Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Career Information
Landlord-tenant law is a unique facet of real estate law. Landlord-tenant lawyer types deal with the relationship between property owners (landlords) and renters of that property (tenants). These attorneys may represent landlords or tenants. They often draw up leases for landlords or, on the flip side, may help renters to retrieve a security deposit from a landlord.
Federal laws often protect tenants’ rights as they are apt to have fewer resources than their landlords. Such laws include (but are not limited to):
- Fair Housing Act – prohibits discrimination due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability
- Fair Credit Reporting Act – tells landlords how they may use a tenant’s credit history for screening purposes
There are also many state laws about rentals and protecting tenants’ rights. These laws may set rights and responsibilities for landlords and tenants, terms and conditions that may and may not be included within a lease agreement, termination guidelines for lease agreements, and the handling of evictions. Landlord-tenant lawyers must know the ins and outs of the specific laws affecting landlords and tenants in the states in which they are licensed to practice.
Education Required to Become a Landlord-Tenant Lawyer
Like all attorneys, landlord-tenant lawyers must have a Juris Doctor degree, preferably from an American Bar Association-accredited law school, and pass the bar examination in whatever states they intend to practice.
Undergraduate pre-law education is the start of any landlord-tenant lawyer’s educational journey. This may be in a pre-legal field or within a variety of related majors, such as public policy, urban studies, sociology, and political science. After completing undergraduate education, you must take the Law School Admission Test to be admitted into an ABA-accredited law school.
Some schools offer specialized education in landlord-tenant law, according to the ABA, such as Gonzaga University School of Law. Other law schools offer pro bono clinics that can give you practical experience in working in landlord-tenant law. Some of these clinics that handle landlord-tenant cases include:
- American University Washington College of Law – Community and Economic Development Law Clinic
- Boston College Law School- Civil Litigation Clinic
- Campbell University, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law – Blanchard Community Law Clinic
- Creighton University School of Law – Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic
- Georgia State University College of Law – Landlord-Tenant Mediation Clinic
- Hofstra University School of Law – Housing Rights Clinic
- Seton Hall University School of Law – Housing & Homelessness Clinic
- Suffolk University Law School- Evening Landlord-Tenant Clinic
Such specialized education and practical experience can be helpful to you in your future practice but is not strictly necessary. Once you have earned your Juris Doctor degree, you must take and pass the bar exam in any state in which you want to practice landlord-tenant law.
States do not commonly require landlord-tenant lawyers to hold any specialization in this area. However, it is important to keep up with the latest changes in laws through continuing education.
Select from these links, depending on the education level that best describes your situation:
Job Description & Skills Required for a Landlord-Tenant Lawyer
Landlord-tenant lawyers may litigate a variety of different matters, and may represent landlords or tenants. Legal issues that landlord-tenant lawyers often face include, but are not limited to:
- Evictions and unlawful detainers
- Discrimination against tenants by landlords
- Rent control
- Lease abandonment
- Abandoned tenant property
- Known criminal activity occurring in a rental
- Ending a residential lease early
- Dealing with neighbor problems
- Drafting a lease agreement
- Required disclosures landlords must make to tenants
- Ensuring a safe environment is provided by landlords to tenants
- Landlord responsibility to repair things broken in a rental
- Roommate problems
- Security deposits
- Renter’s right to privacy
- Oral leases
- Dealing with a difficult landlord
- Dealing with a difficult tenant
Skills necessary for a landlord-tenant lawyer include:
- Excellent interpersonal communications skills, both orally and in writing
- Drafting lease agreements and contracts
- Negotiation skills
- Ensuring landlord compliance with laws and regulations
- Ensuring tenant compliance with laws and regulations
- Good decision-making skills and judgment
- Excellent working as an individual and as part of a team
Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Salary & Job Outlook
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that the average lawyer in the U.S., no matter their specialization, was making $163,770 per year as of May 2022. The BLS notes that landlord-tenant lawyers working in the following metropolitan areas earn higher than average salaries:
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA:||$267,840|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA:||$239,330|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA:||$194,870|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA:||$193,280|
|San Diego-Carlsbad, CA:||$186,440|
Other names that landlord-tenants are known by include real estate attorney, real estate transactional attorney, and staff attorney. The BLS projects average growth of ten percent for all lawyer jobs (regardless of specialization) from 2021 through 2031. It is expected that jobs for landlord-tenant attorneys will keep pace with this average expected increase.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.