What Are The Legal Responsibilities of Landlords in Mississippi?

As a landlord in Mississippi, you need to have a full understanding of your legal responsibilities that are included in state laws. If you don’t know the laws or you don’t understand them, you could find yourself in legal trouble or making legal mistakes that were easily avoided. Make sure you understand the requirements, and if you don’t understand what’s required of you before renting out a property, seek help from a local management company like ours.

Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at what all landlords must do to remain compliant with the Landlord-Tenant Law in Mississippi. It doesn’t matter if you have a written lease agreement or an oral contract in place; if you’re collecting rent from a tenant, you’re bound to these laws. 

Knowing the laws also contributes to a better experience overall. 

 

Put Together a Legally Enforceable Lease Agreement

In Mississippi, both oral and written rental agreements are binding, but we always recommend that property owners use a written lease agreement when renting out a property. This will not only avoid misunderstandings between you and your tenant, you’ll also have more protection legally. 

Look for a lease that’s specific to the state of Mississippi. You don’t want to use a sample lease from New York or Texas. You need language that covers Mississippi law and requirements. 

Depending on when and how your tenant pays rent, the lease agreement is presumed to be month-to-month or week-to-week, unless there is a fixed lease term stated in the lease agreement. If you want a one-year lease, you need to be sure the lease agreement has a specific start and end date that stretches through the year. You also want to include information and instructions on how the lease renews. Does it convert to a month-to-month agreement after the initial term has ended?

Month-to-month tenancies require a 30-day notice prior to termination; week-to-week require a 7-day notice. A threat to health or safety in the dwelling requires no prior notice. We suggest that you require your tenants, in the lease agreement, to provide at least 30 to 60 days of notice if they elect not to renew the lease agreement. 

A legally compliant and enforceable rental agreement will include: 

 

  • - The address of the property that you’re renting to tenants. Include a description of the property; is it a single-family home or a duplex or a unit in an apartment building? 
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  • - Names and contact information for the landlord, tenants, and, if applicable, your property manager.
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  • - Amount of the security deposit.
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  • - Rent information, specifically how much rent is due, when it is due, and how it should be paid. 
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  • - Maintenance reporting policies and procedures. 
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  • - Rules and regulations associated with the property

You should also reference any disclosures that are legally required, and you’ll want to state which party is responsible for paying utilities and managing the landscaping, if there’s an outdoor space. By being clear about the responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant, you’re leaving less room for confusion and conflict. 

 

Maintenance and Habitability Responsibilities of Mississippi Landlords

The responsibilities of you and your tenants go beyond what’s found in the lease agreement. 

For example, you are required to know and follow all local building and housing codes. You are also responsible for providing a rental property that is safe, habitable, and free from dangers and pests. Maintaining your property is also a non-negotiable, and you’ll have to pay special attention to plumbing and heat. You won’t be responsible for fixing what a tenant caused with their own negligence. Damage is their responsibility. However, if they call you because the air conditioning is not working on the hottest day of the summer or a pipe has burst, causing a flood, you need to respond right away. 

While you will have to respond to maintenance needs and pay for repairs and upkeep, you can expect your tenant to keep the dwelling clean and safe, dispose of trash properly so it does not attract pests and rodents, and not misuse or destroy the property. If there’s a maintenance issue that needs attention, you can expect that your tenant will report it immediately to avoid deferred and unreported repairs. You can hold your tenants accountable for any damage they cause as well as any damage caused by their guests. 

Don’t give tenants a reason to pursue you legally for the repairs that need to be made. If tenants can prove that you’ve failed to make necessary repairs, your tenant can have the repairs made on their own and then seek reimbursement from you. There’s a process in which the tenant submits a written notice, citing your responsibilities to make the repair. If that repair is not made within 30 days, the tenant has a legal right to make the repairs themselves, and send you receipts. You’ll have 45 days to reimburse your tenants. 

Tenants in Mississippi are not permitted to withhold rent payments until repairs are made, but they can deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent. 

Beyond this, your tenant can pursue legal action. That’s not a court case you want to be party to. Make the repairs, and make them right away. 

 

Paying Rent and Eviction 

Rent control is banned in Mississippi, so there’s no need to worry about limits on how much you can raise the rent. There are also no notice periods required. You can raise the rent at any time unless you have a lease agreement in place that holds the rent to a specific amount. At the end of the lease term, you can raise the rent or negotiate a new rental amount.

You cannot evict a tenant without first providing notice. Most evictions in Mississippi occur because of nonpayment of rent, but you can also evict a tenant for other reasons, such as violating the lease agreement or conducting criminal activity in the property. For nonpayment evictions, you must first provide the tenant with a three-day notice to Pay Rent or Quit. This essentially gives the tenant three business days to either catch up with rent or move out of the property. If that doesn’t happen, you can go to court and file for an eviction. Usually, it will take less than a month to win your case and remove your tenant. 

There is no grace period that’s mandated for rental payments. If your lease agreement provides for a grace period, that’s what you’ll follow, otherwise the rent is always due on the first of the month. 

Legally, landlords can place a lien or claim against a tenant’s personal property for unpaid rent. However, if your tenant catches up with all the overdue rent, the default must be considered cured. 

 

Notice Periods before Entering an Occupied Property

You cannot simply show up at the rental home whenever you want.

Tenants have a right to privacy and quiet enjoyment while renting your property. Only in an emergency can you enter the home without the tenant’s consent. Otherwise, you will have to provide advance notice for purposes of inspecting, making repairs, or following up on a lease violation that needed to be cured. 

 

Security Deposit Law in Mississippi

You’re also legally responsible for the security deposit you will likely collect from your tenants before they move in. 

There is no limit to what you can collect in a security deposit, and you are not required to pay interest on the deposit that you do collect. 

When a tenant moves out, it’s up to them to request the return of their security deposit. Once you receive that request, you will have 45 days to return the deposit to the forwarding address that the tenant provides. 

You are permitted to make legal deductions from the security deposit, including deductions for any rent that is owed for to cover reasonable cleaning costs. Repairs to tenant damage can also be deducted from the deposit, and you’ll want to make sure they’re well-documented. When you do withhold some or all of the deposit, you are required to provide the tenants with a written, itemized notice of what you deducted and why. 

close-up-portrait-happy-young-woman-striped-shirt-talking-smartphone-while-using-laptop-computer-home-min-200x300Fair Housing and Mississippi Rentals 

As a landlord, you’re also required to follow all federal laws that pertain to housing, including the Fair Housing Act. 

The federal Fair Housing Act prevents you from discriminating against tenants or applicants based on the following protected classes:

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  • - Color
  • - Race
  • - Disability
  • - Familial status
  • - National origin
  • - Religion
  • - Sex

Mistakes are easy to make when it comes to fair housing, especially when we’re talking about marketing and tenant screening. Even using the wrong word in your online listing can be problematic. 

Be cautious, be consistent, and document every process that shows you aren’t likely to make discriminatory decisions. 

If you have any questions about your legal responsibilities as a Mississippi landlord, we’d be happy to tell you more and share some specific examples of how you can keep yourself compliant. Please contact us at Lucroy Residential, where you can find us working with landlords and real estate investors in Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding areas. 

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