People are supposed to be governed by rules and laws. In terms of rental property, tenants have regulations to follow. Whenever you sign a contract to rent a property, you might notice a disadvantage. Of course, landlords have the right to be protective—even overprotective most of the time. Not only are they protecting their property, but they are also protecting their livelihood.
And why not? Statistics show that there is a significant 37 percent of Americans who live in apartments or rental homes. That is about one out of three American families that does business with landlords. And that is a lucrative business in states where rental fees are higher.
But there are also things from which tenants can be protected—things landlords cannot do even in their properties. Keep in mind that these are legal rights. So it is crucial to be represented by a real estate attorney when signing a rental contract or in handling disputes with your landlord.
Tenants have rights too that protect their privacy and the things they do inside a home. As paying customers, the law also protects tenants’ finances. This also includes their honor and dignity. Landlord-to-tenant laws might be different in many states. But four laws stay the same in principle. Here are four boundaries that your landlord needs to follow:
This is a big one signed and approved by the Federal Government and must apply to all 50 States in the United States. This law, known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968, states that no one, including landlords, can refuse a rental application based on the following:
- Skin color
- Familial status
- Sexual preference
This law is also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It also adds that even rental advertisements cannot include words that appear to be discriminating. Statements such as “No children allowed” or “For female only” are not allowed. These kinds of ads can be prosecuted and punishable by the Federal Government
Even rental contracts cannot be written based on those stipulations mentioned earlier. Neither can it have different terms according to your preference. Landlords are not allowed to charge less for one and more for the other. A lease contract should not have better terms for one compared to the other.
2. Unlawful Eviction
Eviction is one of a landlord’s rights, but they cannot abuse that right. Still, landlords must follow a legal process. The law expects landlords to provide tenants with due notice of eviction. The number of days varies by different states. But in general, a notice of eviction must be 30 days or more.
If a landlord insists on abrupt eviction, the tenant can file charges and pursue a legal trial. This also includes lockouts, turning off utilities and taking tenants’ possessions. In this case, authorities can also charge landlords with burglary and trespassing. And the tenants can be entitled to monetary damages and other legal remedies.
3. Entering without Notice
While the property belongs to the landlord, the law protects tenants in this regard. Should landlords wish to enter their rental property, they must provide at least a 24-hour notice. In a written letter, they must provide reasons for the access. Some states even need landlords to seek their tenant’s approval, whether through letters, emails, or text messages.
A few more states allow landlords to enter their rented units during business days and hours, Mondays to Fridays, between 9 AM and 5 PM. And they must receive an invitation from the tenant for official matters. But when proper notice is already, tenants cannot deny their landlord’s access.
There are also exceptions to this rule. First, landlords can enter the rental property without notice during an emergency. This includes but is not limited to fires, leaks, and flooding. The second exception is when landlords have evidence that the tenant has already abandoned the property.
If tenants feel violated, they have the right to reason with the landlord. If matters escalate further, they can file a case with the local housing authority or file a trespassing case with the local authorities.
4. Unreasonable Rental Increase
The amount of rent, if written on a contract, is legal and binding. But landlords can still have a few options to increase rates. And these options must be within a set of conditions. Some exceptions include the ones below:
- Extra pets
- Extra tenants
- Rate of inflation
As the famous saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility,” landlords do have powers and rights. But they also have a responsibility to fulfill. And knowing what they can and can’t do is very much a part of that responsibility. Tenants, on the other hand, have some semblance of power and responsibility.
But at the end of the day, if landlords know how to manage their property—giving the tenants a good amount of space, privacy, and security, while tenants pay their rent without delays and respect the property—then the law is there as a last option. The landlord-tenant relationship becomes professional and friendly all at the same time.