what a landlord can't do

What a Landlord Can’t Do

February 9, 2022

Landlords play an essential role in the rental property business. Such as, they help you understand your lease, make repairs, and help maintain the property. However, property managers need to be aware of what they can and can’t do. Once a tenant moves in, you have limited control and have to abide by certain boundaries. Although the law differs from state to state, there are several rules all landlords must abide by no matter where they’re located.

In this article, we are going to discuss 4 things as a landlord you can’t do.

What a Landlord Can’t Do

The following are some things that a landlord can’t do once a tenant moves in.

Enter without Notice

As a landlord, you’ll want to be able to enter your property for things like inspections and repairs. However, you aren’t allowed to do this without notifying your tenant in advance.

In most instances, a landlord entering the property without the tenant’s consent can be considered trespassing. This is true regardless of whether the tenant is home or not. If a landlord fails to notify the tenant they can sue or file a claim against them.

However, there are some instances where entering without notice is ok, like if there’s a critical emergency, fire, or natural disaster.

In the majority of states, landlords must give at least a 24-hour notice before entering the property. If you’re unsure what your state’s privacy and rental laws are then seek assistance from the Department of Community Affairs.

Duplicate the Keys or Change the Locks

A landlord can’t change the rented property’s locks or keep a spare key without the tenant’s permission. Although it may not be illegal to have a spare key to the property, it could interfere with the tenant’s right to privacy.

If you’re a landlord and you wish to have a copy of the key in case of emergencies, then the tenant needs to be aware of this and it needs to be stated in the lease agreement. If you don’t have your tenant’s consent, then you can’t have a key to the property.

Also, if you change the locks without letting your tenant know it would be considered illegal. If you wish to change the locks due to a break-in or some other reason you have to let the tenant know in advance.

Therefore, you can only keep a copy of the keys and change the locks if your tenant gives you consent. Failing to do so can get you in some legal trouble.

Raise the Rent without Notice

As a landlord, in your lease you must address rent and whether or not there will be a certain percent increase each year. Once the lease agreement has been signed, there’s very little you can change after the fact.

However, sometimes the terms of your agreement can be altered if circumstances change.

Such as:

  • Another person moves into the property
  • A pet is added to the household
  • If a significant remodel occurs
  • The property is located in a rent control area

It’s important to note that you can’t increase the rent monthly, only yearly. Also, you must give your tenant proper notice before increasing the rent, ideally, this should be a month in advance.

Cut Their Tenant’s Services

In the US, it’s illegal to cut the power, water, or gas in your rental as a way to get your tenant to vacate the property. Under the rental agreement, you have to maintain the property and keep it livable. Therefore, cutting the utilities intentionally goes against your lease agreement.

If your tenant fails to pay rent and you would like to evict them, then you have to go about it the legal way. Failing to do so can result in civil penalties.

Bottom Line

A landlord may be the owner of the property, but their rights become limited once a tenant takes over the property. For instance, they cannot cut services, make rent changes unannounced, enter without notification, etc. All landlords and tenants must be aware of the landlord-tenant laws in their state and abide by them.