August 17, 2017

My Rights as a Tenant

boona and jannyAs long as you fulfill your legal duties and the requirements of your rental agreement, you have the right to exclusive possession of property you rent or least for the term of the rental agreement. However, even as you exercise your basic right to privacy, your landlord may retain in the lease a right to inspect your dwelling at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner.

If your landlord does not live up to his duties as set by law and the terms of the rental agreement, you have the right to:

  1. complain to him/her,
  2. complain to appropriate government agencies, such as your local building and health departments,
  3. exercise your rights under law or the rental agreement which you have signed,
  4. join with other tenants to secure your rights. These rights may be exercised without fear of eviction.

In addition, if after reasonable notice, your landlord fails to carry out his legal duties, you have the right to move out of the dwelling you are renting, thereby ending your rental agreement. Moreover, you have the right to seek relief in court if the landlord fails to fulfill his duties. If you seek relief in court and the court decides in your favor, it may reduce the amount of rent you must pay until the landlord fulfills his duties, and/or award you money damages.

Tenants may withhold rent payments under very limited circumstances and should contact a legal services and fair housing agency before doing so.

My Duties as a Tenant

As a tenant you have an obligation:

  1. To pay your rent as agreed and do other things required by your lease.
  2. To keep your home clean and safe. Get rid of trash and garbage in a clean and safe way. use the toilet, sinks and baths in proper ways and keep them clean.
  3. Not to damage or let any of your family or guests damage your home. If you do, you are responsible. However, you are not responsible for ordinary wear and tear or damage caused by nature or people you do not permit to come into your home.
  4. To comply with any and all obligations imposed upon tenants by current applicable building and housing codes.
  5. To replace the batteries as needed in a battery-operated smoke detector and to notify the landlord if the smoke detector needs to be repaired or replaced. To not render the smoke detector inoperable and to not knowingly permit anyone else to do so.
  6. Vacate the premises at the end of the term, leaving them in good, clean condition. If you holdover at the end of the term and the landlord continues to accept rental payments from you, unless your rental agreement otherwise provides, the law may deem you to have entered a new term of lease according to the same terms as your rental agreement. For example, if you have a lease agreement for a one-year term and holdover at the end of the term you may be bound to an additional one-year term.

To protect yourself you should make a thorough inspection of premises you intend to rent and set out in writing any damages or defects in the premises existing when you take occupancy, so that you will not be held responsible for them at the end of the term.

If something goes wrong with your home which is the landlord’s duty to fix, you should let him know in writing what needs to be repaired and you must give him a reasonable amount of time to get the repairs done. What amount of time is reasonable depends on the nature of the problem. Leaks, a broken furnace in winter, and bad wiring, etc., should be corrected promptly. It may be reasonable, however, for a landlord to take a few weeks to repair other problems.

If the problem is a real emergency, your notice to the landlord does not have to be written, but it is always wise to give a dated written notice and keep a copy for yourself.

If you live in a jurisdiction with rent contol laws you may additional rights and obligations. Check out the local ordinaces in those cities.