As a tenant, have you ever wondered what rights renters have? When you sign a lease to rent a house or apartment, you are agreeing to live on your landlord or property manager’s land, under their conditions.
However, renters have rights to things like privacy, safety and habitability. At any point, if you feel your property manager does not hold up their end of the agreement, you may let them know and even take action.
It is very important that you understand these rights so that you don’t get taken advantage of. A tenant’s rights are usually based on state or local laws, so they can vary depending on where you live.
The Fair Housing Act is what protects you as the renter or homebuyer. You have renter’s rights because of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This gives Americans the right to live safely and privately in their homes without worrying about disruptions or its habitability.
The Fair Housing Act was created to give all Americans an equal opportunity to find housing without being discriminated against. The Act also prohibits the leaser from providing an unsafe or unhealthy living environment. Consequences for breaking any rules of the lease or Fair Housing Act can result in the eviction of the tenant. The tenant may choose to terminate the lease agreement and stop payment with proof that the landlord has not upheld their side of the contract.
As a tenant, you have rights under state, local and federal law. You have the right to a discrimination-free process, health, safety, habitability, timely responses and privacy.
Though it is not a law, it is written into most leases that a tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment.
Unfortunately, something that bothers you might not bother someone else, which is why this section of the lease can be difficult to interpret. Basically, if whatever is disturbing you can be controlled by the property manager, then they must take action.
This includes noise at unreasonable hours or maintenance that takes much longer than originally warranted. Scheduled repairs, normal check-ins from the property managers or neighbors making ordinary noise are not protected.
It is good practice to keep a record of your disturbances because they can be difficult to prove. Keeping detailed accounts of consistent disturbances will prove to be very helpful when confronting your property manager about the issue.
The Fair Housing Act protects you and your loved ones from being discriminated against because of:
Whether you are already leasing or looking to lease, a property manager cannot discriminate against you for any of these protected categories. There are other protected classes that vary by the state such as marital status and sexual orientation. It is important for both property managers and tenants to be aware of what they are protected by.
It has been illegal for over 50 years for a property manager to treat any tenant differently from other current or potential tenants. The Fair Housing Act was created to prevent neighborhoods and apartment complexes from excluding those they did not deem fit to live in the area.
Included in the Fair Housing Act is the right to live in a habitable home. This means the property that your property manager provides must be suitable to live in without the potential to put any occupants’ health or safety at risk. Keeping a habitable home means making needed repairs, maintaining existing conditions and property monitoring.
Your property manager also has the obligation to keep the unit in a habitable condition for the duration of the lease. The property manager is required to make repairs when they are made aware of a problem. The building must stay structurally sound, and all electrical, plumbing and heating systems must be operating and the property must be free of pests.
Your landlord is not required to fix items that the property manager is responsible for, or can fix on their own like replacing light bulbs or filling holes in the wall. If the landlord is asked to fix problems outside of their agreement, then they might add additional charges.
When you make a complaint, your property manager will typically get back to you within a matter of days.
However, it’s important to understand that the property manager typically has 30 days to follow up with you or make the repair. This can vary depending on your lease and the state you reside in. Some states allow tenants to withhold rent until the repair has been made. Other states allow tenants to make the repair themselves and withhold the amount of the repair from the monthly rent.
Every tenant has the right to safety in their home. This means it’s the landlord or property manager’s responsibility to ensure the building is free from criminal activity. Precautions such as deadbolts can help secure living space.
Another form of safety is keeping buildings up to code. Most states require property managers to disclose any potential environmental toxins such as lead paint. They must also provide certain fire exits, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. If they fail to keep these items up to code, you have the right to take legal action.
On the other hand, a tenant must also maintain an environment that is healthy and safe. If they don’t, they will no longer be protected under the Fair Housing Act and can’t make any legal claims. If the tenant has an unhealthy or unsafe environment, they may receive a warning or even eviction.
You will almost always find that the property manager will ask for a security deposit upon signing the lease. This money will be returned to you after the lease is up as long as it does not have to be used for repairs.
To ensure that property managers are not taking using your deposit for purposes not stated in the lease, some states have a maximum security deposit amount. There are also laws for how soon you must get your money back after moving out.
You expect a certain degree of privacy in your home, whether you are renting or not. Renters’ rights may get taken advantage of by landlords who do not give their tenants a reasonable warning before coming onto the property. Privacy is your right, and it is your property manager's responsibility to uphold that.
There are times when your landlord or building manager should be on the property, and it is expected for things like making repairs and showing prospective tenants the space. However, many states require advanced notice. Some states have a 24-48 hour law, and others just require “reasonable” notice.
If you receive an eviction notice from your property manager, you must leave the unit by the date stated on the notice. If you would like to make amends and continue the lease, you must work something out with the property owner. However, if the tenant takes no further action by the end date on the notice, the property manager will schedule a court hearing.
If you choose to attend the hearing and are serious about staying on the property, then you should come prepared. You should first make a pricing plan for the property manager that they may choose to accept. You might also need to prepare an improper notice or a retaliatory eviction against your property manager. If you fail to show up to the court hearing, then you will be evicted from the home and not permitted on the property.
Before you decide to take action against your property manager, you should remember that you are still living on their property, which means you must continue to abide by the law and terms of your lease.
Although you may have discrepancies with your property manager, you will almost always be responsible for paying your rent. Even if you have an issue with one section of your lease, it does not nullify other parts. As a tenant, you are responsible for upholding all aspects of your lease.
It is important to remember that if an issue arises with your lease, you should look into the local laws. For example, even though your lease might say you have the right to privacy, local laws might say that your landlord can show up whenever they would like. In this case, if there are not excessive visits that have disturbed your privacy, then the property manager has the right to come on to your property without notice.
No matter what might have happened between you and your property manager during your lease, it is important that you still follow the laws when ending your lease. If you do not follow your lease’s protocol for moving out, your landlord can hold that against you.
As we mentioned earlier, it is crucial to your well-being that you document everything that happens throughout your lease. Whether it be a problem with the property manager, roommate troubles or neighbor issues. It is important that you have this in case you need to reference a situation when the lease is coming to an end.
Even if you feel like your landlord or property manager is out to get you, there are plenty of resources to help you out. There are tenants’ rights organizations that are there to help renters. Here are a few that you can reference:
Whether you have a laundry list of problems with your property manager or they are your best friend it's important to know your renter’s rights. Odds are that your current living situation will not be your last, and it is important to go over your rights and responsibilities as a renter with each new agreement.