In Kentucky, a landlord-tenant agreement exists according to law (KRS Chapter 383) where ever an agreed upon amount of rent is exchanged for inhabiting a property, even without a written lease. Tenants have rights under the agreement including the right to habitable living and the right to pursue some forms of alternate action.
Landlords too have the right to collect rent and the reimbursement of costs for damages that exceed normal wear and tear.
Note: these rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
In addition to the below, please check local county and municipality laws for additional rules and protections for both landlords and tenants.
Landlord Responsibilities in Kentucky
Kentucky landlords are required to keep the domicile in a habitable manner and make sure that repairs are made when needed in a timely manner. Landlords are also required not to disturb the tenant’s right to use the property peaceably and reasonably in a peaceable and reasonably.
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Kentucky landlords must respond and fix a repair request within 14 days. After 14 days, tenants can take “alternate action.” including withholding rent or repairing and deducting up to half the cost from rent.
These landlord responsibilities only apply to single and multi-family homes. Condos and mobile homes are not covered.
Tenant Responsibilities in Kentucky
Aside from paying their rent on time, Kentucky tenants must:
- Keep the rented unit in a clean and in repair condition
- Not damage any fixtures or structures
- Not engage in illegal behavior
- Respect other tenants
Evictions in Kentucky
Kentucky landlords can pursue legal eviction for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent by the due date, landlords can issue a 7-Day Notice to Pay. If the tenant does not pay within 7 days of receiving the notice, landlords can commence eviction proceedings.
- Violation of lease terms – Kentucky landlords may issue a 15-Day Notice to Cure for first-time curable lease violations. If the same infraction occurs again within 6 months, Kentucky landlords can skip the 15-day Notice to Cure and file a 14-Day Unconditional Notice to Quit that requires immediate eviction.
- Illegal acts – Kentucky law does not explicitly demarcate which criminal acts are justification for eviction. Landlords can determine these conditions in individual lease agreements.
It is illegal for Kentucky landlords to evict tenants for their membership in a protected class. It is also unlawful to evict a tenant as a form of retaliation for:
- Notifying officials about health or safety violations
- Joining a tenant union or organization
- Filing a request for maintenance
Security Deposits in Kentucky
- Standard limit/maximum amount – N/A
- Interest and Maintenance – Landlords must put a security deposit in a federally-regulated banking institution. Landlords are not required to pay out interest gained on these funds.
- Time limit for return – After calculating and agreeing upon and security deposit deduction, tenants have 60 days to claim the rest of the security deposit.
- Penalty if not returned on time – There is no timeframe for security deposit returns in Kentucky law. However, tenants can bring legal action against landlords.
- Allowable deductions – Kentucky landlords can make deductions for missed rent payments or damages to house structures beyond regular wear and tear. Landlords can also deduct for lease violations that have caused them to lose money.
Lease Termination in Kentucky
Landlords must provide notification of lease termination.
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Tenants who lease on a yearly basis do not have to give advance notice if they intend to move out once the lease is over.
Early termination. Tenants can break their lease legally for the following justifications:
- Active military duty
- Unit is uninhabitable
- Landlord Harassment
Kentucky tenants might be liable for their former unit until their lease is over. Kentucky landlords are statutorily required to find a new tenant to fill the rental space.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Kentucky
- Rent control. Kentucky laws currently pre-empty any kind of rent control. So, landlords can charge whatever they want for rent.
- Rent increases. Kentucky landlords can increase rent by whatever amount for whatever reason they want.
- Additional fees. There are no caps to how much landlords can charge in late fees. Kentucky does limit the amount a landlord can charge for a returned check to $50.
Housing Discrimination in Kentucky
Protected classes. Kentucky landlords are prohibited from discriminating housing against people for belonging to a protected class. Fair Housing Act laws do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations.
Kentucky does not have any extra protection for classes other than those outlined in the Fair Housing Act. However, those with HIV/AIDS are protected as the condition counts as a “disability.”
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. Fair housing laws are executed by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Acts that can be considered discriminatory when direct to a member of a protected class include:
- Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
- Lying about property availability
- Providing different services, terms, or privileges
- Participating in “panic selling”
- “Steering” members of protected classes into specific neighborhoods
- Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations
Tenants can file a discrimination complaint on the Kentucky Human Rights Commissions website.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Kentucky
Landlord right to entry in Kentucky
Kentucky landlords must provide a written 2-day notice of entry for emergencies. The landlord and tenant determine “Reasonable” entry times. Kentucky landlords generally have the right to enter without permission in emergencies.
Small Claims Court in Kentucky
Small claims court in Kentucky handles cases valued at up to $2,500. Cases relating to rent have a 15-year statute of limitations, while property damage cases have a 5-year statute of limitations.
Kentucky landlords must disclose the following information:
- Lead-based paint – For houses built before 1978, tenants are entitled to information about lead-paint composition.
- Managers and Agents – Kentucky landlords must provide tenants with the names and addresses of the owner, agents, managers of the property, and any agents that work on their behalf.
- Security deposit bank account number – Landlords are legally required to disclose the banking institution and account number that holds the tenant’s security deposit.
Changing the locks in Kentucky
Landlords generally cannot change locks under any circumstance without tenant permission. Kentucky tenants may be allowed to change locks when they want, although this is not recommended.
Additional Resources for Kentucky Renters
To learn more, please refer to the below digital resources.
The Fair Housing Handbook – This book is published by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. It answers questions related to Kentucky’s fair housing laws.
Landlord-Tenant Overview for Kentucky – This video was created by a Kentucky-based legal aid group. It provides video and audio guidance on the commonwealth’s landlord-tenant laws.
Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 383 – This document sets for provisions that impact landlord-tenant leasing relationships.