Top 5 Landlord-Tenant Laws to Know in Your State


Landlord-tenant relationships need balance. 

Your tenants have rights and protections under the law, but so do you. By entering into a rental agreement with a tenant, both parties agree to adhere to the landlord-tenant laws in your state, in addition to the policies listed in the rental agreement.

But what are those landlord-tenant laws?

There are a few foundational landlord-tenant laws established by the federal government, but most rules and regulations for landlords are determined by the states. 

You can’t create a lease that complies with these laws unless you research them—and you shouldn’t wait for something to go wrong to do so.

Here are the top five landlord-tenant laws to know in your state before signing any lease agreement.

#1 Late Fees and Grace Periods

Late fees and grace periods are two of the fundamental elements of any lease. Your leases may instate one, both, or neither, depending on how much leniency you aim to give your tenants.

Late fees and grace periods are both regulated by state laws. Late fees typically must be reasonable. What’s “reasonable” is determined based on precedence from the courts, although many states provide explicit limits (e.g., in Ohio, late fees must not exceed the higher of $20 or 20% of monthly rent).

Grace periods, or the amount of time landlords must wait before enforcing late fees or sending a rent demand notice, are also regulated in many states. These mandatory grace periods vary from two days to 15 days.

While it’s okay not to enforce late fees if you’d rather not have them, you cannot neglect to include a grace period if one is required by your state.

#2 Security Deposits

Security deposits are also highly regulated across the states. 

State laws regulate:

  • Security deposit amounts
  • Where they should be stored
  • Whether interest applies
  • How long you can wait to return the deposit after move-out
  • Acceptable reasons for withholding funds 
  • Whether an itemized list of deductions is required

Almost all states designate an amount limit (around one to two months’ rent) and maximum return limit, but some also require interest payments and detailed lists of deductions upon move-out. 

#3 Fair Housing Act

Fair housing laws are perhaps the most critical legislation every landlord should know. Not only is fair housing a critical issue, but violating fair housing laws has steep consequences.

The primary law to note is the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law instated during the Civil Rights Movement. This law establishes seven federal fair housing act protected classes: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial status, and disability. It’s illegal to discriminate against renters based on any of these seven characteristics, especially during tenant screening, writing rental advertisements, or enforcing rental policies.

In addition to the FHA, each state has their own fair housing act. Many states extend the FHA’s protections to age, ancestry, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other classes.

Lastly, many states also enforce disability rental rights for tenants with physical or mental disabilities. You must make reasonable modifications to your rental units or policies for tenants with disabilities.

#4 Landlord Entry 

Landlord entry is a commonly questioned right. Are landlords always free to enter their units? What about in emergencies?

Most states required “reasonable” advanced notice before entering your tenants’ units, typically interpreted as at least 24 hours before entry. However, some states require 48 hours’ notice or more. And two states (Florida and Vermont) only allow landlords to enter during specific hours of the day.

Most states uphold emergency entry without notice, even if not explicitly codified.

#5 Eviction Laws

The last type of landlord-tenant law you should know are eviction laws. The states have individual (but similar) processes for evicting a tenant. You should know the basic steps of the process, as well as the different types of notices you might be required to provide before filing for eviction:

  • Rend demand notices, pay-or-quit notices, and notices for nonpayment are all notices you must provide your tenant when they fail to pay rent on time. You must send this notice after any mandatory grace periods and wait the designated period before filling for eviction.
  • Notices for Lease Violations are for other breaches of the lease agreement, such as subletting without your permission or keeping an animal in a unit where pets are not allowed. Typically, tenants have a set period to correct the violation before you can file for eviction.
  • Notices to Cease are warnings issued to a tenant before a formal notice to quit.
  • Unconditional Quit Notices are reserved for severe breaches of the lease, such as illegal drug manufacturing or selling on the premises. These notices are shorter (e.g., 5 days), and they require the tenant to move out immediately. You need not give tenants the opportunity to correct their violation.


Landlord-tenant laws may not be your preferred reading material, but it’s essential that you review them. Many laws are updated regularly, and new ones (such as restrictions on the use of criminal background checks for screening) are added each year. Stay in the know about landlord-tenant laws to operate your rentals as smoothly as possible.

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