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Landlord-Tenant Law: Trap for the Unwary

Over the past few years, it seems that more people are renting than ever before. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the resulting influx of new landlords and tenants, combined with the complexities of ever-evolving landlord-tenant law, often spells a recipe for disaster. Landlord-tenant law presents many traps for the unwary, and both parties would be wise to learn their respective rights and obligations in advance.

Landlords owe a variety of obligations to their tenants. For instance, landlords must typically deliver full possession of the property, make various disclosures, comply with security deposit requirements, make certain repairs, and ensure that the property is habitable. A property may be deemed uninhabitable if it violates housing or health codes, lacks proper heating and cooling, or has plumbing, water, or electrical work that doesn’t conform to law. Furthermore, it is always important to remember that the law does not tolerate discrimination in the landlord-tenant relationship.

Likewise, tenants must fulfill various obligations to their landlords. These obligations commonly include timely paying rent, maintaining the property in a clean, safe, and habitable condition, avoiding actions that disturb their neighbors, and using utilities in a reasonable manner.

Either party may seek remedies against the other for failing to fulfill legal or contractual obligations, including eviction, terminating the lease, injunctive relief, or recovering damages.

It is typical, and certainly advisable, for a landlord and tenant to enter into a written lease agreement. However, a lease is a binding contract that has the potential to substantially increase your legal obligations or severely limit your legal remedies. Therefore, it is vital that you fully understand what you are signing. A competent attorney well-versed in contracts and landlord-tenant law can help.

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