Know Your Rights: 5 Tenant Laws That Protect You

| July 16, 2012

tenants apartment rightsAs a tenant who occupies a rental property, as long as you abide by reasonable rules set down by your landlord, such as making timely payments, you have certain rights. While tenant laws can vary from state to state, the following universal tenant rights are designed to protect renters. You can start your search for rental properties here in the local Dex listings.

Healthy and Safe Conditions

You have the right to live in a safe, healthy environment. If unsafe and unhealthful conditions exist in your rental environment, the landlord is responsible for making necessary repairs and changes at his or her expense to guarantee your health and safety. On the other hand, the landlord is not responsible for the expense of repair if you or others have caused unhealthy, dangerous conditions because of negligence, accident or abuse of the property.

Generally, the landlord must also guarantee your safety by installing and maintaining smoke alarms throughout the property. You are responsible for not disabling the detectors.

Peaceful Conditions

You are entitled to quiet, harmonious living conditions. If you live in a multifamily living unit, the landlord is responsible for controlling other tenants who disturb the peace on a regular basis. You must make the problem known by reporting the disruption to the landlord. Of course, you must also be a good neighbor and not disturb other tenants.

Non-Discriminatory Treatment

Certain laws, such as the Fair Housing Act, make it illegal to discriminate against people when it comes to renting for the following reasons: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability or the presence of children under the age of 18 in the home. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the claim will be investigated by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO).

Return of Your Deposit

When you vacate the premises, as long as you treated the properly well and didn’t leave any significant damage that wasn’t caused by normal wear and tear, you are entitled to get a refund on your security deposit. It is unlawful for landlords to refuse to return the money without a valid reason. If the landlord does take some money for repairs, he or she must send you an itemized list of all the deductions.

Allowable time periods to receive the deposit vary from state to state, but generally it is within 30 days.

Eviction Without Just Cause

Generally, your landlord must have a reasonable cause for serving you an eviction notice. Valid reasons for eviction can include your failure to pay rent or consistently late payments, significant destruction of property by you leading to unsafe and unhealthy conditions, and sale or use by the landlord of the property. In the case of the latter two reasons, the landlord must give you ample notice, which varies from state to state. You may consult a tenant law attorney if you feel your rights have been violated.

Knowing your rights as a tenant allows you to make the most of your rental situation. To find a rental apartment in your area, look in the Dex listings.

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Category: Evergreen, Real Estate, Rental Property -- Apartments, Rental Property -- Homes

About the Author ()

Julie Bawden-Davis is a Southern-California-based writer specializing in home and garden, real estate, small business and personal finance. Since 1985, her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Entrepreneur and The Los Angeles Times. Julie is a University of California Certified Master Gardener and has written five gardening books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening.