Whether you are leasing a property, a tenant or a landlord, it is important to know tenants rights under the law. Tenants legal rights vary from state to state, but LandLordStation.com offers general information that pertains to any rental situation.
Tenants have a right to enter into a lease or rental agreement that is in accordance with the landlord and tenant laws of the state in which the property is located, and with the federal laws that pertain to the property. We recommend that you contact the Secretary of State (for each state needed) for a copy of the Landlord and Tenant Act in that state.
Landlords cannot discriminate against a prospective or current tenant under The Federal Fair Housing Act. This is a federal act and applies to each and every state. Tenants cannot be discriminated against for race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. A handicap under this act includes various mental and physical disabilities including hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation. Landlords cannot refuse to rent for the stated reasons above, nor can they set different rental prices, provide different housing services or facilities, and they cannot falsely deny that housing is available for rental for any of these reasons.
If a tenant in the property has disabilities, the landlord cannot refuse him or her the right to make reasonable modifications to the dwelling, if necessary, for the disabled person to use the housing. The landlord does have the right to require that the tenant pay for the modifications and, in some instances, pay to restore the property to the original condition when he or she moves out. Even in a building with a no pets policy, a certified guide dog or medical assistance dog must be allowed. Under this law, a handicapped person must also be granted a reserved parking space, which is near to the property, by the Landlord. If a tenant believes that he or she has been discriminated against for any of the reasons under the Fair Housing Act, they can file a complaint with the nearest HUD office. A tenant has one year to file after a violation, but it is recommended that you file as soon as possible.
Also, in New York City or other communities that have rent stabilization or rent control laws, the landlord may not charge more than the legal regulated rent. If a tenant has a problem with excess rental charges, he or she can contact the office of the State Attorney General for assistance.
Tenants have a right to a reasonable security deposit. Most states have laws that limit security deposits to an amount equal to one month’s rent. Again, the office of the State’s Attorney General is the place to file a complaint if a tenant is being charged excess deposits. Security deposits are not the property of the landlord, and the landlord cannot use the money from any deposit made by a tenant. Security and other deposits must be put into an escrow account to be held until the lease term is complete. Some states allow interest bearing escrow accounts however states differ as to whether the interest should be paid to the tenant or to the landlord. Again, it is important that the tenant be familiar with the laws pertaining to the property.
Tenants have the right of privacy and the right to peaceful enjoyment of the property. Landlords must give reasonable notice before entering the premises for any reason other than emergencies. Late rental payments, noise complaints from neighbors and other situations are not considered emergencies. The definition of an emergency is different in every state. The landlord cannot change the locks or deny access without a court order, even if you are behind on the rent.
The landlord is obligated to make repairs in a timely manner, especially when the condition renders the premises unsanitary or dangerous. In some states, the landlord must be present when the repairs are made for the protection of the tenant and tenant’s property. Examples of emergencies requiring a quick repair are plumbing problems, electrical problems and other conditions that could cause injury, or illness, if no repair is made. Doing touch-up paint jobs or installing new carpet are examples of non-emergency repairs. In most states, if the repair is necessary because of the action or inaction of the tenant, the tenant must pay for the repairs.
There are many rights that are set by law to protect renters. If you contact your state and obtain a copy of the landlord, and tenant act for your state, and you become familiar with the Fair Housing Act provisions, you will have a good idea of the tenants and renters legal rights, and have a much better rental experience.
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