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Do landlords need a business license or permit to rent property?

In many areas, a landlord is required to obtain a business license or permit. The purpose is usually to inform state and local governments for tax collection, oversight, and as a means to respond to tenant complaints. The cost is often minimal.

The type of license or permit often depends on the rental property. Long-term rentals of houses may not require a state license or local permit. Florida, however, requires a license for a vacation rental or transient public lodging establishment. In Maryland, you do not need a license at the state level, but there are local governments that require licenses for short-term rental properties. In some cities, like Atlanta and San Francisco, anyone who lists their home, extra space, or apartment on a short-term rental service may need to obtain a permit first. To quickly find out what is required in your area, ask a lawyer.

What disclosures must landlords provide tenants?

Landlord-tenant laws require landlords to make disclosures to tenants about hazards, inspection procedures, and rent payment details. Depending on local laws, the disclosure may be needed as part of the Lease Agreement or as a separate document. Disclosure requirements for commercial and residential properties may vary, with commercial properties generally subject to fewer notifications.

Under federal law, the presence of lead paint must be disclosed if renting a home built before 1978. Only Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Vermont do not require any disclosures at the state level. However, local governments may impose additional requirements.

Common disclosure requirements include the following:

  • Lead paint, asbestos, radon, or other hazardous materials.
  • Whether a property is subject to a rent control ordinance or law.
  • If the tenant has a right to be present at the move-out inspection.
  • Information about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or fire sprinklers.

What safety checks or inspections are required prior to and after leasing a rental property?

Landlords have a duty to provide a property that is safe and habitable. Many areas do not have laws requiring landlords to inspect rental property. However, courts in states without specific laws, like Florida, have found that landlords have a duty to ensure the rental property is safe and habitable before a tenant moves in. 

In many states, landlords are required to maintain their properties and provide tenants with repairs, as needed. In addition to maintaining individual units, landlords are generally required to maintain common areas, outside areas, sidewalks, and walkways. This may include clearing snow and ice in the winter months, and landscaping during the summer.

No matter what your area requires, a Pre-Rental Inspection Checklist documents the condition of the property, so it is clear what damage was present before the tenant moved in. A Lease Agreement may state if damage is not listed on the checklist, the tenant may be responsible for that damage.

A Move Out Inspection Checklist can give a tenant a final opportunity to correct any issues that may jeopardize their security deposit. The inspection also provides a landlord an opportunity to show damage caused by a tenant. Some states, like California, give tenants a right to be present during the move-out inspection.

What should landlords know about a tenant's right to privacy?

Tenants have two types of privacy that landlords need to respect. One is the right to treat the rental property as their private home and be free of unreasonable intrusions. The other is to shield personal and financial information on rental applications from being disclosed.

Landlords have obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, FTC guidelines, and local laws. They must take reasonable precautions to safeguard tenant data. For example, documents may be kept in a secure file storage system. If a landlord collects information online, such as a rental application, they may need an Online Privacy Policy. Many landlords use third-party tenant application and payment services because those services offer secure ways of collecting and storing information.

When it comes to privacy in the rental unit, a landlord usually must give notice before entering. The length of advance notice varies depending on location, but it's generally one to two days. In some states, one day means the afternoon before, and in others, it means a full 24 hours. There are exceptions for emergencies such as flood or fire.

If you have more questions about the federal, state, and local requirements for landlords, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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