The quality of your home environment can have a major impact on your physical and emotional well-being. If you rent your home, you should make sure to understand your rights and obligations. The relationship between a tenant and a landlord can be complicated and sometimes turbulent, but it does not always need to be. Explore this section of our site to find out more about the issues that can arise and how to address them.
Finding a Home
You will want to carefully investigate the rental properties in your area before deciding which unit may be right for you. Once you have found your future home, you will need to complete a rental application involving background and credit checks. The landlord must approve the application before you can sign the lease and move in to your new home. If you want to hold a unit for a certain time before signing the lease, you may be able to submit a holding deposit if the landlord permits.
Understanding Your Lease
The lease or rental agreement describes most of the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant. For example, a lease typically addresses whether the tenant can sublet the unit to someone else. You should take the time to understand each of a lease’s nuances in detail and ask the landlord to clarify any ambiguities. Sometimes you can add clauses to a lease or make changes to it after it is signed if your situation shifts. If you are moving into a unit with roommates, you may want to reach an additional agreement with your cotenants regarding each person’s responsibilities.
Many disputes between a landlord and a tenant involve whether the tenant has paid rent as required under the lease. In certain states and cities, rent control laws dictate how much rent a landlord can charge and when they can increase it. If a landlord wants to increase the rent, whether or not rent control applies, they usually need to provide proper notice and refrain from retaliatory increases. In addition to paying rent, a tenant will need to provide a security deposit to cover any damage that they cause to the property during their tenancy.
In almost every state, tenants have a right to live in a unit that is fit for habitation. They also have a right to be free from discrimination based on their membership in a certain group, such as those defined by race, religion, gender, disability, or national origin. A landlord also may not retaliate against a tenant for exercising a legal right, such as reporting the landlord for a building code violation. In addition, tenants have a right to privacy in their home, although this is balanced against the landlord’s right of entry to their property and the need to address any emergencies that may arise.
Repairs and Improvements
If something breaks down in your unit or in a common area that you use, the landlord likely will be responsible for fixing it unless you caused the issue. You should determine whether the repair is major, which requires the landlord to address it with greater urgency. If a landlord fails to handle a major repair, you may be able to withhold rent or take other strong actions. Repairs that are relatively minor warrant less aggressive action. Also, you may feel that your home would benefit from a non-essential adjustment or alteration, but you should be aware that these improvements are usually not permitted by a lease and become the landlord’s property if you leave.
Hazards on Property
Tenants who are injured in accidents on their landlord’s property may be able to seek compensation from the landlord, unless the tenant caused the accident. Environmental hazards in residential units also can cause serious harm, such as carbon monoxide, asbestos, lead, mold, and bedbugs. You should urge your landlord to promptly address these hazards. Finally, landlords must keep their tenants safe from foreseeable crimes on the property or in its vicinity by taking reasonable security measures.
Ending a Tenancy
Your landlord and you may decide to end your lease on mutually agreeable terms. Not every relationship comes to a smooth conclusion, however, and sometimes a tenant will receive a termination notice from a landlord based on an alleged violation of the lease. If you cannot resolve the dispute, you may need to fight an eviction in court so that you can stay in your home or have more time to move. While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without hiring a legal professional, you should consider getting a lawyer on your side to fight an eviction because the stakes are so high. Whether you leave voluntarily or are evicted, you have certain rights regarding getting back your security deposit and reclaiming property that you accidentally abandoned at your former home.