The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

In the 1960s, at the time of the civil rights movement and heightened concerns about the legal rights of the poor, the federal government funded a legal aid project to write a model landlord and tenant act. The model code drafted at that time was given to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, who drafted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) in 1972. This code was approved by the American Bar Association in 1974. Since that time many states like Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have adopted residential landlord and tenant laws based on this model, though there are many variations. Other states follow the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.

The URLTA favors neither landlords nor tenants. It was intended to make residential landlord and tenant laws more fair to all parties and more relevant to rentals in a modern urban setting. Landlord and tenant law before that time was often based on the common law, or law established by court decisions. These decisions stretched back to pre-Revolutionary England and were often more relevant to the rental of rural property.

There are a few issues often covered in state laws or local ordinances that are not addressed by the URLTA. These include rent increases or rent control and the handling of security deposits. The URLTA does not specify whether landlords must keep security deposit money separate from his or her own money, whether interest must be paid on security deposits, or whether deposit funds must be placed in interest-bearing accounts.