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Thinking About Renting? Know Your Tenant Rights

Real Estate Advice

by PODS Posted on December 25, 2018

Renting is a great option if you’re not able to buy a house. While tenant life allows you to avoid some of the stress that come with home-owning (like having to pay someone to fix a leaky sink), it’s important that you know your tenant rights. Even though you don’t own the place, you’re still entitled to certain rights while living there. Whether you’re about to start renting, currently renting, or contemplating terminating your lease, read on to learn about the basic rights you have as a renter.

1. Protection from Discrimination

Federal law states that no renters can be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, family status, or physical or mental disability. These discrimination laws may also apply to landlords who limit advertising based on any of the classes mentioned above. Also illegal: Stating an apartment isn’t available when it actually is.

A woman is kneeling beside a moldy wall in her apartment. She is looking at the wall and holding her hands out to her side with an exasperated look on her face. It is within her tenant rights to have a safe and livable home.

2. The Right to a Safe and Livable Space

One of your tenant rights is the right to a safe and comfortable home. If you see exposed wires, a non-functioning heating and cooling unit, a leaking roof, broken pipes, or other issues that affect your ability to live there, ask your landlord for repairs. Be sure to mention any infestations of insects or mice, too (as if you could forget to mention them!). Place any requests or notifications like these in writing — this will be important in the event that you need to take legal action for your security deposit or otherwise.

3. Prorated Rent Rights

Legally, of course, you have to pay rent. But if the home you’re renting becomes unlivable for a period of time due to excessive maintenance issues, you can ask your landlord to prorate your payment term in accordance with the inconvenience. Unfortunately, they aren’t legally obligated to agree. If they do, however, you won’t have to pay for the days you had to couch surf at your friend’s house instead of staying at your own place. It’s worth asking, especially if you have a good relationship with your landlord.

A young girl with curly, blonde hair is sitting on an upholstered chair with her cat.

4. The Right to Lifestyle

As long as you’re obeying the law, you have the general right to live your lifestyle. This doesn’t mean you can break the terms of your lease, though. Some landlords don’t allow smoking or pets, so make sure you’re clear on whether or not these things are permitted before you sign a lease.

Another item to take note of is the limit of overnight guests. Some leases state that guests can only stay for a certain amount of days. Typically, this is to make sure no one else is living there without being on the lease for liability reasons, but it’s good to be clear about the overnight guest policy before you commit to renting a place — or before you tell your entire extended family they can camp out in your living room for the summer.

5. Privacy Rights

Landlords have the right to enter the property you’re renting if they’re doing maintenance work. However, most tenant laws require a landlord to inform a tenant about maintenance work in advance, and the visit has to be limited to reasonable hours. So if your landlord is requesting to access your apartment at 10:00 p.m., it is within your tenant rights to say no and work out a better time.

A mustached man is holding a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette in his apartment. He's looking out the closed window at a gloomy, rainy day.

6. In the Event of an Eviction

If you fail to abide by the rules in your lease — like not paying rent, having animals when you shouldn’t, smoking when it’s prohibited, etc. — your landlord can evict you with proper notice. According to tenant rights, you are also entitled to be given time to pay the rent or fix the damages you’ve done to the property, if that was the cause for eviction. Every state has different landlord and tenant laws, though, so make sure to do your research based on your location. Check out this great state-by-state guide from Apartments.com for more information.

7. Remember to Speak Up

It’s important to know your tenant rights and to speak up if you don’t think your landlord is treating you fairly. You should also keep in mind that due to the nature of renting, the time will likely come when you pack your bags and move on. To prevent potential disputes about property damage, make sure to take pictures of everything in your apartment, both when you move in and when you move out.

You can also ask your landlord for a move-in checklist, which lets you take detailed notes about the condition of the place you’re renting as soon as you sign a lease. If he or she doesn’t provide you with one, you can download your own from Zillow or Rent Prep. If any issues come up when you bid your rental home goodbye, you’ll be glad you took this extra step.


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Comments

Can't stress the move-in documentation enough. The #1 reason landlords and tenants end up in court are over security deposit disputes. The easiest way to avoid that is to get proper documentation of the condition of the rental at move-in. Walk through and document everything with photos and even videos. Get a free time-stamp app for your phone and have the tenant sign off on the condition of the rental. Without documentation, a judge will most likely side with the tenant. Thanks for your inclusion of RentPrep in the article. We appreciate it. - Eric Worral RentPrep.com
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