Half of Renters and Landlords Don’t Understand Rental Laws

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A new survey shows that both landlords and tenants don't understand the basics. Do you? You can take a quiz.

A new survey by Zillow, an online real estate database, shows that many landlords and renters are unfamiliar with basic requirements of rental laws. Zillow said:

On average, renters and landlords answered about half of survey questions incorrectly (47 percent incorrect for renters/50 percent for landlords) when asked about their respective rights and responsibilities.

The Zillow survey found that renters and landlords were the least knowledgeable about the following items:

  • Security deposits. While the majority of those surveyed believe landlords have 60 days after a lease ends to refund a security deposit, most states give landlords only 14 to 30 days to return the funds.
  • Early lease terminations.  Most renters and landlords think a lease can be terminated if the landlord wants to rent the dwelling to a family member. That’s not the case. Landlords cannot evict a tenant based on wanting to rent to someone else, even someone willing to pay more rent.
  • Credit and background checks. More than three-quarters of landlords and 82 percent of renters believe a landlord can reject a rental application based on a prior drug use conviction. Not true. Landlords can reject an applicant who currently uses illegal drugs or has been convicted of manufacturing or selling drugs, but not for a drug use conviction.

Zillow rentals director Casey Armstrong said in a statement:

It’s concerning that so many renters and landlords are signing a legal contract without fully understanding their basic rights. In doing so, landlords and renters could be setting themselves up for future disputes and legal costs. While rental laws vary by state and local jurisdiction, there are some important rules that affect just about everybody. Every landlord and renter should take time to research and understand their rights.

MSN Real Estate said it’s not necessary to be an expert in landlord-tenant law, but renters should brush up on the basics because “understanding your state law and the terms of your lease are your best guarantees against future problems.”

Are you a renter or landlord? Do you believe you have a grasp of basic rental laws? Take the quiz here, and share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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