rental property in an urban area, you might want to allow cats instead of dogs since cats are quieter and pose less of a threat to neighbors.

You can also consider the breed of the animal and its temperament. If you have a rental property in an urban area where there are children playing outside, you might want to choose a breed that is less likely to accidentally hurt the kids.

pet policy

How to handle requests for these support animals

If a tenant or potential tenant asks to bring an emotional support animal to the rental property, you have a few options. First, you can simply allow the animal.

If the emotional support animal is a service animal, you will need to follow the same procedures as if the tenant had a disability. Second, you can ask the tenant to get documentation from a mental health provider explaining the need for the emotional support animal. Third, you can deny the request. If you deny the request, you will need to follow the same procedures as if you denied a request for a service animal. You can only deny the request if the animal would cause damage to the rental property or if the animal would pose a risk to other tenants.

Creating a rental agreement for emotional support animals

If you allow support animals in your rental property, you may want to include specific language in your rental agreement.

The most important thing to include is language about cleaning up after the animal. The emotional support animal does not have the same responsibilities as a service animal. One way to word this in your rental agreement is to say that “Tenants with an emotional-support animals are responsible for cleaning up after their animals.”

You can also specify that tenants with support animals are not allowed to have the animals on furniture. You may also want to consider requiring tenants with ESL’s to keep their animals in a cage or on a leash. This is especially important if you have a large rental property.

Protecting your rental property from damage

The most important thing to do to protect your rental property from damage is to verify that the person requesting the support animal has a mental or emotional disorder. You can also follow the rule of reason when considering whether an animal poses a risk to the rental property.

For example, if a person requests to bring a boa constrictor to their rental property, you can deny the request since the snake would pose a safety risk to the property. You can also consider including specific language in your rental agreement about the type, size, and cleanliness of animals allowed on the rental property. You can also require tenants with support animals to keep the animals in a cage or on a leash when outside.

Tips for creating a fair emotional support animal policy 

If you decide to allow these animals, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First, you can allow all animals, but you must be careful to apply all other terms and conditions of your rental agreement equally across the board.

For example, if your rental agreement says that all pets must be kept indoors, you must require all tenants with these types of animals to keep their animals in the house. You cannot selectively apply different rules to different tenants. Second, you must be consistent in your enforcement. You cannot selectively enforce the terms and conditions of your rental agreement for tenants with emotional support animals.

Resources for landlords regarding support animals 

The best resource for landlords is the Fair Housing Act. This act outlines the rules and regulations for service animals and the rights of tenants with disabilities. The other resource for landlords is the American Veterinary Medical Association.

This organization has information for landlords about what animals are considered service animals and what documentation tenants with disabilities may be required to provide. They also have information for tenants about bringing a service animal to a rental property and what documentation they may be required to provide.

There are also a few websites that provide general guidelines for landlords regarding emotional support animals. One website, called the Sherpa, has a checklist with general guidelines for landlords and tenants. The National Health Law Program also has a guide for landlords regarding emotional support animals.

emotional support animal

Final thoughts on emotional-support animals

The concept of emotional support animals can seem confusing, especially when compared with service animals.

One important thing to remember is that service animals are trained to help people with disabilities. In many cases, they are legally allowed in public places where other animals are not allowed, like restaurants and hotels. 

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