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 10 Steps to Becoming a Good Landlord: Tenant's Rights
By: Darin "Sid" Cameron, CRS
Sun, Dec 3rd, 2006 11:29 pm

If you're thinking about buying rental properties this ongoing series is addressing what you need to know about being a landlord.  Yesterday we discussed maintenance and inspections.  With that you also need to know your tenant's rights and how you can legally enter the premise.

Entering the Property/Tenant's Rights

As a landlord you need to consult with state and local government housing agencies as well as your attorney so that you know what the laws are regarding unannounced entry.  Bottom line, you do NOT have the right to enter your rental properties at will simply because you own them.

Over the past 20 years there has been an increasing number of “tenant’s rights” that restrict a landlord’s access to their rental properties.  Tenant’s rights laws are based on the idea that the agreement to rent the property between the landlord and the tenant (and NOT the paying of rent) awards the tenant a certain level of expected privacy.  By violating these laws, knowingly or unknowingly, you are legally trespassing and the tenant can seek criminal and civil actions against you.

Frequently these laws require a 24-48 hour advance written notice before you can enter a unit.  Some areas will even require a tenant to give you approval for any entry.  There are usually provisions in the law that allow you to enter for emergency repairs- fix a broken water pipe that’s leaking into a unit below it, for example- although you may have to document your entry with the tenant.

With that said, consult with your attorney because you can usually stipulate conditions with which you can access the properties in your Rental Agreement.  This may include things like yearly pest inspections and inspections of properties at the time the tenant has notified you they're moving out (see yesterday's post).

If you’re really worried about maintaining constant inspections of your rental units, there are creative solutions you can look into.  For example, I know of an apartment complex in Oklahoma where bi-weekly cleaning services are built into the price of the monthly rent.  Having the units cleaned is not optional for the tenants.  The cleaning staff takes note of any repair issues they encounter while cleaning the units and submits them on the tenant’s behalf.  Tenants then receive notice of when repairs are to occur and if they will be billed.  Tenants are allowed to reschedule, but not refuse the repairs.

Because the units are so well cared for, the landlord has felt comfortable installing luxury finishes like granite countertops in the kitchens that are not typical of a rental property.  As a result, the landlord not only gets a premium for their rents but also attracts a high quality of renter that tends to be more loyal and move out less frequently.

[ Next Article: 10 Steps to Becoming a Good Landlord: Non-Payment and Eviction ]
[ Previous Article: 10 Steps to Becoming a Good Landlord: Maintenance and Inspections ]

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Darin "Sid" Cameron spent 15 years working in the technology industry which in 1998 relocated him to St. Louis. In 2004 he took over web development tasks for Kimberly's real estate team and later became the full-time Marketing and Operations Director in 2005. In 2011 Sid launched two brokerages, The Realty Store, Inc. and Realty Referral Partners, Inc, while continuing to perform marketing and operations for Kimberly's team. Sid holds a real estate broker's license in Missouri, CRS certification and was the first CyberStar in the St. Louis area.
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