LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff | Jul 21, 2015

What landlords do (and don't) need to disclose

Your landlord rights are best protected when you responsibly and legally disclose certain conditions of the property, terms of the lease or rental agreement, and tenants' rights. What you are required to tell tenants depends on the jurisdiction in which your rental property is located, but often includes utilities and appliance disclosures, lead paint warnings, security deposit terms, and pest/mold issues. Consult local laws, a landlord association, or a lawyer to learn more about what's required in your area.

Identity of landlord or landlord's agent

In most states, the law requires the identity of the landlord or the landlord's agent, including name and business address, to be stated on the lease or rental agreement. This is standard practice for all kinds of contracts and a good business practice regardless of the law.

Appliances

State laws may require you to disclose which appliances are included with the unit. Residential rental units are often required to have a refrigerator, stove, and heater, but units may include a dishwasher, microwave, air conditioner, and/or washer/dryer.

In some states, landlord rights include being able to state that certain appliances are there for the tenant's use but are not "included" or "provided." This puts the onus for repair of such appliances on the tenant, but only if these exclusions are explicit in the lease.

Utilities

It's wise to tell new tenants upfront who pays for utilities like electricity, water, and gas, especially if they need to set up accounts themselves.

If you pay some or all utilities for a multi-unit building, many jurisdictions require you to disclose whether individual rental units have separate meters. Furthermore, you may need to disclose how expenses on shared utilities meters are divided among tenants.

Deposits and fees

In some places, tenants have a legal right to know which bank and under what account name and number their security deposits are held. In addition, some states, including Connecticut, require you to give tenants interest on the security deposit.

In addition, most jurisdictions require you to differentiate between fees and deposits. For example, non-refundable money-for cleaning at move-out or for evaluating a rental application-should be called a fee rather than a deposit. Deposits are refundable if the tenant meets certain conditions, while fees are non-refundable under any circumstances.

Landlord-tenant laws

In some states and cities, including Seattle and Chicago, landlords are required to give each tenant a booklet explaining landlord-tenant laws. These booklets explain tenants' rights and responsibilities, as well as landlord rights and responsibilities, and how tenants can protect their rights.

Fire protection

You may be required to disclose the fire protection features of the unit. These often include smoke detectors; whether there is a policy against smoking in the building or unit; and emergency evacuation plans.

Lead paint

Lead paint was commonly used in buildings prior to the federal ban in 1978. As a result, landlords of any building constructed prior to 1978 must disclose the presence of lead paint, if known.

In such cases, both the landlord and tenant must sign the EPA-required disclosure form and keep copies. You must also give a tenant a copy of the EPA brochure on lead paint.

Asbestos

You do not have to disclose the presence of asbestos in the rental unit. Asbestos is commonly found in walls, covering pipes, and in vinyl floor tiles, but can also take many other forms. Asbestos that is properly contained is not a health hazard.

However, if there is exposed or disturbed asbestos that is shedding fibers into the air and could harm workers in the building, under OSHA, the landlord must remove the asbestos or to cover it so that it cannot shed.

Pests and mold

Landlords may be required to disclose whether bedbugs or toxic mold have been found on the property. If incidences of bedbugs, other pests, or mold were not caused by the tenant, they are your responsibility.

In California and some other states, you must disclose what pest-control chemicals or treatment methods are used on the property, and the schedule for use of such treatments.

Deaths in the unit

State laws vary regarding whether you are required to disclose any deaths which happened in the rental unit. Under California law, for example, tenants have the right to be told if someone died in the rental unit in the past three years and what the cause of death was. However, you are not required to give any more details.

Also in California, landlords must respond truthfully if a tenant or prospective tenant inquires about deaths in the unit prior to three years ago, during the current landlord's ownership of the property. However, deaths from AIDS are exempt from this disclosure requirement.

Other

Depending on jurisdiction, you may have to disclose recent flooding, prior use of the rental unit for methamphetamine manufacturing, nearby federal or state military ordnance, or prior building code violations. You may also have to provide additional information about tenants' rights, either in the lease or in a separate document.

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