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The Ultimate Guide To Renters Rights: What Are Your Rights as a Tenant

The Ultimate Guide To Renters Rights: What Are Your Rights as a Tenant

Can a landlord actually do that? This is a question you might be asking yourself when dealing with a landlord and your rent obligations. As a renter, you have specific rights that include safety, health, as well as financial actions that can be protected. Yes, landlords create a lease contract that include your rights that you must read and sign, however most of these leases are designed to protect the landlord and might not consider your best interests and safety. The renter’s rights differ depending on the state you live in, but all of them can protect you and your rights.

This article will outline all your rights as a tenant, and help you understand what the landlord can, and cannot do.

Who’s Responsible for the Maintenance and Living Environment?

One of the great benefits of renting is the fact that the landlord is responsible for maintaining the building, and ensuring that it is a safe living environment. For example if the heating malfunctions in the middle of the winter, the landlord is responsible for fixing it and covering all the costs required to fix it. Other examples the landlord is responsible for include, electricity and plumbing, as well as hydro. If your place of rental is considered uninhabitable, you can stop paying rent, or you can fix and pay for the issues yourself, and deduct the amount off future rent payments. For example, in New York state, the law specifies the following : ‘landlords are required to maintain, electrical, plumbing, sanitation, appliances and ventilation systems in a good working order as well as keeping these items safe.’ This law is very similar regardless of which state you reside in.If your landlord.

What Happens if the Land lord doesn’t maintain your rental?

Now, if your landlord does not follow through with proper maintenance of your living environment you could follow through with the following methods seen below.

1. Repair and Deduct Method

If the landlord does not oblige at all, you can fix and pay for the issues yourself and deduct the amount off your rent payment, however the amount cannot exceed the total amount of the rent payment. The repairs include anything that seriously affects your living environment or safety  such as heating or cooling issues, flooding, mould build up, and so. The items that the landlord is responsible for vary state by state. Some items that are included in one state might not be included in another state.

Remember to document all your expenses as well as keeping all your receipts for proof of the costs for the repair. Furthermore, document your written request as well as the time taken for the landlord to comply.

2. The Abandonment Method

If you have communicated with your landlord with written requests, and they have not responded or fixed the problem, then you have the legal right to abandon the apartment and stop making your rent payments. This should be a last resort, and only done when the issue causes a unsafe, and non livable conditions. Doing this will usually result in the involvement of the law, so be careful if you resort to the method. With that being said, if you really had unsafe living conditions, the law will usually favour you.

Items that are not Rights

There can be some misperceptions on what many people think is a right, when it actual isn’t. Some of the items that are not rights by law include

  • you do not have the right to an actual parking space
  • on site laundry equipment such as washer and dryer are not required
  • a dishwasher does not need to be supplied by the landlord

Some leases might have these rights included in them, however think of them as a bonus, and are not required by law to have them as rights.

Your Responsibilities as a Tenant

There are certain things that you, as the tenant are responsible for which include:

  • maintain a clean and sanitary living environment
  • Remove all trash regularly
  • repair any damage that were caused by you, any guests, or any pets
  • using electricity, gas, and appliances safely
  • causing no damage to the building itself

There can be a fine line when trying to determine who’s obligated to solve an issue. However it is in your best interests to take care of any minor issues such as changing a light bulb, changing the batteries in a smoke detector, or any other minor fixes. You do not want to seem pushy or needy for every little thing to the landlord.

However, if there is a bigger issue that has an effect on your living conditions, you should firmly request that the landlord fixes the issues within a reasonable amount of time. To request a repair from your landlord you should in writing, request a repair to be fixed, with a brief description of what the issue is.

Give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the issue, however most laws require that the issue be corrected in 30 days or less. If it is major issue, such as the heating malfunctioning it should be dealt with within a few days. If the landlord does not fix the issues within a reasonable amount time, or fix the issue at all, you have some options you can follow through with, such as the repair and deduct method, or the abandonment method.

Your Basic Rights as a Tenant

The following are some core rights you have as a tenant. If your landlord violates them, you can file a complaint, refuse to pay rent, or sue the land lord for breach of contract depending on the situation.

Right to Non Discrimination

Under the Fair Housing Act, it does not permit any sort of discrimination based on a number of factors which include :

  • race
  • colour
  • origin
  • sex
  • family status
  • disability

You cannot be denied the right to be a tenant based on any of these factors. If you feel you have been discriminated against file a complaint here. This will take you to the U.S. Department of Housing to file the complaint.

Right to Quiet Enjoyment

This is a right that every renter or tenant has a right to, regardless of which state you live in. Quiet enjoyment is the right to undisturbed use of your place of residence from the landlord. Basically, your landlord cannot disturb or enter your premises without giving you a notice. The only exceptions to this right is, the landlord can enter your premises without notice in the case of and emergency such as a fire or any natural disaster.

You have a few options if your landlord breaches the quiet enjoyment part of your contract. You can either refuse to pay rent until the issue is resolved, or you can simply move out out. Furthermore, if your landlord interferes with the quiet enjoyment right, they can be sued for breach of contract.

Right to Limited Rent Increase

There are limits to how often and how much a landlord can increase your rent. However most times, the landlord can only increase your rent period once in a 12 month period. Usually, the landlord is required to give you at least 30 days notice of any rent increase. A landlord is allowed to increase your rent due to inflation.

An example of a state law regarding rent increases are as follows:

  • a landlord is required to give 30 days notice if the rent will be increasing by 10% or less
  • an landlord is required to give 60 days notice if the rent will be increasing by 10% or more

Pets and Renting Rights

It is important to know your rights when it comes to having pets living with you. Make sure you read over your lease and ensure it does not state that pets are not allowed. If the lease does not mention pets at all, then you are allowed to have a pet living with you. However, should any difficulties arise, you are still entitled some rights on this matter. A landlord cannot enter your premises and demand any pets be removed unless they follow a legal process. Furthermore, even if the lease does specify no pets are allowed, you technically might still have the right to keep the pet based on your local housing laws, as well as the type of lease that you have with your landlord. It is important to note that if your are being faced with having to remove your pet from your living area, do not do so until you have have received some sort of legal advice, pertaining to this issue.

Security Deposit Rights

When you move out of your place of dwelling there are certain rights that a landlord most oblige to, when it come to getting your initial security deposit back. Again, these rights vary by state however they are very similar which some varying time allotments. In general your landlord usually has a range of 2-6 weeks to return your security deposit, with average falling somewhere in the middle at approximately 30 days.

A landlord has the right to deduct any damages that you or any guests caused, from your security deposit amount. This makes it very important to document any damages that existed before you moved in. To ensure that you will get your deposit back in full, follow the followings steps :

  • regular maintenance: Ensure that you take good care of everything in your dwelling, and contact your landlord at the first sign of any damages or malfunctioning
  • professional cleaning: when moving out it could be wise to either get a professional cleaning done, or to rent cleaning equipment such as carpet cleaners, to remove any possible stains etc.
  • pre move inspection: in most states, before you move out, you have the right to have the landlord perform a move out inspection, with you present during the inspection. During this inspection the landlord is required to mention any damages which gives you time to fix them, or explain how and when the damages occur.
  • pay rent regularly and on time: if you miss some rent payments the landlord can deduct this from your deposit amount
  • give landlord a written notice: When you are moving out, it is important to give your landlord at least a 30 day written notice that your are moving out. This notice should specify the exact date you are moving out, and when you will be returning the keys to the landlord.

Eviction Rights

If your break a part of the lease, miss rent payments, cause issues with other tenants, then the landlord has the right to evict you from the dwelling. However, in most states the landlord is required to give you a written notice, explaining why you are being evicted. You should also be given some time to correct the situation before actually being evicted. If you do not fix the issues, the landlord has the right to take you to local court, where the judge will decide if you will be evicted or not from the property. It is important to know that legally, the landlord cannot evict you on their own merit, as they need to follow through with the eviction procedure’s that are defined in that state’s Landlord and Tenant Act.

Some examples of any illegal eviction acts are as follows:

  • the landlord changes the locks on your rental dwelling
  • the landlord enters your dwelling without notice, and removes any of your personal belongings
  • the landlord disables any power, electricity or utilities in your dwelling

Final Renting Pointers You Should Know

Here are some final pointers about your renting rights and what you should know before renting.

Rent Insurance – What You are Covered For

Renter’s insurance is a type of insurance that provides coverage for the renter’s personal belongings, as well as liability, in the dwelling such as furniture, antiques, jewellery, or any other valuable belongings This insurance applies for anyone renting in a house, condo, duplex, town home, or apartment.

Many people do not realize that rent insurance is definitely recommended as they believe that the are fully covered under the landlord’s insurance, however this is not entirely true. For example, if there was a fire in your apartment, the actual structure would be covered under the landlord’s policy, however any personal belongings that were damaged in the fire would not be covered unless you had your own renter’s insurance. If this were to happen and you did not have renter’s insurance you would be responsible for your losses.

Always Rent With A Lease Agreement

Never, under no circumstances, agree to pay rent without having a written lease agreement. This is because if an issue arises, there will be no written lease to fall back on to help protect your rights as a tenant.

Where to Find Renting Laws

If you are interested in finding detailed information about your rights, and the laws in your state, you can visit rentlaw.com. Also you can visit your state’s official website, as each state has a pdf  copy of a handbook called the Tenant’s Rights Handbook. If your feel your rights have been violated, find a Housing Development Counsellor here. This will provide a state by state directory to get in touch with a counsellor.

To summarize:

  • your landlord cannot discriminate against you in any way based on the Fair Housing Act.
  • your landlord is responsible for the general maintenance of the building , as well as your living area.
  • your landlord is not allowed to disturb or enter your living space, as you have the right of quiet enjoyment

About The Author

Ben Todd

Ben was a seriously broke graduate student with bad credit who after finding himself rejected for any sort of credit card or loan for most of his adult life, finally decided to get his financial life in order. 'He spent several years reading as many financial advice books and blogs as he could.And suprisingly, Ben found he actually LIKED the topic of personal finance; after fixing his own finances, starting his own successful work at home website business, and using his earnings to get out of debt, created echeck.org to help others do likewise!

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