Learn Your Legal Rights as a Tenant


Apr 26, 2018

Anytime you enter into a rental agreement as a tenant, you are obligated by law to follow all of the rules and regulations set forth by the landlord.

Any violation of these rules can result in an eviction from the property. However, the sword cuts both ways. Just as you are required to abide by certain terms, you also have rights as a tenant. You cannot assert your rights unless you know them. Tenants can often make themselves sitting ducks to predatory landlords when they aren't apprised of legal protections. Although laws regarding landlords and tenants vary from state to state, landlords cannot simply operate as they please. If you need to understand more about your tenant rights, there are resources you can access. If you are having issues with your landlord, you do have the legal right to take them to court or mediation. Most states have free tenant services that can give you more information.

Can I break my lease early if I have good reason?

You CAN break your lease, but emergency or not, don't expect to receive your deposit back. A lease is a binding legal document and not even a family emergency can terminate the lease. From a legal standpoint, you could still be held financially responsible for the remainder of the months left on the lease. Sometimes the unexpected happens. However, many landlords will still penalize you for it regardless of the circumstances. And the signed lease is the legal grounding to back it up.

Can a landlord enter my apartment for any reason?

This usually varies from state to state. But a landlord does have the right to enter your apartment without prior notice due to some type of emergency. This could be for a flood, severe damage or even a fire. Aside from that, landlords cannot simply barge into your home unannounced and without permission due to privacy laws.

On what grounds can a landlord reject your application?

If you rental application is rejected, it must be for a legitimate reason. They can set for the conditions as long as they don't violate the housing discrimination laws. But there are several ground under which a landlord can legally turn you down such as poor credit. Actually, poor credit is the leading reason for rental application rejection. Other reasons can be misrepresenting how much money you make, which could be considered insufficient to pay the rent, criminal convictions, previous evictions and negative references. They can also reject you if you have pets (not including service animals) and if you are a smoker. The landlord is well within their legal right to do so.

Can a landlord simply change their mind about renting after taking your deposit?

The short answer is no. A rental agreement is a legal and binding document. And once you have spent time looking for an apartment, packing are getting ready for the move in, you expect to do just that -- move in. If the landlord, for whatever reason, changes their mind, you can do something about it. A tenant can sue for damages and will likely win. In a civil proceeding, the landlord will have give you back your deposit, pay your attorney fee and everything else. So, it's not wise for a landlord to renege on a contract.

Can a landlord legally remove a tenant’s property?

Landlords only have the power to evict a tenant. And if they do so, they need to make darn sure it is because of a contract breach such as non-payment of rent or some other violation. A landlord can get in serious trouble if they remove your property from a house or apartment. Unfortunately, some tenants think a landlord can simply tell them to vacate in 10 days and that's the end of it. Not true. Eviction is a process, and a landlord cannot make any moves against the tenant until the process has completely cleared the courts. 

Before you decide to rent, make sure you understand the rental laws that are applicable to your state. It can save you a lot of time, money and a huge headache. There are resources at your fingertips if you run into problems with your landlord.

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