In Mississippi, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Mississippi varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Mississippi law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Mississippi
Landlord Responsibilities. Mississippi’s landlord tenant laws require that all landlords operating within the state abide by a “warranty of habitability.” This set of guidelines sets forth the kinds of amenities and repair services that must be provided to tenants, regardless of the terms of their applicable lease agreement. These are several of the most important amenities included in Mississippi’s warranty of habitability:
- Proper plumbing
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and lighting
- Heating and cooling systems
Landlords in Mississippi may also be required to maintain any other amenity or appliance that is provided to their tenant within the terms of their mutual lease agreement. If these or any other essential amenity falls into disrepair, Mississippi tenants are allowed to request repairs from their landlord through their landlord’s preferred communication channel. Their landlord then has 30 days to respond to the request and make all necessary repairs the affected tenant can take further action (including requesting a lease termination).
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in Mississippi are responsible for keeping their unit “clean” at all times. Though perfection is not required, these standards merely require that a tenant prevent hazards from putting other tenants or the unit’s structure itself at risk for harm or damage. Mississippi landlords may request that their landlord remedy any cleanliness issue immediately. Because the state lacks a statutory curing period length requirement, this means that any compliance failure on a Mississippi tenant’s part may result in immediate eviction.
Mississippi tenants are allowed to take at least one form of “alternative action” against their landlord when they fail to provide mandated services, though. This includes repairing any in-unit issue on their own and then requesting a reimbursement later on. This reimbursement can then be leveled with a future rent payment, thus resulting in a deduction.
Evictions in Mississippi
Included here are several of the most common reasons a Mississippi landlord may use to justify an eviction order against a tenant:
- Nonpayment of rent – Mississippi landlords are able to institute a grace period in which a tenant may make a rent payment after the stated due date with penalty. However, as soon as that grace period elapses, a Mississippi landlord may begin to apply late payment fees and issue a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. If the non-paying tenant still does not pay up after the third day of this notice period, their landlord may formalize the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint motion with a local court.
- Violation of lease terms – If a lease term violation is documented or observed by a Mississippi landlord, they may immediately inform their tenant of their findings by issuing a 30-Day Notice to Remedy or Quit. This notice should include the specific terms that have been violated, as well as any possible cure that may allow the notice to be withdrawn. If those terms are not met by the date listed on the notice, the landlord may continue the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint motion with a local court.
- Illegal Acts – Mississippi’s landlord-tenant laws do not provide specific guidance regarding how landlords must handle eviction cases involving illegal activities on the tenant’s part. As such, Mississippi landlords are free to establish their own policies regarding how much (if any) notice must be provided after an illegal act has been documented.
Evictions without a lease. Mississippi landlords are able to evict “at-will” tenants without cause at their own discretion. However, these tenants are still entitled to receive a written 30-Day Notice to Quit in advance of their intended move out date. Non-leased tenants who have already agreed to move out on a fixed date cannot be evicted in this manner unless a serious violation of the agreed upon renting terms is breached.
Illegal Evictions. Mississippi landlords are prohibited from initiating an eviction or implying that they will do the same based upon a tenant’s color, race, sex, ethnicity, disability status, religion, or familial status. These landlords are also barred from initiating an eviction in retaliation for a tenant’s choice to report a known health or safety violation to a regulatory authority.
Security Deposits in Mississippi
Landlords in Mississippi who intend to collect, maintain, and redistribute security deposits must follow these standards and regulations set forth in the state’s statutory code:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Mississippi’s current landlord-tenant code does not establish a statutory limit upon how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. As such, landlords operating in this state are free to charge as much as they want for a new tenant’s security deposit, even if that amount is not relative to the amount of rent that tenant pays per rental period.
- Interest and Maintenance – Mississippi does not require landlords operating in the state to utilize any specific kind of bank account to maintain their collected security deposits. If a bank account is used at all, the state does not require that account to incur interest. If the account used does incur interest, though, it can be claimed by the landlord by default.
- Time Limit for Return – Following the termination of tenancy, landlords in Mississippi have 45 days to return any and all security deposits held in their possession. This return must also include an itemized list (including estimated prices) of every deduction made from the original deposit.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Mississippi landlord wrongfully withholds a tenant’s security deposit or fails to provide an itemized deductions list, then they may be required to pay damages not exceeding $200. They may also be required to pay out additional damages, depending on the circumstances for their improper withholding.
