Landlord Tenant Rental Law Accurate Credit Bureau

Article 1

The landlord is king of his tenant’s castle in all but a handful of the 50 states. That’s why landlord-tenant “law” has played a key role in reducing the quality and quantity of housing available to the one out of two Americans who rent.

Landlords and tenants in most states today carryon their disputes in a maze of disjointed and contradictory legislation, ordinances, ad­ministrative regulations and court decisions. All of these are based, or overlaid, on a system of “common law” devised to meet the needs of a feudal society in which noble landowners rented out their property to commoner farmers.

Neither the rights -nor the responsibilities – of landlords and tenants are spelled out clearly in those 41 states which have not yet enacted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Consequently, both sides tend to view each other with suspicion. Misunderstandings fester into accusations and arguments which can, and often do, result in violence.

Most police departments list landlord-tenant problems as second only to “family matters” as a case of violent incidents. This is not sur­prising when we consider that a man’s home usually ranks second only to his family as his most prized possession.

To eliminate some of the frustration and uncertainty, today’s urban renters and landlords are exposed to, the National Conference of Commissioners on. Uniform State Laws* decided in 1969 to try a new approach in drafting state landlord-tenant law. It appointed a special drafting committee of experts in the fields of rental and contract law, and set up goals which the “reform” legislation should meet. The act should:

Equalize the bargaining positions of landlords and tenants.
Force landlords to meet minimum standards for providing safe and habitable housing.
Spell out the responsibilities of tenants for maintaining the quality of their housing units.
Insure tenants the right to occupy a dwelling as long as they fulfill their responsibilities.
How the Conference tried to reach these goals in the Uniform Act com­pleted in 1972 will be detailed in other articles in this series. But the basic approach was to eliminate all elements of outmoded “common law” from the landlord-tenant relationship and base all phases of the rental agreement on contract law.

This meant, for example, that a tenant would not be required to pay rent to a landlord who failed to fulfill his part of the bargain. On the other hand, it also meant that if he didn’t meet his responsibilities to his landlord or fellow tenants, he could be legally evicted.

The common law approach to landlord-tenant agreements developed in the late Middle Ages when land -not housing -was the important part of a rental arrangement. A tenant would rent a property “as is,” but he had the right to improve the dwelling. Since simple carpentry and construction­ skills were part of a farmer’s basic knowledge in that era, it was easy for him to make his house “livable,” according to the standards of the day. He didn’t need to know about plumbing, electricity, elevators, or other modern “necessities.”

This system still works well in agrarian situations. The Conference recognized this when it excluded rental property primarily devoted to farming from the Uniform Act. But cities and apartments present other problems, and a tenant cannot be expected to perform his own wiring, heating or plumbing repairs. Unfortunately, in too many states this situation is not recognized by law

Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and Washington already have enacted to bring their landlord­ tenant law into the 20th Century through adoption of legislation based on the Uniform Act. Other states which have the act under consideration include Illinois, Wisconsin, Vermont, Indiana and California. The need for reform is obvious.

For more Landlord tips see Accurate Credit Bureau.

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