The Most Common Landlord-Tenant Disputes and How to Avoid Them

Last June, we wrote about how to reduce the risk of disputes with tenants. This month, we’re revisiting the topic to highlight the most common tenant-related disputes landlords encounter.

Landlords don’t want to keep tabs on their tenants every day, and tenants don’t want that either. You want to trust that your tenant is taking good care of the property, but sometimes landlords learn the hard way that the tenants are neglecting their responsibilities. Even worse, you may realize that because of a poorly worded lease, you have little legal remedy for the problem.

Most disputes arise not due to negligence, but because of incorrect or misaligned expectations. The following are some examples of disputes that often occur because a lease lacks clarity.

Yard Maintenance

In most community rental buildings, the landlord assumes full responsibility for upkeep of the exterior. But for duplexes and single family homes, there are many more legal “gray areas” that can arise regarding upkeep of the exterior. A lease should define specifically who is responsible for tasks that include lawn mowing, weed removal, and snow and ice removal.

If tenants are responsible for mowing, the lease should define how long grass and/or weeds can be before being mowed. It may seem like an unimportant detail, but it can prevent a dispute in the future.

Use of Property

You probably don’t want your land being used as a makeshift auto shop, so a lease should be worded in a way that prevents tenants from parking “project cars” on the property or in the grass.

It’s also a good idea to ask for the make and model of each tenant’s car, and license plate number, so you can identify possible abandoned cars on your property. (Occasionally, non-residents park their junk cars in apartment parking lots, when they have nowhere else to put them.)

Observance of Local Noise Ordinances

Noise laws vary by jurisdiction – in Montgomery County, a “noise disturbance” is any sound that is:

  • Unpleasant, annoying, offensive, loud, or obnoxious
  • Unusual for the time of day or location where it is produced or heard
  • Detrimental to the health, comfort, or safety of any individual or the reasonable enjoyment of property or the lawful conduct of business because of the loudness.

Daytime residential noise levels should be no higher than 65 dBA (A-weighted decibels), and nighttime noise levels should be no higher than 55 dBA. A-weighted decibels describe the perception of a sound, which is generally lower than the actual decibels produced. For example a vacuum cleaner produces 70 dB, but the human ear perceives it as lower, especially if in the next room or an adjacent apartment.

Landlords should ensure leases include a clause about noise. If the police make repeat trips to your property to quiet noisy tenants, you’re the one who will ultimately be held liable for violating noise ordinances.

Thienel & Lusk, LLC, specializes in creating legal documents that protect landlords’ interests and comply with fair housing laws. We know that most landlord-tenant disputes can be avoided, when expectations are clearly communicated in a lease. If a dispute should arise, our experienced attorneys are happy to represent our clients in court. Please call us at 443-535-9715 or fill out our contact form if you have any questions about this topic.

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