Many renters, landlords don’t understand rental laws

SEATTLE – March 11, 2014 – Demand for rental housing remains strong, but a survey by Zillow finds a lot of confusion over existing rental laws among landlords and tenants.

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

• 82 percent of renters and 76 percent of landlords lack understanding of laws on security deposits, credit and background checks
• 77 percent of renters and 69 percent of landlords lack understanding of privacy and access rights
• 62 percent of renters and 50 percent of landlords lack understanding of laws on early lease termination

The survey included people who rent the home they live in (renters) and those who own the home they live in and plus one or more additional homes that they lease (landlords).

Renters and landlords alike demonstrated the least amount of knowledge about credit and background checks, security deposits, early lease termination, and privacy and access rights.

Both renters and landlords showed the most knowledge around discriminatory advertising for rentals, responsibility for repairs and maintenance, and requirements for terminating month-to-month agreements.

“It’s concerning that so many renters and landlords are signing a legal contract without fully understanding their basic rights,” says Carey Armstrong, Zillow director of rentals. In doing so, landlords and renters could be setting themselves up for future disputes and legal costs.”

Two major rental misconceptions

Misconception 1: Security deposit laws
Eight-two percent of renters and three-quarters (76 percent) of landlords said they believe the landlord has 60 days after a lease ends to refund a security deposit (or provide an itemized deduction statement and refund the balance).

Truth: In most states security deposits must be returned between 14 and 30 days. In Florida, a landlord that does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit has 15 days to return it together with interest if otherwise required.

Misconception 2: Early lease termination
Nearly two-thirds of renters (62 percent) and half of landlords (50 percent) said the landlord has the right to terminate a lease in order to rent the home to his or her family member.

Truth: Landlords may not evict a tenant during the term of the lease simply because they would prefer to rent the unit to a friend or family member, or even to someone willing to pay higher rent.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

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