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Nearly Half of Renters and Landlords Show Incomplete Understanding of Basic Rental Laws

Confusion is high around laws regarding security deposits, early lease termination, according to a Zillow Rentals survey

SEATTLE, Feb. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Even as demand for rental housing remains very strong, there is a great deal of confusion over existing rental laws among many landlords, and among tenants themselves, according to a Zillow Rentals survey1. On average, renters and landlords answered about half of survey questions incorrectly (47 percent incorrect for renters / 50 percent for landlords) when asked about their respective rights and responsibilities.

  • 82% of renters / 76% of landlords lack understanding of laws on security deposits, credit and background checks.
  • 77% of renters / 69% of landlords lack understanding of privacy and access rights.
  • 62% of renters / 50% of landlords lack understanding of laws on early lease termination.

The survey included those who rent the home they live in ("renters") and those who own the home they live in and own one or more additional homes, which they rent to a tenant ("landlords").

Renters and landlords alike demonstrated the least amount of knowledge around credit and background checks, security deposits, early lease termination, and privacy and access rights. Both renters and landlords showed the most knowledge around discriminatory advertising for rentals, responsibility for repairs and maintenance, and requirements around terminating month-to-month agreements.

"It's concerning that so many renters and landlords are signing a legal contract without fully understanding their basic rights. In doing so, landlords and renters could be setting themselves up for future disputes and legal costs," said Carey Armstrong, Zillow® director of rentals. "While rental laws vary by state and local jurisdiction, there are some important rules that affect just about everybody. Every landlord and renter should take time to research and understand their rights."

Survey Findings*

Lack of Understanding on Security Deposit Laws:

MISCONCEPTION: 82 percent of renters and three-quarters (76 percent) of landlords said they believe the landlord has 60 days after a lease ends to refund a security deposit (or provide an itemized deduction statement and refund the balance).

TRUTH: In most states security deposits must be returned between 14 and 30 days.

Lack of Understanding on Early Lease Termination:

MISCONCEPTION: Nearly two-thirds of renters (62 percent) and half of landlords (50 percent) said the landlord has the right to terminate a lease in order to rent the home to his or her family member.

TRUTH: Landlords may not evict a tenant during the term of the lease simply because they would prefer to rent the unit to a friend or family member, or even to someone willing to pay higher rent.

Lack of Understanding on Credit and Background Checks:

MISCONCEPTION: More than three quarters (76 percent) of landlords and 82 percent of renters said a landlord has the right to reject any rental application on the basis of a prior conviction for illegal drug use.

TRUTH: While landlords do have the right to reject applications for criminal convictions of many kinds, they may not reject an applicant on the basis of a conviction for drug use. They can, however, reject a person who has been convicted of manufacturing or selling drugs, or who currently uses illegal drugs.

*For additional survey findings contact [email protected].

Interactive Online Quiz and Resources Available
An online version of the Zillow Rentals survey, the "Rental IQ Quiz," is available at and contains the correct answers and detailed explanations to each question. Following the quiz, participants are given a score and resources to learn more about their rights and responsibilities as landlords and as renters.

Zillow has tools and apps for both renters and landlords. Renters can find the information they need to find and secure a great rental on® and with the Zillow Rentals App. Landlords can use Postlets® and the Postlets App to publish their listings to the Zillow Rental Network, the largest rental network on the Web in the U.S. comprised of the millions of rentals shoppers on and Yahoo!

About Zillow, Inc.
Zillow, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z) operates the leading real estate and home-related marketplaces on mobile and the Web, with a complementary portfolio of brands and products that help people find vital information about homes, and connect with the best local professionals. Zillow's brands serve the full life cycle of owning and living in a home: buying, selling, renting, financing, remodeling and more. In addition, Zillow offers a suite of tools and services to help local real estate, mortgage, rental and home improvement professionals manage and market their businesses. Welcoming nearly 70 million unique users in January 2014, the Zillow, Inc. portfolio includes®, Zillow Mobile, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, Zillow Rentals, Zillow Digs™, Postlets®, Diverse Solutions®, Agentfolio®, Mortech®, HotPads™ and StreetEasy®. The company is headquartered in Seattle.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos is the world's third largest market research company. Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,789 million (2,300 million USD) in 2012.

With offices in 86 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Visit to learn more about Ipsos' offerings and capabilities.

1 These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted August 14-15, 2013.  For the survey, a nationally representative sample of 2,031 randomly-selected adults aged 18 and over residing in the U.S. was interviewed via Ipsos' U.S. online omnibus.  With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within +/-2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of adults in the U.S. been polled.  The margin of error will be larger within subgroupings of the survey population.  A total of 604 Renters were surveyed with a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points, and a total of 180 Landlords were surveyed, with a margin of error of +/-7.3 percentage points.  These data were weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/gender composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

SOURCE Zillow, Inc.

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