Mississippi Rental Laws Less Strict
Mississippi residential rental lease agreements have fewer restrictions or rules governing them than are found in the laws of most other states. Mississippi law is silent on many terms and provisions that other states address. For the most part, you are free to negotiate or include in your lease any terms that you wish so long as they are not onerous or unreasonable. Mississippi is unique in that it allows self-eviction procedures by landlords provided proper notice is given first and the tenant has either not paid the rent or violated a material lease term or refuses to leave after the lease expires.
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But as a landlord, you still have certain basic obligations to your tenants:
- Provide and maintain a fit and habitable residence
- Provide and maintain plumbing, heat and cooling systems, running and cold water in good condition or so they remain in the same condition as when you first rented the unit
- Comply with the applicable housing and building codes affecting the tenant’s health and safety
You also must obey state and federal discrimination in housing laws that prevent you from refusing to rent to anyone on the basis of race, color, gender, familial status or disability. You can turn down an applicant for having a criminal conviction, poor references or credit, a history of prior evictions or insufficient income.
Tenants also have duties and responsibilities:
- Keep the unit clean and sanitary
- Properly dispose of trash and waste
- Do not intentionally damage or deface the premises or its fixtures and appliances
- Use all appliances and systems in the appropriate manner
- Do not disturb other tenants’ right to the quiet enjoyment of their own units
- Notify the landlord of any condition that could damage the premises
- Obey the law and not engage in illegal activities
Since your rental agreement is a legally enforceable contract, include terms that clearly define certain duties and expectations of you and your tenants so there is no dispute. Separate oral agreements made outside the contract are generally not enforceable. You should also consider conducting mutual inspections of the unit both before the tenant takes possession and shortly after the tenant vacates so that you can minimize arguments over the security deposit, a source of most landlord/tenant disputes.
Contents of the Mississippi Rental Lease Agreement
Consider the following terms and provisions in your rental lease agreement:
- Name of landlord and property manager who is authorized to manage the property, address where rent is to be paid and where request for repairs are to be directed (required)
- Names of the tenants and other occupants—have all adult tenants sign the lease so that both are jointly and severally liable for the lease terms, including the rent
- Description of the premises
- Term of the lease—weekly, monthly, yearly or other
- Amount of rent, due date, and grace period and amount of late fee
- Returned check fees—$30
- Security deposit—no limit, no interest required or that funds be deposited in a separate account; return funds within 45-days of tenant vacating unit and sending demand for its return or you must within this time submit by mail with return receipt requested a written statement with specific reasons for withholding the deposit—recommend you have a mutual inspection of the premises shortly before or after tenant vacates
- Signed, separate statement of the premises’ move-in condition including list of current damages to be given to tenant and signed by tenant after inspecting premises (not required but recommended)
- Obligations of landlord regarding repairs and maintenance and of services provided as indicated above—if you want the tenant to make certain repairs, then indicate this in the lease
- Obligations of tenant as noted above—you may include rules of conduct or others that are for the convenience, peace, safety and welfare of all the tenants
- Responsibility for utilities
- Major appliances that are being provided
- No commercial, business or unlawful use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance or is unlawful
- Pet clause—may limit type of pet, weight and require tenant to clean up pet waste in common areas; may ask for nonrefundable deposit
- Subletting clause
- Right of entry by landlord to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants or purchasers or if the tenant has been causing a disturbance or is otherwise violating the lease—no statutory notice required though you should give at least a 24-hour notice; indicate that you may enter immediately if it is an emergency that threatens the safety of tenants or that the unit is in imminent danger of being damaged
- Notices regarding termination for nonpayment of rent, other lease violations
- Self-eviction—state that if the tenant fails to pay the rent or breaches another lease term, you will serve the requisite notice first and then have the right to place all personal property and belongings outside of the unit and lock the tenant out—this is permitted without a court order but not recommended as your actions must not disturb the peace or you may have to pay damages
- Notice for increasing rent—30 days for a monthly lease (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose); you cannot raise the rent in a fixed term unless you state in the lease that the rent will increase on a certain date such as the lease will automatically renew upon expiration with a rent increase to X dollars unless the tenant sends written notice to vacate at least 30-days before it expires
- Disclosure of the presence of any lead-based paint or hazards on the property for rental property built before 1978—both landlord and tenant must sign an EPA-approved disclosure form and the tenant provided an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
There may be ordinances in the city or county where your rental unit is located that limits the amount you may charge for a security deposit as well as other terms. Be sure your lease is in compliance with these local ordinances.
Security Deposits in Mississippi
Security deposits may be used to pay for damage to the unit that exceed normal wear and tear, to pay for cleaning or for rent arrearages once the tenant has vacated the premises. There is no limit to what you may charge but most landlords do not charge more than two months’ rent. After receiving the deposit, you have no obligation to deposit it in an interest-bearing account.
Once the tenant has vacated the unit and asked for the security deposit, you have 45-days to either return it in full or send an itemized statement of the damages and the costs of repair. If you fail to do this and the tenant shows that you kept the deposit in bad faith, then you are subject to a fine up to $200 along with return of the entire deposit.
Termination of the Lease
With a fixed term lease, the tenancy ends on the last day indicated with no action required of either party. Leases that are open-ended are considered monthly and do require a 30-day notice before the end of the next rental period to terminate. Should you have a yearly lease but no end date, then either party must give a 60-day notice to terminate.
For nonpayment of rent for a monthly or fixed term lease, you must give a 3-Day Notice to Quit. For a rental agreement that is weekly, give a 7-Day Notice to Quit.
For other material breaches of the lease, you must give the tenant a 30-day notice that indicates what term was breached and the date the lease will terminate, though the tenant has that period of time to remedy the breach. This might include having an unauthorized tenant or pet or causing disturbances to other tenants. However, should the identical violation occur again within the next 6-months, you may serve a 14-Day Notice to Quit with no opportunity for the tenant to remain.
The 30-day notice may also be given by the tenant if the tenant alleges you violated a material term of the lease such as your obligation to provide or maintain a habitable residence. This may be an allegation that you failed to perform requested repairs of conditions that affect the health or safety of the tenant.
In the event there is a substantial violation of the lease, such as criminal conduct by the tenant or if you took some action that materially affected the health or safety of the tenant, then you or the tenant may immediately terminate the lease.
Under the Servicemembers Relief Act, any tenant who is a member of the Armed Forces including any of the uniformed services can terminate a fixed term lease if the tenant receives deployment orders to move more than 35 miles from the premises for more than 90 days. The tenant must provide you with a copy of the orders. This also applies if the tenant is ordered to reside in government-supplied quarters. 30-days’ notice is required and the tenant is responsible for the remainder of that month’s rent, if any, but with no further obligations under the lease. The lease will terminate 30-days after the notice is given.
Repair and Deduct Requires Notice
Mississippi law allows tenants to deduct from the next month’s rent the cost of repair for certain conditions should you fail to perform them after having been given notice and an opportunity to do them. The tenant must give you 30-days’ notice to do the repairs within that time frame. There is no limit on the cost of the repairs so long as they are no more than the usual and customary charges.
You may not retaliate against the tenant by raising the rent or immediately terminating the lease because the tenant used this statutory remedy.
You have many options in a Mississippi residential lease agreement but many of these must be clearly written in the lease. You must also carefully follow and adhere to all procedures, notices and service of notice requirements. Finally, be sure your lease complies with any local ordinances. If you have any questions about your lease or your own obligations and rights, contact a Mississippi landlord/tenant lawyer.