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Landlord Tenant Law

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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Also see: Rental Contracts | Lease Provisions | Lt Law

      Landlords still have the upper hand in the old south. Tenants own lawmakers in the northeast and upper Midwest. New York City and some cities in California are nuts. The following are a few examples of unusual state statutes that demonstrate  the differences between states.

 

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Common Law Vs. LT-Law
Nonpayment of rent is against the law; a misdemeanor
Enticing away a tenant is illegal

Security Deposit Law; not
Illegal use of premises
Criminal Damages by Tenant
Landlord Liens
Holding Over

Virginia:

Common Law Vs. LT-Law

      Mom and Pop Property owners can opt out of the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act under certain circumstances. English or Common Law would then govern the landlord-tenant relationship, or what ever is written in the actual lease agreement. Under Common Law a tenant accepts a property "as is" and "is responsible for repairs".

Arkansas:

18-16-101. Failure to pay rent - Refusal to vacate upon notice - Penalty

(b)  If, after ten (10) days' notice in writing shall have been given by the landlord or his agent or attorney to the tenant to vacate the dwelling house or other building or land, the tenant shall willfully refuse to vacate and surrender the possession of the premises to the landlord or his agent or attorney, the tenant shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction before any justice of the peace or other court of competent jurisdiction in the county where the premises are situated, the tenant shall be fined in any sum not less than one dollar ($1.00) nor more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for each offense. Each day the tenant shall willfully and unnecessarily hold the dwelling house or other building or land after the expiration of notice to vacate shall constitute a separate offense. 

Arkansas 18-16-104. Thou Shalt Not Entice My Tenant

      If any person shall interfere with, entice away, knowingly employ, or induce a renter who has contracted with another person for a specified time to leave the leased premises before the expiration of his contract without the consent of the landlord, that person shall, upon conviction before any justice of the peace or circuit court, be fined not less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500). In addition, he shall be liable to the landlord for all advances made by him to the renter by virtue of his contract, whether verbal or written, with the renter and for all damages which he may have sustained by reason thereof. 

Security Deposits

      Security Deposits have become the most regulated issue in landlord-tenant relationships, perhaps because landlords became notorious for spending the tenant's deposit and refusing to return the money. Most state law now contains extensive language covering: how much a landlord can charge, where the money is kept and how and when it must be returned. Some municipalities have enacted even more onerous ordinances expanding on their state law.

However, Alabama still allows consenting adults to make their own agreements. There is no applicable state law. Security amount, deductions, and the return are governed by the lease or rental agreement.

Illegal use of premises

      The bane of most landlords, and communities, now days is drug use and dealing. Many states even allow for voiding a lease and early eviction if a tenant is  only "charged" with a drug offence. Others have adopted so-called padlock, or lock-out, ordinances that can result in actual confiscation of property in the event of drug infractions. It wasn't always that way. Check out this section in   Connecticut law:

Sec. 47a-31. Illegal use of premises voids lease.

      When the lessee or tenant of any house, room, tenement or dwelling unit is convicted of keeping a house of ill-fame therein, resorted to for the purpose of prostitution or lewdness, or of a violation therein of any law against gaming, the lease, contract or rental agreement for letting such house, room, tenement or dwelling unit shall thereupon be void; and the lessor may recover possession of the premises in the manner prescribed in this chapter, but notice to quit possession shall not be required.

Criminal Damages by Tenant

      Karen Pio, and other hardworking landlords in the state of Connecticut, managed to get enacted one of the best new landlord tenant laws in the nation. The Act is simple: if you break it, you pay for it, or pay some other way. What a concept.

SUBJECT: STATUTE 53a - 117e (1996) AN ACT CONCERNING LANDLORD AND TENANT which states:

Section 1 (a) - A tenant is guilty of criminal damage of a landlord's property in the first degree when, with intent to cause damage to tangible property of the landlord of the premises and having no reasonable ground to believe that he has a right to do so, he damages such property in an amount exceeding $1 , 500.00.

(CLASS D FELONY)
STATUTE 53a - 117f

Section 2 (a) - A tenant is guilty of criminal damage of a landlord's property in the second degree when, with intent to cause damage to tangible property of the landlord of the premises and having no reasonable ground to believe that he has a right to do so, he damages such property in an amount exceeding $250.00. (CLASS A

MISDEMEANOR)

The purpose of this Public Act is to simply clarify that the damages stemmed from a landlord - tenant dispute and that this charge should be applied when probable cause exists for an arrest.

Landlord Liens

      Most landlords are good-hearted and easy to con. If the rent is due on the first, they don't even contact the tenant until it is 10 to 15 days past due. Then, when they get the sad story, they usually agree to hold off taking any action for another week or two. By the time notices are served, court has come and gone, and a writ for possession is finally issued, there will be two or three months without rent and perhaps no way to ever collect it.
      It wasn't always that way. American landlord tenant law was based on English Common Law which allowed landlords an automatic lien on crops and property if any rent was in default. Some older state law continues that concept.

Arkansas:

18-16-108. Property left on premises after termination of lease

      Upon the voluntary or involuntary termination of any lease agreement, all property left in and about the premises by the lessee shall be considered abandoned and may be disposed of by the lessor as the lessor shall see fit without recourse by the lessee. All property placed on the premises by the tenant or lessee is subjected to a lien in favor of the lessor for the payment of all sums agreed to be paid by the lessee. 

West Virginia:

37-6-17. Attachment for rent.

     On complaint by any landlord or person entitled to rent, or his agent, to a justice, that any person liable to him for rent intends to remove, or is removing, or has within thirty days removed his effects from the leased premises, if such landlord or person entitled to rent, or his agent, make oath to the truth of such complaint to the best of his belief, and to the rent which is reserved (whether in money or other thing) and will be payable within one year, and the time or times when it will be payable, and also make oath either that there is not, or he believes, unless an attachment issues, there will not be, left on such premises, property liable to distress sufficient to satisfy the rent so to become payable, such justice shall, if the landlord or person entitled to rent, or his agent, shall execute before such justice a bond in the penalty and with the conditions prescribed in section eight, article seven, chapter thirty-eight of this code, issue an order of attachment for such rent against the personal estate of the person so liable therefor.  If the amount of rent claimed by the landlord or person entitled to the rent, or his agent, exclusive of interest, is fifty dollars or less than that amount, the order of attachment shall be returnable before the justice issuing the order, or another justice; if the amount of rent so claimed, exclusive of interest, is more than fifty dollars and not more than three hundred dollars, the order of attachment may be returnable before the justice issuing the order, or another justice, or to the next term of the circuit court thereafter; and if the amount of rent so claimed, exclusive of interest, attachment shall be returnable to the next term of the circuit court thereafter.

Mississippi:

SEC. 89-7-51. Lien of landlord.

(2) All articles of personal property, except a stock of merchandise sold in the normal course of business, owned by the lessee of real property and situated on the leased premises shall be subject to a lien in favor of the lessor to secure the payment of rent for such premises as has been contracted to be paid, whether or not then due. Such lien shall be subject to all prior liens or other security interests perfected according to law. No such articles of personal property may be removed from the leased premises until such rent is paid except with the written consent of the lessor. All of the provisions of law as to attachment for rent and proceedings thereunder shall be applicable with reference to the lessor's lien under this subsection.

Holding Over

      The lease will be up at the end of the month, the tenant says they do not intend to renew, the landlord rents the premises to another, then the original tenant doesn't leave. It happens everyday in every way, in every state.
      In most cases, the only recourse a landlord has is eviction. However, some states still have some sense in their statutes.

Arkansas:

18-16-107. Failure to quit after notice of intention

(a) If any tenant shall give notice in writing of his intention to quit the premises held by him at a time specified in the notice and shall not deliver up the possession thereof at such time, the tenant, his executor or administrator, shall henceforth pay to the landlord, his heirs or assigns, double the rent reserved during all the time the tenant shall so continue in possession of the premises. 

Mississippi:

SEC. 89-7-25. Tenant holding after notice liable for double rent.

      When a tenant, being lawfully notified by his landlord, shall fail or refuse to quit the demised premises and deliver up the same as required by the notice, or when a tenant shall give notice of his intention to quit the premises at a time specified, and shall not deliver up the premises at the time appointed, he shall, in either case, thenceforward pay to the landlord double the rent which he should otherwise have paid, to be levied, sued for, and recovered as the single rent before the giving of notice could be; and double rent shall continue to be paid during all the time the tenant shall so continue in possession.

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