Landlord-tenant rental laws are governed at both the state and federal level. There are some federal laws that exist and are employed universally across all states. In addition, each state has its own set of rules that establish specific guidelines, restrictions, and obligations for both tenants and landlords. The following article will outline the laws concerning landlord-tenant relations in Idaho.
A large majority of what is outlined here can be found in the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Landlords and Tenants.
> Anti-Discrimination Laws
> State Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws
> Security Deposits and Idaho Regulations
> Returning and Withholding the Security Deposit
> Tenant’s Remedies When Landlord Fails to Comply
> Idaho Lease and Rent Regulations
> Idaho Regulations Concerning Tenant Malfeasance
> Idaho Regulations Concerning Landlord Malfeasance
> Idaho Regulations Concerning the Termination of Leases
> Idaho Regulations Concerning Notice of Entry
> Idaho Regulations Concerning Eviction
> Tenant’s Duties to the Property
> Landlord Disclosures in Idaho
> Idaho State Associations and Resources
Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
Federal laws prohibit landlords from denying housing based on discriminatory reasons. These laws are designed to protect certain classes of people from being denied housing based on protected characteristics. These characteristics include:
- Religion or creed,
- Nation of origin,
- Sex or gender,
- Familial status,
- Or disability.
These restrictions are outlined further in the Fair Housing Act.
For landlords, this means limiting the kinds of questions they can ask on rental applications, charging unfair security deposits, or denying housing to those who meet protected criteria. While most of these protected characteristics should be self-explanatory, there are two that require more explanation.
It is unlawful for a landlord to deny tenants housing based on the fact that they have children. In other words, their familial status is protected under federal law.
A landlord, likewise, may not deny a tenant housing based on a disability. For instance, if a tenant has a service animal, the landlord cannot deny him or her housing based on a no-pets policy. In addition, the landlord must not charge the tenant an added security deposit for the service animal. Service animals are not considered pets. On the other hand, a landlord may ask for proof of disability.
Federal law does not include “emotional support animals.” It only includes registered service animals that perform a particular need such a guide dog for the blind, or an animal that prevents psychiatric patients from harming themselves.
Landlords may also be wondering if anti-discrimination laws apply to the LGBT community. There is no explicit protection for individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in some states, Supreme Courts have interpreted sex and gender restrictions to apply to those in the LGBT community. Other states specifically include the LGBT community as protected classes. Landlords are best advised to rent properties to the first qualified applicant. This shows transparency and makes their decision-making process clear. It also exempts them from potential lawsuits alleging discrimination.
Idaho itself does not extend any federal civil rights protections to this group, however.
State exemptions to the federal Fair Housing statutes can be found in I.C. § 67-5910. There are three state exemptions for Fair Housing laws in the State of Idaho. Those are:
- Owner-occupied buildings that have no more than four rental units (the Mrs. Murphy law).
- Single-family housing that is sold or rented without the use of a broker. You must, however, be a small property investor who owns less than three Idaho properties.
- Housing operated by fraternities or private clubs can restrict access based on membership.
Idaho has no statutes concerning the maximum amount that a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit. In addition, it has no statutes that state whether the security deposit should accrue interest. While Idaho does not restrict a landlord concerning where or how the security deposit is held, the AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines direct landlords to hold the money in escrow and identify the financial institution where it is held. This should be stated in the lease.
In addition, Idaho has no statutes concerning pet deposits or non-refundable fees.
The landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days of the termination of the lease. The landlord is entitled to deduct the costs of damage to the property from the security deposit before returning it. This does not, however, include normal wear and tear to the premises. The landlord is required to present the tenant with an itemized list of damages. This must include specific damages, the amount of money retained, and detail expenditures made from the security deposit (§§ 6-321).
Page 24 of the AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines details the four-step process by which tenants can take action against a landlord who fails to return their security deposit. The tenant must:
- Write a demand letter to the landlord. The letter must be sent by certified mail.
- Wait for a response. The landlord has three business days from the date of delivery to respond to the request.
- Sue the landlord. If the landlord fails to return the deposit, then the tenant can file a complaint in small claims court.
- Go to trial. If the tenant wins the claim against the landlord, they are entitled to three times the value of the deposit and attorney and court fees.
In addition, the Idaho Consumer Protection Act prohibits the landlord from misrepresenting repairs. If the landlord provides a false list of repairs or charges the tenant for damage to the property that was present before they moved in, the tenant should go through the same four-step process and ultimately sue the landlord.
