Do tenants have rights?
At some point in your life, you’ve probably rented an apartment. Maybe it was for you or maybe it was for your child who is in college. You may be wondering if tenants have any rights at all. This is especially true if you or your child has a less than desirable landlord.
A landlord-tenant relationship should be based on both trust and respect. However, this does not happen often. What do you do if you have a landlord who refuses to fix things when they break? What do you do if your landlord refuses to return your security deposit when you move out?
Here are some things you need to know to protect your rights as a tenant:
- Always put your rental agreements in writing. A “verbal” lease can cause people to misunderstand. Your lease should detail how much your rent will be, as well as whether you’re responsible for utilities. The lease should also specify when your rent is due. The lease may also state whether you are allowed to have pets and what type of pets are acceptable. The more specific the lease, the better.
- Landlords should expect some wear and tear on the apartment. The renter may be liable for items that are damaged, which cannot be considered normal wear and tear. To protect yourself, you can take a video of your apartment before you move in. Be sure to take pictures of any things that are damaged or malfunctioning. For example, holes in walls or torn window blinds should be documented. Then do the same when you move out.
- Get permission from the landlord if you want to paint or make other improvements to the apartment. When you get permission, make sure it’s in writing and specifies the types of things that can be done. For example, if your landlord agrees to let you paint your daughter’s room pink, get it in writing.
- Your landlord may levy a fee on your rent if you are late paying it. This fee must be stated in the rental agreement.
- You are entitled to a security deposit after you move out of your apartment. To make sure you get your deposit back, you must give your landlord 30 days’ notice in writing if you plan to end your tenancy. You must receive your deposit within 45 working days of leaving the apartment.
- Your landlord must ask your permission to enter your apartment. The only way a landlord can enter your apartment unannounced is if there is an emergency or if something needs to be repaired immediately.
- Tenants’ rights vary from state to state and may be affected by other factors.
If you have a question about your rights as a tenant, you should consult an attorney experienced in this area of law. Likewise, you should also consult an attorney before exercising your rights as a tenant. This is important to avoid liability as well as lawsuits.