Landlord Notifications and Disclosures

Landlord notifications and disclosures are business practices required by federal, state, and local laws. The nature of the notification or disclosure and the method of delivery may be specific to the circumstances and the jurisdictional requirements of the rental property location.
There are a variety of circumstances that may require a landlord to provide notice to his tenant. Notifications can convey information and instructions of important rental matters; e.g., lease terms, house rules, and rental practices, of which some matters, may require a confirmation of receipt from the tenant. As relevant to their subject matter, it may be a better rental practice to provide notices to tenants in written forms such as published electronically on a tenant portal or delivered by certified mail and require written response from the tenant. This provides an audit trail to help defend against a claim of discrimination or unfair treatment by a landlord.
Landlord notification letters may be issued for a number of rental matters including but not limited to:
• Lease defaults
• Late, missed rent
• Property damage
• Inspection schedules
• Repair/maintenance work schedule
• Landlord intent to enter
• Property management policies/changes
• Lease renewal
• Change in rent
• Utility costs
• Non-renewal of lease
• Lease termination
• Move-out procedures
• Disposal of abandoned personal property
It is the landlord’s obligation to conduct due diligence to determine the notification requirements specific to statutes governing his property’s location. Competent legal advice may be advisable for guidance on some rental matters.
Most commonly, notifications are served to tenants for material lease defaults. Notices include:
Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
Since failure to pay rent is the most common reason to initiate eviction actions, the Notice to Pay Rent or Quit is the notice most often used. A Notice to Pay Rent or Quit demands that the tenant pay his rent within the statutory period a (specified number of days) and, if not paid, to move out (Quit), ending his occupancy.
If delinquency exists in the payment of any portion of rent due, a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit may be served on the delinquent tenant, in most states, as early as the day following the rent due date. If rent is due on the first, a notice may legally be served on the next day absent a grace period being specified in the lease agreement or by state law.
A few states will not allow service of a termination notice (either a Pay Rent or Quit Notice or an Unconditional Quit Notice) until the rent is a certain number of days late. In these states, tenants enjoy a statutory grace period plus the time specified in the Pay Rent or Quit Notice in which to come up with the rent.
Statutes require the landlord to provide the Notice a minimum number of days before the lease can be terminated and a lawsuit for possession filed with the Court. The Notice gives the tenant a few days (usually 3 to 10 days in most states) to pay all rent owed or to move out.
Notice to Cure or Quit
A Notice to Cure or Quit demands that the tenant comply with one or more terms of the lease agreement (Cure) and, if the tenant does not comply, to end his occupancy (Quit). Notices to Cure or Quit are typically given after a violation of a term or condition of the lease agreement, such as nuisance, waste or illegal use. Usually, the tenant has a specified amount of time in which to cure the violation.
Unconditional Notice to Quit
An Unconditional Quit Notice orders the tenant to vacate the rental premises and does not allow the tenant to cure any violation of the lease agreement. These notices are the strongest of all termination notices and mean exactly what they say. The tenant must move without an opportunity to pay back rent, correct some other lease violation, or otherwise change his behavior. In most states, Unconditional Quit Notices are used when the tenant has:
• Been late with the rent on more than one occasion,
• Repeatedly committed a material lease agreement violation,
• Committed serious waste or damage to the premises, or
• Engaged in illegal activity, such as drug dealing on the premises.
In a few states, the Unconditional Quit Notice is the only notice statute for any type of violation including late rent or breach of the lease agreement.
The federal government and many states and cities require landlords to disclose certain information to prospective and current tenants. Some disclosure laws require landlords to make disclosures before entering into rental relationship with a tenant, while others require landlords to incorporate certain language in the lease agreement
Federal Disclosure
The federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act (Title X) requires landlords renting property built before 1978 to disclose to prospective tenants that there may be a health hazard due to the use of lead paint.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces Title X. To comply with the EPA’s regulations, a landlord must:
• Disclose any known lead-based paint on the property
• Disclose any lead hazards on the property
These issues must be revealed before renewing or signing a new lease. In order for the disclosure to be valid, both the landlord and the tenant must sign an EPA-approved document that proves that the landlord disclosed any known lead paint or lead paint chips on the rental property. The landlords must keep this document for their records for at least three years after the landlord-tenant relationship began.
The landlord must also provide each tenant with the EPA pamphlet Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home, or another state-approved pamphlet.
If a landlord fails to comply with these procedures, he may face penalties from the EPA of up to $10,000 for each violation. In addition, if a landlord fails to disclose known lead paint hazards in a rental property, and a tenant is injured by the known lead, the landlord may have to pay the tenant triple damages in any lawsuit.
There are some properties that are not covered by Title X. They include:
• Lofts, efficiencies, studio apartments, and other residential leased properties that contain zero bedrooms
• Housing that had a construction permit obtained after 1978
• Any property that had construction started after January 1, 1978
• Single rooms rented in a larger residential building
• Short term rentals of 100 days or less
• Any housing that has been certified as lead-free by a certified lead inspector (certified by the state)
• Any housing that was designed for elderly persons (housing designed for seniors where at least one tenant is 62 years of age or older)
• Housing for persons with disabilities unless any child less than six years old resides there or is expected to reside there
State-Required Disclosures
Most states have specific disclosure requirements, which vary by state as to subject matter and delivery. The following are examples of state required disclosures:
• Owner or agent identity
• Person authorized to receive legal papers
• Security deposit accounting including collection, interest paid, allowable purpose, and deposit return
• Non-refundable fees
• Screening criteria
• Move-in checklist
• Summary of Landlord-Tenant Law
• Utilities sharing
• Extended absence
• Renters Insurance
• Domestic violence victims’ rights
• Environmental health/hazard issues – lead paint, mold, radon, bedbugs, pests ,vermin
• Installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and alarms
• Flooding/flood zone
• Military zone
• Smoking policy
• Foreclosure
• Homeowner associations
• Housing code violations
• Tenant’s rights to be present during a move-out inspection
• Disclosure of any methamphetamine production that had occurred at the property previously
• Information on how to access the state’s registered sex offender database
Other Disclosures
There may also be disclosure requirements by city or county ordinances. A landlord will need to research city and county ordinances to determine requirements such as occupancy limits or rent control.
Failure to Disclose
Depending on the circumstances, a landlord’s failure to provide timely disclosures in accordance with legal requirements could result in a notice of non-compliance, fines, penalties, or worse case – criminal charges.

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