Tenant and Landlord Rights

by PropertyBlawg on November 26, 2012

  • Sumo

Guest post on US law regarding tenant and landlord rights.

A lease is a written contract between a tenant and a landlord. While specific lease terms vary, all leases give both parties certain rights and responsibilities.

Tenants’ Rights

The most important right tenants have is the right to a safe, clean environment. That means that if an appliance breaks, the landlord is required to fix it. In many states, the tenant can withhold rent if the landlord fails to repair broken appliances in a reasonable amount of time. In addition to broken appliances, landlords must respond to sanitation problems immediately. For example, landlords must take steps to fix mold or exterminate pests. If an unsafe condition occurs because of tenant behavior—e.g., if the toilet backs up because the tenant throws foreign objects into it—the landlord can charge the tenant for the repair.

Tenants have the responsibility to report to their landlords, in writing, all problems and maintenance concerns, whether they are emergencies or not. If a tenant does not report a concern, he or she cannot expect the landlord to resolve the problem.

Landlords must provide an adequate number of electrical outlets, and provide each apartment with heating and plumbing. In most cases, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to set up utility accounts and pay for electric, heat and water service.

In addition to the right to a safe living situation, tenants have certain rights regarding their security deposits and leases. Many landlords collect a security deposit when the tenant moves in. If a landlord chooses to collect a security deposit, he or she must do the following:

  • Put the security deposit in a savings account.
  • Leave the security deposit alone until after the tenant moves out.
  • Subtract any expenses for cleaning and repairing the apartment from the security deposit after the tenant moves out, and return the remainder.

Finally, landlords must provide tenants with a written lease that spells out all the terms of the rental agreement, such as when rent is due, what the tenants’ additional responsibilities are and what the landlord’s responsibilities are. It is the tenant’s responsibility to read over the lease before signing it, as it is a legally binding contract.

Landlord’s Rights

The landlord has the right to expect rent from the tenant on a regular basis, unless the lease specifies otherwise. If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, some states allow the landlord to charge a late fee, though there are usually limits imposed on these fees, and some states do not allow them at all. In any case, late fees must adhere to what is stated in the lease agreement.

Landlords also have the right to prohibit certain behaviors in the lease. For example, the landlord can specify in the lease that tenants can’t make noise at certain hours, can’t keep pets, or can’t engage in drug use or other illegal activity. If the tenant violates any of these terms of the lease, the landlord has the right to take action including sending warning notices, demanding repairs or repayment, or taking legal action to terminate the lease.

The Eviction Process

If a tenant violates the terms of the lease, the landlord has the right to evict them. An eviction is a legal process in which the landlord asks a court to terminate the lease.

The landlord must take the following steps to evict a tenant:

  1. Provide written notice telling the tenant he or she has a certain number of days to cure the default of the lease or move out.
  2. If the tenant does not resolve the problem or move by the last day, the landlord must go to court to file eviction. The landlord must then give the tenant a certain number of days’ notice before the court hearing.
  3. Go to court on the appointed date. If the tenant does not come to court, the landlord automatically wins the case; otherwise, there will be a hearing.
  4. Get a warrant from the court upon winning the case. Have a sheriff deliver the warrant to the tenant.

About the author

This article was written by Ty Whitworth for the team at Insurance Swami. Just as you should wish to protect your property rights, you also should want to protect the quality of your life insurance policy.



Property Law Blogger at PropertyBlawg
Property Blawg is a property law blog covering property law in the UK and beyond, and the post above has been published because of the high value associated with the author's work. Contact us if you'd like to get published today. Powered by YouBlawg.

Previous post:

Next post: