Being a tenant can be an overwhelming experience. While renting out a space you can call your own may be exciting, dealing with a nightmare landlord can dampen the experience. But as a tenant, you must know your rights, especially when renting properties. Rental laws are here to protect you, and while these policies have variations by state, generally, they’re more or less the same. You can fight back and hold your landlord accountable whenever you feel your rights have been violated.
More than 36% of Americans live on rental properties. This means that about 44 million households in the nation are on rent. Consequently, both renters and landlords must know the laws that go into renting out a property; for your information, here’s what you need to know:
1. Access to Fair Housing
No matter where you choose to live in the US. The foundation of any rental law is you cannot be discriminated against when you want to rent a property. According to the federal Fair Housing Act, established in 1968 as part of the civil rights act, you cannot be denied fair housing because of your skin color, age, ethnicity, disabilities, gender, and race. While most cases of racism are blatant and relatively obvious, some are subtle implications.
As a landlord, you may only reject applicants if they have a criminal record, have a history of violence and disturbing neighborhoods, or are irregular with their payments. But if you don’t have valid reasoning, you cannot deny a renter a good house. This is one of the many illegal landlord actions to avoid, as it can land you in jail or court.
But as a renter, if you notice the landlord is condescending, using offensive language while talking to you, or steers you off the property without explaining why you can’t rent, you may be facing discrimination. In such cases, you can file a complaint to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Additionally, according to the fair housing act, if you have disabilities, the landlord must modify your house to accommodate your condition, like installing a wheelchair ramp.
2. Provision of A Safe and Livable Home
Before a landlord can rent out any property, they must confirm it is habitable. The availability of utilities like gas, water, and electricity falls on your landlord’s shoulders. You can charge them for these basic needs if they’re deprived of them. Landlords are also accountable for fixing a risky environment.
The landlord must take care of these issues if there are exposed wires, broken stairs, mold, and pests like cockroaches. But, when it comes to maintenance after you move in, you’ll need to dive into state laws to see how much you’ll have to pay and what your landlord will shoulder. In certain states, tenants become responsible for paying for maintenance like chipping paint or leaky sinks after the tenant moves in. In other cases, your landlord will be required to cover the cost.
3. Availability of your Security Deposit
As a renter, you need to pay a security deposit when you’re willing to rent out a home. This is a returnable sum that landlords charge in case there is damage or a severe loss. According to the state, each security deposit must follow the standard market rate. If a landlord is trying to overcharge you, the law protects the deposit. Make sure before signing your contract contains the clause stating that your money will be returned to you after you move out of this property.
There are limited circumstances during which a landlord can charge you a surplus. But they need to have a signed and consented agreement with you before they can do that; for instance, you may need to pay more to keep a pet. Also, the landlord must keep your security deposit in an interest-bearing account and return you the original amount with interest after the lease is over. If your landlord tries to hold back or pays only half of your deposit back to you, as a renter, you are entitled to documentation outlining in detail why the landlord kept a part of your deposit.
4. Right To Privacy
Landlords cannot enter and exit your property as they please. Once the house has been rented out to you, they have to respect your privacy. However, for some reason, if they need access to your home, such as to fix a faulty tap or upgrade an appliance, they must provide prior notice before entering your unit. The rental laws vary by state; the duration for the notice can be anywhere from a week or a few days. Your lease will mention the terms for issuing a notification. Some landlords try tweaking the timeframe by providing renters a smaller duration than what is prescribed by the state; no landlord can enter your house without a 24-hour notice.
5. Respecting The Proper Eviction Process
Evictions can happen at any time. But as a renter, some laws protect you and prevent your landlord from kicking you up without giving you a heads-up. According to state laws, landlords cannot kick you out of your house overnight. Instead, they have to provide you with substantial time so you may be able to find another place to stay once you leave your home. Furthermore, landlords can evict you without reason.
Unless you fail to pay rent, extensively damage your property, or violate your lease, there’s no legal reason to kick you out. There is a proper procedure in place to initiate the eviction process. A landlord is responsible for giving you legal notice that you are being evicted. This is followed by a court filing and hearing in which the judge will decide if the grounds on which you’re being made to leave are valid.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, you have a prescribed period to submit an appeal before your last date to vacate the property. On the other hand, if your landlord is evicting you with no reason and doesn’t give you a chance to appear in court, you can sue them.
There are many rules and regulations to renting a property. The purpose of these laws is to protect both the tenants and landlords from being exploited. Landlords have the right to treat the actual property as they see fit. But they’re not allowed to discriminate, kick out or violate the privacy of any of their tenants. Similarly, renters also have certain rights, including access to suitable housing, information on their security deposit, and a right to trial if they get evicted.
Unless these laws and rights are upheld, the housing industry will collapse, particularly around renting properties. No renter ever wants to be in a position where they can get kicked out for no reason, while no landlord wants to deal with an aggravating renter who doesn’t respect the property.