Rights And Obligations Of Tenants And Landlords

Renting a house is a big commitment on the part of both landlord and tenant. In this agreement, both parties have their rights and duties, failing to comply with which can lead to consequences like disputes, eviction, or even lawsuits. That’s why landlords should screen all potential tenants and all tenants should clear all doubts with their landlords before both parties sign the rental agreement.

For tenants, renting a house can seem like a better option when you don’t have enough money saved up for a down payment to buy a new home. But there are some obligations you must abide by and some rights that you should be aware of; the same goes with landlords. If you’re a tenant planning to look for rental properties or a landlord looking to lease out your property, then keep on reading!

The Basics Aspects Of Landlord-Tenant Laws

The Rental Agreement

Let’s come to the legal agreement that binds a tenant and a landlord: the rental agreement or a tenancy agreement. This is an agreement that both parties have to sign in order to initiate a lease.

Both landlord and tenant are bound by the terms that are stated in the agreement, but here’s a catch, the tenancy agreement can be overridden by law, even if something isn’t included in the agreement! To put it in simpler terms, the rental agreement cannot take away the rights both parties have by law.

This agreement can be in both written and oral form, but in some states even if there was an oral agreement, the landlord has to hand over written synopsis before the tenant moves in. It’s important that the tenant reads everything before signing on the dotted line to understand the use of shared space and to learn about the building policies.

It’s also the responsibility of the landlord to explain some important provisions or special terms to the tenant so there are no misunderstandings later. Tenants should not view rental agreements as just legal contracts but as important documents that protect the rights of tenants. Now that you know the basics, let’s understand more about the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords.

Laws Change From State To State

When it comes to the rights of landlords and tenants, each state has its own set of laws. The most basic right of a tenant is the right to a safe and habitable place of accommodation. This becomes the most basic duty on the landlord’s part to keep the property clean, updated on utilities like heating and insulation. In case of disputes, tenants are to pay their rental money towards an escrow account until the court reaches a decision. But you must research what is the law in your state about withholding rent, similarly, all other rights and obligations of tenants and landlords can change from one state to another.

Rights Of Tenants

Habitable Home

Every tenant has the right to a safe place to live in that includes all the basic amenities like heat, utilities, and water. The place should be checked for dangerous conditions and repaired in advance. Tenants have basic rights to a habitable home with natural daylighting, fixed plumbing, proper insulation, and a means to dispose of trash.

Repairs

Tenants have complete rights to demand any kind of repairs in the house. The landlord is responsible for attending to those repairs and should respond promptly depending on how severe the condition is. No tenant should live in an unsafe property while the landlord ignores pleas for repairs. Tenants also have the right to move into a property that’s cleaned and repaired before they take possession.

Fair Housing Rights

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, if you apply for renting a property, you cannot be rejected on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, nationality, or mental/physical disability. State laws and local laws further state how there should be no discrimination on these grounds. If you’re differently-abled and apply for rent, the landlord should make small changes to make the rental unit more accessible to you like installing ramps or providing you the option to lease a lower unit.

Right To Security Deposit

You have rights over the security deposit you pay your landlord. You should check if your state has set caps on security deposits and if your landlord is overcharging you. No landlord can charge you a higher security deposit without valid reasons. There are state laws regarding how long the landlord can keep the security deposit. Tenants have the right to written documentation if the landlord decides to withhold some of the security deposit in case of damages.

You should be aware that the landlord cannot claim a security deposit that is higher than a two months rent. It’s also mandatory that the landlord informs you of any rise in rent at least three months in advance. When you move out of the house you need to get back the security deposit that you paid to your Landlord.

Receipts

As a tenant, you should always ask for a receipt every time you pay your rent. Tenants have rights to written documentation that they have paid their rent, whichever mode it was paid in. This is especially important for tenants who pay in cash or through money orders. These receipts are proof of payment that can act as evidence if the landlord falsely claims that they never received the rent.

Eviction Rights

As a tenant, you have the rights to a notice of eviction in case you have breached anything in the lease or haven’t paid your rent. If you don’t fix the issues you did to breach the lease, the landlord can take you to court. You have the chance to appear in court and you have the right to present your side of the story. You can go through our Article on Everything about Home Eviction.

Privacy

Like any citizen, tenants have the right to privacy. By that we mean the landlord cannot barge into your rented unit without prior notice. This can be with respect to repair to the house or for inspection. Every state has specific laws with regard to how much notice the landlord is supposed to give you (usually it’s between 24-48 hours).

Also See: Red Flags to Look for Before Renting a House | How to Break a Lease without Penalty

Obligations Of Tenants

Paying Rent And Other Charges

This one’s pretty obvious and the foremost duty of a tenant. Tenants are supposed to regularly pay the rent agreed upon in the rental agreement. Failing this, the landlord has full rights to exercise legal actions. Rent payments should continue even if the landlord has ignored repairs or there’s an ongoing dispute. Other charges like utility bills or council tax are also payable if they were agreed upon in the tenancy agreement.

Maintaining The Property

It’s very important that the tenant maintains the rental unit. They should secure the lock systems, maintain the heating or cooling systems, and take care of the garden too if applicable. If the tenant knows that some part of the property needs care or attention, they should not ignore it as any damages occurring due to negligence makes the tenant liable for it.

Reporting Damage And Paying For It

The tenant is obligated to report any damage as soon as it occurs to the landlord. Tenants should also notify the landlord of any repairs around the house so they can be fixed at the earliest. Tenants should maintain a report of when they were given a walkthrough of the property and ensure that they leave the property in the same condition without damages. In case of damage, the landlord has full rights to claim it through the security deposit.

