The patchwork of disclosure requirements across different states and municipalities is a complex minefield for landlords to navigate. Here, we will discuss some of the common requirements to include in your landlord disclosure agreements and the specific requirements for the four largest states. We will also look at what happens if a landlord fails to make a required disclosure.
What Are Required Landlord Disclosures?
Federal, state, and local laws require certain written disclosures to be contained within or accompanying every rental agreement. Failure to provide these disclosures can sometimes lead to minor warnings. In other cases, failure to provide the required disclosure can lead to criminal penalties or treble damages in civil court.
Common Landlord Disclosure Requirements
There is one federal disclosure requirement — the lead-based paint requirement. The rest of the required disclosures come from state and local law. This makes sense because property law, including landlord-tenant law, with few exceptions, is an area for state lawmakers.
Federal Disclosure Requirement (Lead Paint)
For buildings constructed before January 1, 1978, the federal government requires landlords to provide certain disclosures to tenants, including:
- A copy of the government pamphlet, Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
- Information about any inspections for lead-based paint on the property
- The Lead Warning Statement
Federal law provides some exceptions to the lead-based paint requirement, such as,
- Short-term rentals, less than 100 days
- A lease for a single room in a residence
- Where an accredited inspector certifies the property to be lead free
- Some cases where no one under six will live in the rental unit
There’s also an exception for loft and studio apartments. Because of the vagueness of this exception, it is necessary to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney before claiming this exception.
Just because there’s a federal lead-based paint disclosure requirement doesn’t mean there isn’t also a state lead-based paint requirement. If the state requirements are less strict than the federal requirement, the federal requirement controls. You must provide any lead-based paint disclosure required by a state that is more strict than federal government requirements in order to comply with state law.
Common State Disclosure Requirements
States have an array of different disclosure requirements. We list some of the most common in the sections below.
Security Deposit: One of the most contentious issues in landlord-tenant relations is the security deposit. That’s why state disclosure requirements for security deposit rules are among the most common mandatory disclosures. These disclosure requirements vary from state to state. The most common rules include disclosing information about:
- How soon a landlord is required to return the security deposit after a tenant moves out
- Reasons a landlord can keep all or part of a security deposit
- The procedure a landlord must follow to keep all or part of a security deposit
- The procedure a tenant must follow to object to a landlord keeping all or part of the security deposit
- How much a security deposit can be
- Whether a landlord must pay interest on the security deposit when returned to the tenant
Right of Inspection: Closely related to security deposit information is a disclosure informing the tenant of the right to an inspection before they move in — to determine what damage exists when they sign the lease. This is important to avoid having pre-existing damage charged against the new tenant’s security deposit. There’s also sometimes a disclosure requirement informing a tenant of a right to be present at an inspection at the end of their tenancy to determine if there are any new damages a landlord can deduct from the security deposit.
Deposits & Fees: Many states require landlords to disclose information about any nonrefundable deposits or fees. For example, these states may require informing the tenant if the application fee and/or pet deposit are nonrefundable.
Environmental hazards: Environmental hazards are the most common state required disclosures. These disclosures typically include:
- Lead-based paint information in addition to what’s required by the federal government
- Whether there’s any mold in the residence or the unit has had a history of mold contamination
- Information about radon gas in the rental unit
- Whether the rental unit has a history of bed bug contamination
- Whether there are high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the rental unit
- Whether the landlord knows of a history of methamphetamine production on the property
Detectors: Many states require that the lease or a separate document disclose details on who, the landlord or tenant, handles smoke detectors and/or carbon monoxide detectors in the rental unit. Often, the tenant is responsible for testing and replacing batteries while the landlord is responsible for informing tenants about the detectors within the unit.
In some states, if the landlord plans to convert the rented dwellings into condominiums or to sell the property, they’re required to inform new tenants. Landlords are also usually required to give their current tenants reasonable notice of any plans to sell or convert to condominiums.
Violations: Some states require landlords to inform tenants of housing code violations. It’s more common for states to require landlords to inform tenants when the authorities condemn a building.
In some states, landlords are required to let new tenants know if the property is near a known sex offender’s residence. Other states may require disclosure of how to access local sex offender databases.
In some states, domestic violence victims have the right to terminate the lease without penalty. Landlords must disclose this right and other rights of domestic violence victims have under state law, such as:
- Landlords can’t refuse to rent solely because the tenant is a victim of domestic violence
- Landlords can’t end a lease solely because the tenant is a victim of domestic violence
- Domestic violence victims may change the locks on their rental unit
Flooding: Many states require landlords to disclose to new tenants if the unit has a history of flooding or if it’s in a flood zone.