- Allowable Deductions – Mississippi landlords are allowed to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit for any of the following reasons, as well as supplementary reasons written into the applicable lease agreement:
- Unpaid rent
- Repair costs for damage beyond regular wear and tear
- Cleaning costs
Lease Termination in Mississippi
Notice Requirements. Mississippi tenants who are living under a fixed end date lease are not required to provide any notice to their landlord in advance of that lease’s stated end date. However, Mississippi tenants who rent on a periodic basis must provide the following amounts of written notice based upon the length of their regular renting period:
- Week-to-Week lease – 1 week of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 30 days of advance notice
- Yearly lease without an end date – 2 months of advance notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. Most Mississippi tenants will be able to utilize an early termination clause in their lease when they feel the need to break off their lease before its stated end date. However, in lieu of this kind of leasing provision, Mississippi tenants may utilize one of the following legal justifications for breaking a lease early (even if these options are not written into that tenant’s lease):
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Mississippi tenants are required to maintain their rental units in the same or similar condition as it existed when a tenant signed a lease for it. They must also provide and maintain in working order any amenities required by law or the terms of the applicable lease. If a landlord fails to do this, a Mississippi’s unit may be deemed statutorily “uninhabitable,” which in turn allows the affected tenant to push for immediate lease termination.
- Landlord Harassment – Landlords in Mississippi must abide by any entry policies set forth in their lease agreements, even though the state itself has not set entry standards to this extent. Regular breaches of any applicable entry policy may represent harassment on the landlords part, which may in turn give an affected tenant the right to terminate their lease due to a stated invasion of their privacy.
A Mississippi tenant who successfully terminates their lease early may still be required to buy out the remainder of their lease. To remove this obligation to pay, a tenant may seek out a new tenant to take over their lease until its original expiration date. While this situation may be financially beneficial to a Mississippi landlord, they are not required to assist in the process of re-renting at all.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Mississippi
Rent control & increases. Mississippi’s current statutory code prohibits the use of any type of rent control, both at the state level and among the state’s many local jurisdictions. As such, no landlord operating within the state can be limited regarding how much they charge for rent. These same landlords are not required to give any advance notice regarding an upcoming rent increase, meaning that a Mississippi landlord can raise rent prices for their tenants at any time and for any reason.
Rent related fees. In order for a fee charged to a tenant in Mississippi to be considered legal, it must usually be included in the terms of the applicable lease agreement. In this way, Mississippi landlords are free to charge as much as they want for a late rent payment fee. Landlords in Mississippi are also allowed to charge returned check fees, but these are limited in value to $30 per instance by a state statute.
Housing Discrimination in Mississippi
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Mississippi does not provide any extra protections to tenants and citizens seeking housing beyond those set forth in the federal Fair Housing Act. As such, the number of protected classes within Mississippi is considered to be at the bare minimum.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. Mississippi does not set forth a standardized policy for documenting and reporting discriminatory actions and business practices perpetrated by landlords within the state. To this end, Mississippi does not appear to have a state government agency that handles, investigates, or levies penalties relating to these kinds of complaints. Instead, Mississippi tenants who feel that they have been discriminated against in their pursuit of suitable housing within the state may need to contact the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for support and assistance.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Mississippi
Though Mississippi’s landlord-tenant laws are fairly sparse, it’s still important for landlords and tenants alike to fully understand these following regulations:
Landlord Entry. Mississippi state law does not standardize any rights to entry for landlords operating in the state. As such, they are technically allowed to enter an occupied unit without permission or notice without the presence of any kind of limitations in an applicable lease agreement. To prevent undue tension between landlords and tenants on this front, it is recommended that landlords and tenants agree to an entry policy at the beginning of their leasing relationship.
That being said, Mississippi tenants and landlords need not necessarily establish an emergency entry policy. This is because Mississippi landlords are automatically allowed to enter an occupied unit without permission or notice when an emergency strikes, even if that same landlord is limited in their justifications for entry in non-emergency situations.
Small Claims Court. Landlords and tenants in Mississippi are permitted to formally bring claims against one another in the state’s small claims court system. These claims must be limited in value to less than $3,500 and must have occurred within the previous 4 years (or less, if an applicable lease term limits this statute of limitations to no less than 1 year).
Mandatory Disclosures. A landlord in Mississippi is only required to make a single mandatory disclosure to their tenants as a result of federal regulations. This disclosure describes the dangers of lead-based paint and must be provided to all tenants living in buildings built before 1978. More information on this kind of disclosure can be found here.
Changing the Locks. Unlike in most other states, Mississippi landlords are permitted to change a tenant’s locks unilaterally under certain circumstances. For instance, if a tenant remains on the premises after an eviction notice has expired, they may perform a lockout and take claim of all possessions within that unit. A tenant may also be able to change their own locks without permission, though Mississippi law does not specifically provide protections for such an action.
Mississippi Landlord-Tenant Resources
These are just a few more resources you can turn to if you have lingering questions about Mississippi’s landlord-tenant laws:
Mississippi Small Claims Court Primer – This brief informational guide can take landlords and tenants alike through the process of filing a small claims court case in Mississippi. Given the lack of accessible information on this topic from the state, this document can be very useful for understanding the system before either party seeks out an attorney.
HUD Fair Housing in Mississippi– Because Mississippi does not maintain its own system for reporting fair housing discrimination, this page from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development can act as a jumping off point for tenants with questions about how to move forward with their complaint.
Attorney General of Mississippi – Mississippi’s Attorney General generally provides the public with information about laws and their execution in the state. Landlords or tenants with questions about their obligations under state law should contact this office for more information.