Positioning Yourself for Success As a Landlord
If you’re thinking about becoming a full-time landlord, take time to ensure you’re aware of Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws and have the legal documents you need to protect your interests.
There are many points to consider before you begin searching for tenants. Following are some tips for aspiring landlords:
Forget about being nice.
Some landlords make the mistake of letting a friend or relative move into their rental property without a lease. But when those arrangements go awry, those kindhearted landlords may suffer financial losses – and a permanently damaged interpersonal relationship.
Any tenant – even a relative – should understand why you require a lease. If you feel sheepish asking someone you know to sign a lease, explain that it protects their rights, too.
Resist the urge to rent to anyone based on a “good feeling” – even the worst tenants can seem charming when you first meet them.
Use a professional screening service – and not just for tenants.
Most landlords know that screening tenants is essential, but you also need to conduct background checks on any maintenance workers you hire. If you outsource painting, plumbing, or other tasks, choose to work with companies that perform their own background checks on employees.
Take care of your property.
When tenants have a maintenance request, follow-up with them as soon as possible. Failing to perform repairs can lead to legal trouble, especially if repairs are needed to restore necessities like heat, hot water, and sewage disposal. If you own an old building where major maintenance issues are more likely to arise, you may want to hire your own personnel to take care of the property, rather than rely on contractors.
Don’t forget about maintaining the exterior of the building. Overgrown yards and tall weeds could land you in trouble with the health department. Plus, tenants who think their landlord doesn’t care about appearances may be less inclined to keep their apartment in good condition.
Be aware of housing discrimination laws.
Any rental advertisement, application, or lease should be free of any language that could be construed as discriminatory. Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of: race or color, religion, national origin, familial status (including pregnant women and families with children under age 18), disability, or gender. Maryland law expands discrimination protections to include marital status, gender identification, or sexual orientation.
These laws apply not only to the written word, but also to personal interactions. So, for example, if a landlord told a potential tenant that a property was unavailable for rent when it actually was available for rent, that potential tenant could allege discrimination.
Prepare for the worst.
Your lease should be constructed in a way that you have legal grounds to evict problem tenants, such as those who:
- Never pay rent on time
- Have let other people move into the dwelling, without your authorization
- Are using the property for illegal purposes
- Are a nuisance to occupants of other dwellings in your building.
Have an attorney create your lease, to ensure policies and consequences cannot be misconstrued by either tenants or Maryland courts.
Lusk Law, LLC, prepares leases for landlords and provides legal guidance on issues landlords may encounter. Should you ever have a tenant matter that ends up in court, we are prepared to represent you in litigation, too. Our experienced attorneys have provided legal counsel and representation to landlords in Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll County, Washington County, Anne Arundel County, and other counties in Maryland. Please call us at or fill out our contact form if you need advice on any aspect of landlord-tenant law.
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