Alterations To The Property

While small alterations like putting up frames, bookshelves, or fixing fences around the house are fine, major alterations to the property like tearing down a wall to make the property spacious aren’t allowed for the tenant to do.

Restrain From Illegal Activities

Tenants should not use the rental unit for anything other than what it was intended for. If the tenant is caught using the property for illegal activities, the landlord can terminate the agreement and send an eviction notice to the tenant.

It’s also the responsibility of the tenant to inform the landlord in writing if they have other people staying with them for overnight periods. Things like securing the house when going away for longer durations, safeguarding the property, and taking care of its structure are some unsaid but important responsibilities of a tenant. If a tenant breaches any of the obligations, the landlord can rightfully evict them.

Read our Article on How to be a Good Tenant | Major Rental Lawsthat affect your Tenancy

Rights Of Landlords

Screening The Applicants

As a landlord, you have the rights to interview the tenant, run background checks, run individual credit checks, and contact any references. All you must remember is to comply with the Fair Housing Act and recheck your screening questions.

Read our Article on How to find good Tenants for your House?

Move-In And Move-Out Inspection

You can ask the tenant for a move-in and move-out inspection. This is important when the tenant moves out so you’re aware of the damages to the property, if any. You can maintain a walkthrough report and ask the tenant to do the same so you both have a record of the state of the property before the tenant took possession and after they vacate it.

Recovering Damages Out Of Security Deposits

If the tenant has inflicted any damage to the rental unit or hasn’t paid rent, you have the right to recover any losses from the security deposit. But when you do use any amount from the tenant’s security deposit, ensure you give the tenant written documentation of the same. This does not include normal wear and tear that cannot be avoided. You can also claim a pet security deposit if your state laws allow it.

Right To Enter The Property

Landlords have the right to enter the rental property while it’s in the tenants’ possession for inspection or repairs. Prior notice is required before you enter the property but if it’s an emergency, landlords have the right to entry.

Termination Or Eviction

If the tenant isn’t complying with the terms in the rental agreement, you as a landlord can stop them from continuing the misconduct. Landlords can approach the court and lawfully evict the tenant if they don’t change course in spite of warnings.

Obligations Of Landlords

Maintaining The Unit

As a landlord, you’re obliged to maintain the rental unit and the common areas. You should run necessary repairs and timely maintenance checks. Landlords should maintain plumbing, electrical systems, supply trash receptacles, and attend to any kind of infestation. You’re also obligated to disclose any kind of history such as environmental hazards, bed bugs, or lead paint.

Rechecking Tenant Safety

Landlords should eliminate all hazards from the property and check the safety measures. The doors should have functional locks, common areas should be well lit, and no emergency exits should be blocked. Safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be maintained. If you have a pool then rescue equipment like rope and pool rings should be easily accessible.

Responding To Tenant Requests

If the tenant reports the need for repairs, landlords should attend to them. If the repair work is an emergency or affects the livability of the tenant, the landlord should respond within 24 hours and should also offer a temporary dwelling if the need arises.

Maintaining The Security Deposit

Just as collecting a security deposit from the tenant becomes a right, maintaining it lawfully becomes an obligation. There are rules as to how a security deposit can be, how long it can be with the landlord, how it can be returned, and what happens to the deposit if the landlord decides to sell the property.

Delivering Possession Of The Unit

The landlord is under obligation to keep the rental unit vacant on the tenant’s move-in date. If there’s a squatter on the property, it’s the landlord’s duty to pursue legal action against them and keep the unit ready for the tenant.

Disclosure Of The Owner

The landlord should disclose the name, address, and contact information of the building’s owner, the landlord, or any person who’s acting as the landlord’s agent. This can be disclosed in writing before the actual tenancy begins. This makes the tenant aware of the person who should be contacted in case of collection of rent or maintenance requests. If the owner isn’t disclosed then the tenant’s primary contact person becomes the person who collects the rent.

Conclusion

When the landlord and tenant enter into an agreement, it’s the responsibility of both the parties to respect each other’s duties and abide by the same. Both parties should be aware and informed of their rights. If the tenant joins a tenant’s association, the landlord cannot stop them. Landlords should also know their legal rights and not abstain from taking lawful steps if the tenant doesn’t comply with any terms. In the end, both parties can approach a third party if things go downhill!

FAQs On Rights And Obligations Of Tenants And Landlords

Are Pets Allowed On Rental Properties?

Yes, pets are allowed by some landlords and some even collect pet security deposits for the same. If a landlord refuses to have pets on his property, there should be a legitimate reason to do so and should be conveyed in writing to the tenant. As a rule, landlords cannot refuse service animals on the rental property.

See Also: Moving with Pets

What Are Some Things A Landlord Cannot Do?

Landlords cannot force the tenant to evict without notice, they cannot enter the tenant’s home without prior notice, they cannot increase the rent without informing the tenant in advance, and they cannot discriminate against any tenancy application on unreasonable grounds.

Do Tenants Need A Renter’s Insurance?

Yes, tenants should ideally get a renter’s insurance. It protects their personal property against damage or theft. A renter’s insurance covers the tenant in instances of break-ins, storms, or any other event specified in the policy.

You can also read our Articles on How to tell your Landlord about your move and Giving a Move out Notice to the Landlord.

Written by


Rostislav Shetman is the founder of 9Kilo Moving. He has been in the moving and relocation industry for more than 25 years, making him an expert in his field. Rostislav started as a helper, dispatcher and driver and has worked his way up to owning his own company. He takes great pride in his work and enjoys helping people relocate across the United States of America. When he's not working, Rostislav enjoys spending time with his family and friends. They are the light of his life and bring him happiness every day.