Federal and state laws protect renters rights to a stable place to live. They prevent landlords from taking advantage of tenants and also set responsibilities for tenants to look after the property. You will have renters rights regardless of the type of property you rent or the relationship between you and your landlord. Some cities have additional laws to increase renters rights.
Renters Rights and the Fair Housing Act
Renters rights protect tenants against discrimination in rental decisions. A landlord cannot reject a suitable tenant for housing on the basis of protected characteristics. The Fair Housing Act provides anti-discrimination laws on a federal level, but most states have additional anti-discrimination laws to further protect renters rights. The Fair Housing Act protects characteristics such as mental disability, physical disability, sex, family status, age, religion, race, national origin, or color.
Renters rights also require landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with a physical disability. This could be something as simple as renting them a ground floor flat if one is available or installing ramps. Renters rights do not require the landlord to undertake extensive remodeling, just make simple changes.
Renters Rights to a Clear Contract
The rental terms are set out in a contract called the rental agreement. Most landlords will provide a clear written rental agreement that sets forth their expectations and the terms of the lease. Courts also recognize verbal and implied rental agreements and will enforce them in court if renters rights are violated.
Renters rights mean that a rental contract exists if you are paying rent for the use of a property. This includes arrangements with family members. Additionally, those who live in a property to renovate it or manage it are considered tenants as they are providing a service rather than rent in exchange for accommodation.
If your property is sold while you are still renting it, then the new owners will take over your rental agreement. Renters rights also stipulate that if no discussions about the lease terms are had, that continuing to pay rent and the landlord accepting the rent constitutes an informal agreement to continue the lease on the same terms.
Renters Rights to Habitable Standards
This is perhaps the most important renters right, the right to a habitable home. To meet the standards of federal law, a rental property must:
- Have useable utilities
- Be safe to live in
- Be free from danger
- Have water
- Have heat
Renters rights also include a right to privacy. A landlord must give their tenant notice before entering the property. Check your local and state laws for renters rights for notice requirements.
Renters Rights to Reasonable Security Deposits
State laws restrict the amount a landlord can request as a security deposit in order to protect renters rights. Each state has different restrictions, and it is prohibited for landlords to charge different tenants different security deposits as this is seen as discrimination. A landlord is allowed to charge an extra security deposit for pets without violating renters rights as long as they notify the tenant that this is the reason for it.
Some states also put legal restrictions in place for when the landlord must return the security deposit at the end of the tenancy. Some states even give renters rights to charge interest for late security deposits.
Renters Rights and Eviction
Renters rights put strict guidelines in place for the eviction process to ensure tenants are not unfairly kicked out. They regulate the reasons a renter may be evicted and how much notice the renter must receive. Federal renters rights require landlords to give tenants the chance to fix any lease violations before they start eviction proceedings. The renter must also have the chance to defend themselves in court at the eviction hearing.
Even with renters rights in place, a landlord may evict their tenant for committing a crime on the property or violating a lease condition. One of the most common reasons for eviction is the failure to pay rent.