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Do Tenants Have Rights?

Written on Saturday, 07 January 2017 6:47 am
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At first glance, the landlord-tenant relationship seems to be one in which the balance of power is tilted decidedly toward one side: the landlord’s. Many tenants repeat horror stories about situations in which they felt either taken advantage of or neglected by a current or former landlord. Of course, tenant-landlord disputes are often in the eye of the beholder, and many landlords have their fair share of stories about tenants they felt were in the wrong. One reason for the proliferation of stories told by tenants about their landlords is a faulty perception that they were powerless in the situation. Regardless of who is actually in the wrong (perhaps one or the other, both or neither) it must be understood that tenants rights do exist. The more both a tenant and landlord are familiar with tenant’s rights, the more likely a situation will be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties. Of course, landlords have rights as well, but this list focuses on those held by tenants. Another important factor to remember about tenant’s rights, landlord’s rights and rental/leasing agreements in general is that they vary from state to state. For that reason, this list will steer clear of specifics and focus on the broader aspects of tenants’ rights. Consult with a lawyer in your state for specific information on tenants’ rights in your area.

Security Deposits

There are several important rights related to a tenant’s security deposit. One of these rights is related to security deposit limits. There is most likely a limit to the security deposit (either a dollar amount or a proportion of the rent) that a landlord may charge. Tenants also have rights related to the process and deadline by which they receive their security deposit back, assuming all conditions of returning the deposit are met. Again, these rules vary from state to state, so consult with a professional or do some preliminary research to find out what the security deposit situation is in your state. 

Leases

There are also many rules, regulations and tenants rights related to leases and paying rent. Among the most common questions that tenants may have relate to paying rent. There are specific rules in each state that involve when rent must be paid. Some states allow for a grace period and/or a certain period before which rent is considered late. There are also rights related to how late rent payment can be paid and collected and how much a late fee may be imposed by a landlord. Tenants may also have the right to negotiate a partial or delayed payment.

Maintenance

Depending on the state and depending on the lease, tenants may have rights to help ensure that a landlord pays a fair share of any maintenance repairs. The burden on the landlord for these repairs also depends on the type of repair and cause of the issue. It may be that the landlord is legally responsible for the entirety of some maintenance and repair bills, so tenants will definitely want to know their rights in this area.

Housing Discrimination

One of the most well known areas of tenants’ rights is under the legal umbrella of housing discrimination. Federal law prohibits discrimination based on factors including race, religion, sex, country of origin, disability and familial status. There are many other areas in which tenants have rights: privacy, safety and more. Do some research or talk with a lawyer in your area who specializes in rental agreements for more information. 

My name is Wayne Gathright and I write for Tenants. 


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