Many states require landlords to provide their identity and address. Or the landlord must disclose the identity/address of their agent that receives notices and/or accepts rent payments.
Smoking: Some states require landlords to disclose whether they allow smoking in the rental unit.
Rent Control: Only Oregon and California have statewide rent-control. In Oregon, municipalities may not impose their own rent control laws. California allows municipalities to impose stricter rent control than state law provides. Other states, like New York, have rent control in certain municipalities. Some of these local governments across the country require landlords to disclose these local rent control laws to their tenants.
Specific Disclosures by State
The four largest states in the US are California, Texas, New York, and Florida. The combined populations of these states represent a third of the population of the entire US. We’re including the specific disclosure requirements of each of these states here.
California Disclosure Requirements
Some California cities require disclosures in addition to the statewide requirements listed below:
- All leases in California must provide prospective tenants with information about bed bugs, what they look like, and how to prevent bed bug infestations
- Landlords must inform tenants if they know of toxic mold in a rental unit
- Landlords must provide tenants with the state’s consumer handbook on toxic mold
- Landlords must notify prospective tenants of methamphetamine or fentanyl contamination within a rental unit
- Landlords must provide information about chemicals used for pest control and how often they conduct pest control
Landlords must disclose no-smoking rules to prospective tenants
- If the rental unit is within a mile of a military training area where soldiers use explosives, landlords must disclose this to prospective tenants
- Landlords must provide tenants with information about the sex offender database
- Landlords must provide their full name and contact information along with how tenants are to pay the rent
- California landlords must disclose if there has been a death in the rental unit within the last three years, but do not have to disclose the cause of death
- Landlords must disclose any application for a permit to demolish the property
- Landlords must disclose if they’re planning to convert the rental units to condominiums
- Landlords must inform prospective tenants if they’ll share a utility meter with another rental unit and how the landlord will allocate the bill among the units
Texas Disclosure Requirements
Texas landlords must disclose the following to prospective tenants:
- The selection criteria for deciding whether to accept or deny a potential renter’s application
- Acceptable selection criteria for new tenants include criminal history, rental history, credit history, current income, and the accuracy of information provided on the application
- Contact information for the landlord
- Parking and towing rules
- The calculation of any late fees
- Landlords must provide tenants with information about tenant’s right to repair issues the landlord hasn’t repaired
- The right to repair information must include content about when a tenant can deduct repair costs from the rent or end the tenancy because of the landlord’s failure to repair
- When the landlord can disconnect electricity for failure to pay utility bills
- Information regarding security deposit refunds
- Information on whether tenants can have security devices, such as alarms or extra deadbolts, in the unit
New York Disclosure Requirements
New York has disclosure requirements for the following issues:
- The name and address of the financial institution where the landlord keeps security deposits
- Whether the rental unit contains a sprinkler system and if it does, the last date of inspection
- Indoor air contamination within the rental unit
- Rights of tenants to request reasonable modification of the unit
- Notice of laws protecting tenants against discrimination based on their lawful source of income
Florida Disclosure Requirements
Florida requires disclosures for:
- Information on the security deposit, including where it’s kept, when the landlord can keep part or all of the deposit, the procedure for keeping part or all of the deposit, and whether they’ll pay interest on the deposit
- Radon gas information
- The name and address of the landlord or their authorized representative
States That Do Not Have Required Disclosures
The following states have no state-required disclosures:
Though there are no state-required disclosures in these states, landlords must still comply with the federal mandate for the lead-based paint disclosure.
What Happens When a Landlord Fails To Disclose?
Penalties for failure to provide the required disclosure can be only minor warnings or small fines. But sometimes, the mere failure to provide the disclosure can lead to jail time for a landlord.
Consider the case of Maureen S. Walck, a 72-year-old New York real estate agent. She pleaded guilty to failing to provide the lead-based hazard warning notice. In her case, a child suffered from lead poisoning. Her sentence was jail-time already served, a $1,000 fine, and a $53,326.07 restitution order.
The current maximum penalty for not providing the required disclosure for lead-based paint is $21,018 per violation.
Penalities for not providing disclosures required by state law vary widely. The California Code provides for civil penalties up to $5,000 for failure to disclose that a property once contained a methamphetamine lab. But many states have no requirement to disclose if a property has contained a meth lab.
It’s important to consult with a local landlord-tenant attorney to know what disclosures you must provide. As you can see, it can be very expensive for landlords who fail to provide the required disclosures.
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