What a Landlord Cannot Do: 17 Things To Improve Tenant Satisfaction

what a landlord cannot do

Are you a first-time landlord familiarizing with what a landlord cannot do? When it comes to the Buy and Hold real estate investing strategy, you’re always going to have tenants you need to manage.

This article highlights the tenant rights and things a landlord can and cannot do, including the application process. Also, we provide tips on improving the landlord and tenant relationship. 

When Can the Landlord NOT Reject an Application?

There are laws in place to protect renters from avoiding any form of discrimination. For example, according to the Fair Housing Act, a landlord can’t reject an application based on someone’s gender, race, national origin, or ethnicity. They also can’t deny someone’s application because they are disabled or because of their family status. 

When CAN a Landlord Reject an Application?

A landlord can reject an application for a variety of different reasons. These include the applicant’s low credit score, a past eviction, poor rental history, not enough income, or not passing a background check. 

They can also reject an application if they find that the applicant has falsified any documents or information that they provided them with. Landlords can reduce the likelihood of dismissing an application by letting applicants know upfront what criteria are needed to rent an apartment from them. 

10 Things a Landlord Cannot Do

1. Prohibit service animals

While specific properties don’t allow pets, they must allow service animals. It is illegal for landlords to prohibit trained service animals on their property. 

Landlords can’t ask an individual to prove that they have a disability, but they can ask to see paperwork that a medical professional has certified the service animal.

2. Refuse to make reasonable repairs

Rented properties need to be safe at all times. Because of this, landlords can’t refuse to make major repairs. If they do, a tenant may legally withhold rent payments until the landlord makes repairs. However, they still need to pay the rent after the landlord has made the necessary repairs to the dwelling.

3. Enter a tenant’s home without proper notice

When trying to figure out what a landlord cannot do, tenants often wonder if their landlord can just come into their home. A landlord must give the tenant at least 24-hour notice before entering the home in many states. However, a landlord may enter a tenant’s home without giving proper notice if an emergency occurs, such as a fire or a medical issue.

4. Increase rent without notice

Typically, a tenant’s lease term is for one year. Thus, a landlord can’t raise the tenant’s rent until the lease agreement is over. However, for month-to-month tenants, landlords must give them at least 30 days’ notice.

So, although the rental market may be hot and a landlord would love to charge market rent, the lease is a legally binding contract preventing a landlord from raising rent.

5. Use a tenant’s space

The tenant’s space is for the tenant only unless the rental agreement states otherwise. Therefore, a landlord can’t use any part of the tenant’s space unless agreed to beforehand.

6. Allow lead content

Lead can be hazardous to tenants, but it used to be commonly used in paint. Because of this, some rentals still have lead present even though it is illegal. You can usually find lead paint in homes built before 1978.

If a landlord knows there’s lead in their rental property, they need to remove it immediately. However, some landlords sign a disclosure that they are unaware of the lead paint regardless of the property’s age.

7. Discriminate against tenants

Under no circumstances can a landlord discriminate against a tenant, and they can’t evict them because of their race or ethnicity. Unfortunately, tenants cannot prove they are being discriminated against unless they have it in writing, such as through emails or text messages.

8. Unlawfully evict tenants

Landlords can’t unlawfully evict tenants, and they do need to have a valid reason to pursue eviction proceedings. These reasons can include things like paying rent late or having unauthorized individuals living with them.

Additionally, a landlord is required to give a formal eviction notice through a written notice. This letter is for documentation purposes if there is legal action and this situation goes to small claims court. If a landlord wants to pursue other proper legal channels, such as hiring a real estate attorney, they would need this letter for their reference.

9. Change locks without notice

Tenants should have keys to their rented property at all times, which is why a landlord can’t change locks on the premises without giving the tenant notice. When a landlord does have to change the locks, they need to provide the tenant a key immediately to access the property.

10. Withhold a tenant’s security deposit

The tenant should be given their security deposit after moving out if the rented property is in good condition. On the other hand, after thorough inspections, the landlord can keep the security deposit to make repairs above normal wear and tear, including cleaning, to the property.

A landlord should return the remaining amount from the security deposit. Furthermore, the landlord should show documentation of the work or services performed on the rental unit.

4 Things a Landlord Can Do

1. Perform maintenance requests

For a property to remain in good shape, the landlord will have to repair it on occasion. Because of this, they will need to perform maintenance requests. If the tenant can’t be home during this time, the landlord can access the property as long as they have given the proper notice to the tenant.

2. Serve a court order

When a landlord needs to evict a tenant, they may have to do so through a court order. Landlords are allowed to serve a court order or have someone else do it for them. 

However, many landlords don’t want to risk confrontation with their tenants, so they end up having a process server or a sheriff serve the court order.

3. Health or safety concerns

In some instances, a landlord may have some health or safety concerns about their property. When this occurs, a tenant must let a landlord inspect it to ensure that there isn’t anything that a landlord needs to address.

4. Show the property for sale

It’s not uncommon for some landlords to place their property for sale even though tenants still occupy it. During this time, they can show the property to realtors and prospective buyers. However, they are still required to give their tenants notice, and they can’t just show up at the property unexpectedly for a showing.

What Happens if a Landlord is in Violation

If a landlord violates any of their tenant’s rights, the tenant does have options. They may be able to take them to court and withhold rent for a specific period. What a landlord cannot do and how the tenant handles any violations do vary in each state.

3 Tips to be a Better Landlord

Screen tenants

To minimize headaches, landlords need to find the best tenants possible, which can be done by thoroughly screening each individual interested in renting their property. This screening can include a credit and background check, verifying employment, and calling their past landlords. It may take several days to screen each applicant, but it is worth it as it will allow the landlord to find the best tenant to rent their property.

Know your state laws

When it comes to renting a property, landlords will find that state laws vary quite a bit. As a result, they may be surprised as to what a landlord cannot do. 

Because of this, they need to know all of their state laws about renting, which will help ensure that they don’t inadvertently violate any of them. In addition, state laws may frequently change, so landlords should review them often.


Landlords are more likely to have great tenants if they develop a good relationship with them. Therefore, they should try to communicate with them as much as possible, and they should do things to show them that they value them as a tenant. 

If a tenant has a complaint, do not dismiss their comments. A tenant that feels valued is more likely to respect your rental property.

They can do this by taking care of repairs right away and calling the tenant occasionally if they haven’t heard from them in a while. By building a relationship with the tenant, the landlord will find that the tenant is more likely to take care of the property and pay their rent on time every month.

Final Thoughts

Every state has different tenant laws when it comes to renting a property. Therefore, you must familiarize yourself with these laws to avoid putting yourself in an unfavorable situation. 

Although the list of what a landlord cannot do may seem obvious, sometimes emotions can get the best of you due to a frustrating tenant. Thus, landlords should be sure to screen their tenants while the relationship between tenants and landlords should be friendly and professional at the same time.

And, if you feel like you can’t deal with the stress of managing tenants, you should consider hiring a property management company. You just need to budget for their fee as part of your monthly expenses. 

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Jonathan is a husband and father to two crazy kids. He is an engineer, real estate investor, and personal finance blogger. He owns a small real estate business that operates a couple of investment properties in his local market. He has been featured in Business Insider, USA Today, FOX Business, The Simple Dollar, The Dollar Sprout, and more! Join him on Twitter,FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

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