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Lack of understanding in rental laws

As home prices and mortgage rates have risen over the past year, more Americans have decided to remain in their rental homes and put off purchasing a house. Despite more renters, fewer Americans understand rental laws. According to a recent survey by Zillow, half of renters and landlords don't fully understand rental laws.

While there are generally fewer responsibilities associated with renting compared with home ownership, understanding rental laws is still important.

In the survey, there were a number of things that most tenants and landlords both seemed to know and understand, such as who is responsible for repairs and maintenance in a rental, what discriminatory advertising is and how to terminate a month-to-month rental agreement. While these are all important laws to understand as both a tenant and a landlord, there are many more laws when it comes to signing a lease and living in or owning a rental. For example, both landlords and tenants lacked the full knowledge of access and privacy rights.

Top mistakes

Here are some of the top things that landlords and renters got wrong:

  • Security deposits - A majority of landlords responded that they have 60 days to refund a security deposit once a tenant moves out. Landlords were largely wrong with this answer, as most states require a refund between 14 and 30 days.

  • Early terminations - When a landlord wants to terminate a lease early in order to rent out the same apartment to a family member, most landlords and tenants responded that this could occur. In fact, a landlord may not lawfully evict a tenant in order to allow someone else to move into the space. This is true even if another tenant is willing to pay more for the lease.

  • Credit and background checks - It is common practice for tenants to undergo a credit and/or background check before they are approved for a lease. When asked whether or not a landlord can reject a lease application due to a prior drug-use conviction, an overwhelming majority of tenants and landlords responded that this was the case. However, landlords may not reject an application because of a drug-use conviction, but they may reject someone because of a conviction for manufacturing or selling drugs.

    While understanding your rights and state laws as either a landlord or tenant is important, it is crucial to invest in rental insurance to ensure that your belongings are safe in case of damage or theft. Additionally, renters insurance can provide you with liability coverage in case someone gets hurt at your place.
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