TEL-LAW tape number 7017:
Rights and Duties of Landlords

brought to you by the Oregon State Bar and your local bar association.
The material presented is intended to alert you to possible legal problems and solutions.

If you rent a house or apartment to another person, you enter into a legal contract known as the landlord tenant relationship. This agreement has certain basic conditions specified by law that you should understand before you enter into the agreement. As a landlord, you have certain rights and duties.

You have a right as a landlord to receive rent for the use of the property. Another important right is to have your property returned to you undamaged at the end of the agreement. It should be returned in the same condition in which it was received, except for ordinary wear and tear. In return for these rights, it is your duty to provide a home that is habitable and to make repairs when necessary. You must equip the residence with a properly working smoke detector and provide batteries for it as needed. [ORS 479.270]

It is also your duty to respect the tenant's rights. One of the most important of these is the right of peaceful possession. By renting your property to the tenant, you give that tenant the possession and use of your property free from interference. That means that you may not enter frequently, at odd hours, or without notice. You normally have a right to protect your property through reasonable inspection to make repairs and to show the property to possible buyers, but you must give at least 24 hours' notice of your intent to enter unless there is an emergency.

Both the landlord and the tenant have the duty to observe federal, state and local laws concerning the use and condition of the property.

When you rent the property, you must give the tenant your name and address or the name and address of your authorized manager. You cannot discriminate against a tenant for an illegal reason, including the fact that the tenant has children or is disabled.

To end a month-to-month tenancy, you must give the tenant a 30 day notice in writing. The tenant also may terminate with a 30 day notice in writing. A week-to-week rental period requires a 10 day notice.

When rent is more than 7 days overdue, you may give the tenant a written notice telling the tenant to pay within 72 hours or you will evict the tenant. If a tenant or someone in the tenant's control does substantial harm to you or your property or commits an act that is outrageous in the extreme, you may give the tenant a 24 hour notice to leave specifying the reason for the termination. All termination notices must be in writing in a special legal form and must be delivered personally to the tenant or mailed to the tenant by first class mail only. If a notice is mailed, you must add three days to the notice time and so state in the notice. The legal form of the notice must be correct in all details in order to be enforced in court.

If the tenant ignores these notices, you are next required to file a complaint in court for an "F.E.D." and have the tenant properly served with a summons and complaint. There will be a hearing and possibly a trial where you can ask that the tenant be evicted. If the judge or jury agrees, you will be granted a judgment entitling you to possession of the property. If the tenant still does not move, you may pay the sheriff to come to the property to remove the tenant's belongings and retake the property.

You may not retaliate against a tenant by raising the rent, shutting off utilities or evicting the tenant because the tenant complained to you or a public agency about habitability conditions, discrimination or other violations of the law or because the tenant joined or organized a tenants' union or organization. You cannot lock out a tenant or hold a tenant's belongings or put them out.

If the tenant permanently moves out before the end of the rental term, you may attempt to collect the unpaid rent for the rest of the agreed-upon term, provided you first make a reasonable effort to re-rent the house or apartment. If the tenant leaves personal property, you must send the tenant a special legal notice. The rights and remedies often are complex and legal advice or assistance should be considered.

The landlord has a duty to account for or refund tenant refundable deposits upon termination of the tenancy. In order to claim all or part of the deposit, you must give the tenant, within 30 days after termination, a written accounting that states specifically why you retained a portion or all of the deposit. If you do not comply with this request, the tenant can sue you for twice the amount of the deposit.

The basic rights and duties that have been mentioned apply whether or not the agreement between you and the tenant is in writing or oral. A written agreement is best because it serves as a memorandum of terms and conditions you may wish to include, such as whether pets are allowed and special provisions for service of notices. If you wish to arrange terms for more than one year, the agreement must be in writing to be enforceable. Because the landlord/tenant relationship is a legal relationship, you should understand the various terms of your rental agreement and the provisions of the state Landlord and Tenant Law before you rent your property to anyone.

By renting a house or an apartment, you and your tenant have entered into a legal relationship. If you each know your duties under the relationship and abide by them, the arrangement can be friendly and beneficial to both of you. But if disputes arise, it is necessary to know your rights and how to protect them.

It is important that you realize that changes occur in this area of the law.

This tape is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem and it is not intended to replace the work of an attorney. If you do not have an attorney, the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service can assist you. The number to call is 684-3763 or, toll-free in Oregon 1-800-452-7636. They will help you contact an attorney who can advise you.

The foregoing text is a transcription of a Tel-Law transcript that you can hear by calling 503-620-3000 or toll free (in oregon only) at 1-800-452-4776. OLA brings this transcription to you with the cooperation of the Oregon State Bar. this script is based on Oregon law, produced by volunteer lawyers as a public service. The law of other states may be different. Also, the information may be out of date. OLA encourages you to seek an attorney before relying upon this information.