Who is a landlord?
A landlord is the owner of real estate, such as a rental house or apartment building, that is leased or rented (for a fee) to another person, called the tenant or renter. A landlord can be an individual or a corporate entity that owns real estate. Women real estate owners are often called landladies. The terms lessor and lessee are sometimes used to refer to landlords and tenants, typically in the context of signing a lease or rental agreement.
A landlord may also be the property manager and handle tenant selection, repairs, rent collection, terminations, and other management tasks. Many landlords, especially those with multi-unit rental buildings, hire a property manager to handle day-to-day details. A property manager (whether the landlord or someone else) may live in (be a resident manager) or live out of the rental building. Some states require an on-site property manager for rental buildings of a certain size (16 or more units in California).
Rather than do the work themselves or employ an individual manager, landlords may hire a property management firm to handle all or some management tasks.
To learn more about tax deductions landlords qualify for, see Top Ten Tax Deductions for Landlords.
Legal responsibility for complying with federal, state, and local landlord-tenant laws, such as providing habitable rental housing, lies with the landlord or property owner. The landlord has final legal responsibility for following the law, even though a property manager may be involved in handling legally-regulated tasks, such as returning security deposits, complying with federal antidiscrimination laws, entering rental property, and terminating a tenancy. Landlords are liable for property manager’s illegal acts, such as sexually harassing a tenant.
A landlord’s legal mistakes, such as ignoring dangerous conditions in the rental property that lead to tenant injuries, can result in costly legal problems, and even jeopardize the landlord’s business.
For a comprehensive 50-state guide to the legal, financial, and day-to-day issues affecting landlords, see Nolo’s book Every Landlord’s Legal Guide (or The California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities, if you own rental property in California).