If you own (or are getting ready to own) property in Baltimore, then you want to be on top of your game when it comes to the legal ins and outs. Whether you’re dealing with leasing issues or rental concerns, you want to know that you are following the law. With our Baltimore property management team weighing in, we have compiled five legal things a property owner needs to know.
1. Follow Fair Housing Laws
The Fair Housing Act ensures that all categories of people are protected from discrimination when attempting to buy or rent a home. A property manager can tell you that during the application, tenant screening, and leasing process, owners can’t discriminate against anyone because of:
- Familial status
- National origin
This means real estate investment owners can’t refuse to rent to someone for any of these reasons. Real estate investors also can’t set different terms or conditions based on these factors that affect how they manage one renter versus another. Make sure you're familiar with these laws and work with Baltimore City property managers to avoid discriminatory practices while operating rental properties.
2. Create a Legal Lease Agreement
A property manager can advise that lease agreements are binding documents, and it's critical to make sure they follow the law. You may find a free lease agreement online, but rental owners need to ensure that the template complies with local, state, and federal laws.
A legal lease agreement is a governing document between owners and the tenant. It will include details such as the amount of the rent, the lease term, and the rules that tenants must follow to live in the property. The rental agreement also holds landlords accountable for their responsibilities as required by law. Working with a Baltimore MD property management company will ensure your lease follows the law and protects your property and income. With a stellar lease in place, rental owners have the protection they need to enforce the rules when tenants break them.
3. Add a Pet Addendum to a Lease
Many people have pets or want to get a pet for their home. It’s up to rental property owners whether they allow pets in a property. When permitting pets, a property management team knows it's critical to add a pet addendum to the lease. This document includes the rules for having an animal in the rental, the pet deposit amount, and the penalties for violating the rules with a pet.
However, without knowing the law when creating the document, a tenant might see the pet addendum as an unfair or discriminatory document. Property management companies in Baltimore can help you include everything you need in a pet addendum while following the law.
4. Process Security Deposits the Right Way
When a new tenant moves into your property, property owners collect a security deposit. This refundable fee is held in case there is any tenant-caused damage done to the property. A property owner must understand how much they can collect, how to hold the deposit during the lease term, and how to process it after a renter moves out.
In Maryland, investors can charge up to two months' rent for the deposit. You must also provide the tenant with a written receipt that outlines the tenant about their rights. Maryland’s law states that you must return the deposit within 45 days minus any costs for repairs. If you hold $50 or more for longer than six months, it begins to accrue interest.
Understanding normal wear and tear versus damage when conducting the move-out inspection can be tricky. If you're not sure how to categorize the condition of a rental and process the security deposit, a Baltimore MD property management team can help!
5. Know When You Can (and Can't) Enter a Rental Property
Property owners need to enter a rental to conduct inspections or respond to emergencies. However, just showing up and walking into a rental occupied by tenants violates the law. Landlord-tenant laws state that tenants have the right to privacy, and property owners must follow privacy laws when entering a rental.
Give adequate notice that you'll be onsite and work with residents to find a mutually agreed upon time when workers can enter to do repairs or maintenance. Avoid surprising residents with a visit unless you're aware of an emergency that requires immediate attention.
A Baltimore Property Management Company Helps Investors Follow the Law
A Baltimore property management company can provide that buffer you need between you, your tenants, and the hassles of keeping up with all the legal requirements. Baltimore property managers stay on top of the various laws, allowing you to focus on other priorities without worrying about your rentals! Rentwell offers expert rental property management services to help real estate investors navigate the law and maximize returns. Get in touch with us and find out how we help rental property owners comply with laws while building long-term relationships with tenants!