Moving into a private rented apartment or house can be both taxing and exciting at the same time. But before finally signing that lease to your future abode, you must first think of all the unfavorable circumstances you may encounter during or even before your stay. This may have to do with property maintenance issues, poor security management, inconsiderate neighbors, or even financial disputes with your landlord. Given all these situations, do you know where you stand? If you are uncertain, you can let this guide help you in knowing your rights as a tenant.
Your rights as a tenant.
Tenants' rights are a series of laws devised to protect renters by providing them a proper recourse in case their landlord fails to make the property unfit to live in. It also prevents property owners from imposing unreasonably high rent, as well as performing discriminatory practices in selling or renting their properties.
Right to Fair Housing
Everyone should be given equal opportunities in renting a home. That being said, your rent application shouldn't be rejected just because of your age, color, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and even familial status. This is in accordance with the federal Fair Housing Act. If you ever experience having your application refused due to prejudicial reasons, you may think about filing a housing discrimination complaint.
Right to Habitable Home
Before you move in, you must first consider that the place you're going to rent is fit to live in. How's the weather in the area? Are safety codes being regulated? Does the unit have perfectly working lines and electricity? Are there no leaks or any plumbing issues? These are just some of the many things you should check beforehand to know whether the place fits your lifestyle and needs. For you to do that, you must inspect the property in person as it is both your right and responsibility to perform due diligence in assuring that your future home meets your expectations.
Right to Know About Your Security Deposit
The law does not require landlords to collect security deposits but it can help you ditch financial burden in case you cause damage to property during your stay. Should there be instances where your property will need repairs or other maintenance work, know that it is your landlord's responsibility to shoulder everything unless the damage is beyond ordinary wear and tear. Leaky faucets and old ceiling lights burning out are some of the problems your landlord must take care of. But if your child accidentally breaks your window pane during a game of ball in your front yard, the cost of repair should be deducted from your security deposit since it wasn't caused by natural circumstances.
Security deposits are refundable, but the duration varies depending on the law imposed in your state. Some only take 15 days after the lease has ended, while some take up to 30 days. However, it is not 100% guaranteed for security deposits to be returned as some landlords take it as a form of "insurance". This usually happens when the place needs to be restored after the tenant fails to maintain the property's cleanliness, or if the tenant has a remaining balance left unpaid. If you live with a pet, your landlord may have asked you to pay for a “pet fee” which you pay along with your monthly rent. Know that there’s a huge difference between this and a “pet deposit” since the deposit refers to a refundable amount of money. So in this case, you cannot demand a refund.
If your landlord decides to keep your security deposit, it is your right to demand transparency and ask them to issue a document within your state's established timeframe. For example, if your deposit was $800 and your tenant only returned $400, you should ask for a written explanation as to why they are keeping the remaining $400.
Grounds for eviction
You should be aware that your landlord is allowed to evict you especially now that the national eviction ban is over and given the circumstances where you make a breach of contract. This may include failure of paying your monthly dues, doing prohibited activities under your roof like smoking, partying, and any illegal activities; or keeping a pet when your contract clearly states that any of these are not allowed.
In any event that your landlord plans to evict you due to any of these reasons, you must know that you are entitled to an eviction notice, as well as the time to fix whatever it is that you failed to comply with your contract. But if you fail to do so, your landlord has every right to terminate your lease or file an eviction proceeding in court. If this happens, you will be given a chance to share your side of the story. However, if your landlord gets the upper hand, you'll be required to pay back your dues and a writ will be issued for your eviction.
Be Wise and Responsible
Knowing your responsibilities is as important as knowing your rights as a renter. When you're doing a unit inspection, you may ask your landlord or property agent if it's possible for you to schedule on weekends, or even at night. This is to ensure if the place is really peaceful and secured. You can also ask a legal adviser to join you while you communicate with your landlord. Cliche as it may sound, but prevention is always better than cure. Be wise before signing that lease!