What Are a Tenant’s Rights?

Both the landlord and the tenant have certain responsibilities and rights. A landlord is supposed to provide a habitable living space and adhere to the lease agreement. They also have the right to be paid rent and inspect the property with proper notice. A landlord must also respect the privacy of a tenant and respect their rights. To understand what a tenant’s rights are, keep reading.

Not every rental is perfect and sometimes tenants may have to live with certain difficulties. However, no matter what, a tenant is always entitled to their basic rights.

Habitable Living Conditions

As mentioned beforehand, every tenant is entitled to a habitable home. This means that a landlord must provide a living space that is reasonably fit to reside in. A tenant’s rental should be safe and secure — free of issues like pest infestations, mold, holes in walls, broken windows or doors, lack of running water, and so on. Landlords are not allowed to add language to a lease that waives this right and forces tenants to live in the unsafe conditions.

Disclosure Requirements

If a landlord denies someone tenancy because of negative credit information, gathered from a source other than a credit report, then the landlord must tell the tenant. This is deemed necessary under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The act also states that a landlord must inform a tenant (within 60 days of denying tenancy) that they may submit a written request for disclosure of the negative information. After receiving this request, the landlord must also tell the tenant the nature of the information within a reasonable time.

Fair Housing

For tenants’ protection, there are anti-discrimination laws in place. Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord may not discriminate against current or prospective tenants based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and/or familial status. This also means that a landlord cannot advertise their property with certain limitations in place, like, “Looking for a female tenant,” or “Families Only.” Some states also have protections for specific individuals, like those of the LGBTQ community.

Service Animals

Even if a landlord has a “no pets” policy in place, they cannot deny a tenant their service or emotional support animal. Denying someone tenancy because of their service animal would be a violation of federal law, as it goes against the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read more on pet-friendly rentals here.

Security Deposits

Most landlords require a tenant to pay a security deposit at the beginning of their lease. A security deposit is paid to ensure a tenant will pay rent and adhere to the lease terms. At the end of the lease, if any damages were made, the landlord will use the security deposit to cover them. The remainder of the money will be returned to the tenant, along with an itemized list of how the money was spent. If no damages were made, then the security deposit will be returned in full. A landlord is not allowed to keep the security deposit unless they have a valid reason. These reasons include:

  • Making repairs to damages on the premises beyond mere wear and tear
  • Cleaning to restore the premises to the condition they were in at the beginning of your lease (beyond normal wear and tear)
  • Covering unpaid rent

The laws for security deposits vary from state to state, so make sure to refer to your state’s laws. Many states have rules regarding how much time a landlord may take to return your deposit after you move out (usually thirty days).

Privacy

Every tenant has a right to privacy. A landlord may not enter a rental unit without giving proper notice, unless there is a true emergency taking place. No matter the reason for a landlord’s entry, whether it be for maintenance or an inspection, they must give the tenant advance notice before coming in. Some states have laws that outline specific rules for landlord entry — like the amount of notice a landlord must give and whether the landlord must tell you when they are coming and/or why.

If a landlord violates any of a tenant’s rights or breaches the lease agreement, the tenant may take legal action against the landlord. Make sure to consult an attorney if assistance is needed.