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Navigating Legal and Financial Duties for Accidental Landlords

Navigating Legal and Financial Duties for Accidental Landlords

Many accidental landlords are often not fully aware of what comes with their new status. It's a welcome opportunity to earn rental income and improve your financial well-being, but it's not all roses and daisies.

All landlords, regardless of how they got into the business, have certain responsibilities, some of which are coded into the law. If you negate your responsibilities, you could easily find yourself as a defendant in a court case.

This article seeks to enlighten you about some of these duties and responsibilities so that you're well-prepared for the journey ahead.

The Legal Responsibility of a Landlord

You're probably an accidental landlord because you inherited or were gifted a property. Or perhaps you're relocating and have decided to rent out your current home instead of selling it.

Either way, you're certainly eager to find a tenant and sign the lease agreement. Not so fast! Before a tenant can live in the property, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the place is reasonably fit to be lived in.

The plumbing must be in working order, as should the HVAC system. The property should be structurally sound, as well as meet Washington State and Puyallup City's building and health safety codes.

However, this isn't where your responsibility ends. Throughout the tenancy, you have to keep maintaining and repairing the property as necessary to ensure it meets the health safety standards. This also helps improve tenant satisfaction.

When a tenant raises a repair request, you must act quickly and make the necessary fixes. You also have a legal responsibility to not discriminate against a prospective renter because of their race, nation of origin, gender, religion, or other trait that's protected under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Financial Duties of a Landlord

You became a landlord by accident, but the one thing that is not accidental is you want to make money. While there are laws that protect your landlord rights and go a long way in making your rental property successful, you mostly owe it to yourself to achieve this success.

For this reason, your primary financial duty is to ensure your property has a high occupancy rate and that your tenants are reliable. Through property marketing and thorough tenant screening, it's easy to achieve both. With good tenants, rent will always be paid on time, and you can count on them to take good care of the property.

Another duty is to collect a security deposit before a tenant moves in. In Washington State, you can charge any amount for a security deposit, but the best practice is to ask for 1-2 month's rent. Although this deposit is refundable, it protects you from an unexpected loss in case the tenant damages the property or defaults on rent.

Accidental Landlords Have Their Work Cut Out 

Accidental landlords don't have it all easy. Owning a successful rental property requires you to navigate your financial and legal responsibilities competently. If you're not sure you can do that, you can hire a full-service property management company to help you.

At SJC Management Group, we've been helping landlords in Puyallup City make the most of their investments for over 30 years. Schedule a consultation to learn more about our services.