Landlords are entitled to determine when and how much rent will be paid by the tenant. They are also entitled to dictate the consequences for late rent. All of this information should be stated in the lease. For more information see pages 6-10 of the AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines.
If a landlord decides to raise the cost of rent, they must give the tenant 15-days notice before the end of the month. The rent increase will not take effect until the next month or after the 15 days has passed (§§ 55-307(1)).
If the tenant bounces a check, the landlord is entitled to sue for three times amount of the check (§§ 1-2301(A)).
If a tenant abandons the property, the landlord should make clear what the consequences for terminating the lease in this fashion are. In cases in which a landlord is forced to evict a tenant, the landlord can collect attorney and court fees unless the landlord has been awarded triple damages. If the landlord issues a three-day notice, he or she must advise the tenant that whoever wins the lawsuit will be awarded damages covering the costs of attorney and court fees.
If the tenant is evicted and the landlord attempts to sue the tenant for unpaid rent while the property is unrented, the landlord must make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages to the tenant.
Residential rental properties are rented with the implied warranty of habitability. While Idaho has no statutes governing what a tenant’s remedies are against a landlord who fails to provide a rental property in habitable condition, AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines does outline the process by which a tenant can sue the landlord for damages.
If the property is found to violate state health and safety codes, the tenant should notify the landlord via certified mail, wait three days for repair, and then sue the landlord on the grounds of habitability. The following is a list of health and safety codes for which a landlord could be sued:
- Structural deterioration that does not provide adequate protection to the tenant. This includes deteriorating walls, missing doors, broken windows, or leaky roofs;
- Defective plumbing including broken toilets, a lack of water, a lack of hot water, a lack of bathing facilities, or broken sinks;
- Exposed wiring that presents a serious safety hazard to those on the property;
- Defective furnace or heating services;
- A lack of garbage facilities;
- Pest infestation;
- Lack of smoke detectors.
This information can be found on page 13 of the AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines.
If a property has no functioning smoke detectors, a tenant is allowed to install them themselves and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent (§§ 6-320(a)(6)).
In addition, landlords may not retaliate against tenants who ask that repairs be made or join a tenant’s association (p32 of AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines)
On a lease with a fixed date, neither the landlord nor the tenant is obliged to give notice for terminating the lease. If the lease is month-to-month then either party can terminate the lease on one month’s notice (§§ 55-208). The same holds true for an implied yearly lease with no specified end date.
Landlords are advised to state clearly in the lease what notice a tenant should give in the event that they move elsewhere.
If a landlord finds a tenant in violation of the laws regarding the distribution, manufacture, or use of controlled substances, the landlord can terminate the lease on 24 hours notice to vacate (Idaho Code § 6-303(5)).
A landlord can issue a three-day notice to a tenant under the following circumstances:
- If the tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can issue a three-day notice to remedy or quit. If the tenant does not comply with the request, the landlord can initiate eviction proceedings (Idaho Code § 6-303(2));
- If the tenant violates any term of the lease, the landlord can issue a three-day notice to remedy or quit (Idaho Code § 6-303(3));
- If the tenant seriously damages the property or sublets without the landlord’s consent, then the landlord can issue a three-day notice to quit. The landlord is not obliged to offer the tenant the opportunity to remedy (Idaho Code § 6-303(4)).
There are no statutes require landlords to abide by specific regulations. However, page 10 of the AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines that the landlord should provide the tenant with their terms for entering the residence on the lease. It is also expected that the tenant has a right to privacy. A landlord should give the tenant notice if they must enter the property beforehand.
A landlord may not engage in self-help remedies to force a tenant off their property. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Fail to provide notice that the tenant is in violation of the lease;
- Fail to provide notice that the tenant is delinquent in rent;
- Shut off the utilities;
- Change the locks;
- Confiscate the tenant’s personal property;
A landlord’s only recourse is to initiate lawful eviction proceedings.
In the same way that landlords have obligations to the property, so too do tenants. According to page 13 of the AG’s Landlord and Tenant Guidelines, those include:
- Obeying the landlord’s property regulations and terms of the lease,
- Keeping the property clean and sanitary,
- Properly use appliances and electrical fixtures,
- Prevent family, friends, or guests from damaging the property,
- Prevent injury to others while they are on the property.
Idaho does not have many regulations when it comes to tenant disclosures. Landlords must disclose known lead paint hazards, which include this attachment as an addendum to the lease.
This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.