To avoid being abused by bad tenants, a landlord should understand the basic landlord rights before renting property. These rights should be understood but also written and signed as part of the rental lease under the rights of the landlord clause. The Rights of Landlord clause in a lease defines what rights the landlord can exercise with respect to the leased property.
13 Landlord Rights for Renting Properties
1. The Right to Choose Your Tenants. You are legally free to choose among prospective tenants as long as your decisions are based on valid business criteria. You can reject applicants for poor credit, low or inconsistent income or poor past rental behavior including property damage or late payments. You can also deny a rental agreement with someone who cannot pay a security deposit or last month’s rent or any other condition required the lease agreement. Bear in mind that The Federal Fair Housing Acts prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, familial status, physical or mental disability (including recovering alcoholics and people with a past drug addiction). Many states and cities also prohibit discrimination based on marital status or sexual orientation.
2. The Right to have a Signed Lease and Compliance with the Tenancy Agreement. Whether oral or in writing, your tenant is required to follow the terms of the lease. If the terms of the lease are broken, you have the right to terminate the tenancy and to move to evict.
3. Right to Refuse Sublease. You agreed to rent property to one party so a sublease is a change to the original rental agreement and is therefore grounds for termination.
4. The Right to Collect Rent, the Right to Prompt Payment. The landlord’s most basic right and priority is to collect rent. You have the right to receive the rent on the first of each month unless the parties otherwise agree.
You can also specify the following criteria:
the amount of rent (there is no limit on rent in Washington State since there is no rent control)
where rent is due (by mail to the landlord’s business address or in person at the business office)
when rent is due (including the due date when rent falls on a weekend or holiday)
how rent should be paid (check, money order, cash, and/or credit card)
5. The Right to Collect Last Month’s Rent. Last month’s rent is a prepayment made at the beginning of the tenancy to be applied to the last month of the tenancy. If rent is increased, you are entitled to ask the tenant to pay the difference to bring the amount held up to the current rent level.
6. The Right to Collect a Security Deposit and withhold it to Cover Damages. Upon termination of the tenancy, you must return the security deposit or balance thereof within 30 days of the tenant’s vacating. You may only deduct for the following items:
Unpaid rent not lawfully withheld
Unpaid increases in real estate taxes
Any reasonable amount necessary to repair damage caused by the tenant, their pets or guests. You must provide documentation showing estimated costs of each repair.
Note that if damages exceed the security deposit, you are free to withhold the security deposit and bill/sue for the additional damage. The normal wear and tear in an apartment is not a deductible item of damage.
7. The Right of Entry. A landlord has a right to enter property at any time for an emergency, at reasonable times to inspect, clean or repair the property and with 48 hours notice to show the property to prospective future renters.
8. The Right to the Control of Premises. This right includes the ability to alter, repair or preserve the property, change the name or street address or grant the right to run a business (if in accordance with the law).
9. The Right to Charge a Late Payment Penalty. Washington state law does not cover late payment penalties except to say that you cannot charge a late fee unless the rules are laid out in the rental agreement. For example, rent may be due the 1st of each month but there may be a grace period of five days before a 5% late fee is assessed.
10. The Right to Charge a Bounced Check Fee. Landlords in Washington may charge a bounced check fee of 12% interest plus the cost of collection (it cannot exceed $40.00 or the amount of the check, whichever is less). The landlord must first send the tenant a notice of dishonor then wait 15 days before charging the fee.
11. The Right to Increase Rent. You may increase the rent in any amount you believe the market will bear for a non-subsidized unit. For a tenant under a lease, however, you must wait until the lease expires to raise rent. Under a month to month rental agreement, you must provide 30 days notice in writing to increase rent.
12. The Right to Charge for Utilities. You may require tenants to pay their own electricity and gas bills but it should be written into the tenancy agreement.
13. The Right to Terminate a Lease and Evict Tenants.
Tenants under lease: If you want to evict a tenant under a lease for a reason other than nonpayment, the lease will generally tell you what type of Notice to Quit you must use and when to serve it. If you are evicting the tenant for nonpayment, you must send a 14 day Notice to Quit.
Tenants on month to month lease: If you want to evict a tenant for a reason other than nonpayment, or for no reason, you must give the tenant a 30 day Notice to Quit. If the eviction is for nonpayment, you must give a 14 day Notice to Quit.
The Right to Grant Exclusive Rights to Commercial Retail Tenants. This right allows the landlord to attract valuable retail tenants for desirable terms by offering them the ability to run their business without the risk of competition in the same building.
Being a landlord is a business venture that comes with many rights and responsibilities. Just as it is important to know your rights as a tenant, you should know your rights as a landlord. An informed partnership is more likely to result in a positive exchange.
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