In New Mexico, 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, New Mexico varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. New Mexico law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in New Mexico
Landlord Responsibilities. In New Mexico, landlords are required by law to perform certain types of duties and provide certain services to all of their tenants, regardless of the language and provisions of their individual lease agreements. This includes providing certain essential amenities that allow a dwelling to be considered statutorily habitable. That list of essential amenities includes the following:
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and fixtures
- Proper plumbing
- Adequate sanitary facilities
- In-unit heating
- Proper ventilation
- In-unit air conditioning
- Reliable elevators (in multi-floor buildings)
- A garbage receptacle
- Consistent supply of hot and cold water
A New Mexico tenant has the right to request a repair to any of these essential amenities and should expect their landlord to perform preventative maintenance that prevents these amenities from falling into disrepair. Should that occur, though, a New Mexico tenant can file a request in writing that their landlord must act upon within 7 days. If the necessary repairs are not made within that 7 day period, a New Mexico tenant may take “alternative action” by withholding rent (called “abatement” under state law) or push for an immediate lease termination on personal safety grounds.
Tenant Responsibilities. Beyond the obligation to pay rent on time, New Mexico tenants are responsible for keeping their dwelling “clean, safe, and free from unnecessary damage” at all times. While this does not necessarily mean preventing regular wear or tear, this responsibility does compel a New Mexico tenant to avoid preventable damages by removing rubbish and other potentially harmful hazards from the unit in a timely manner.
Though New Mexico law does not address the topic directly, it is assumed that a landlord operating in the state has primary jurisdiction over determining if a tenant has met this primary responsibility. If the landlord in question believes that their tenant has not done so, they are able to issue a notice requiring them to cure their behavior or move out within 7 days. Failure to comply with this kind of formal notice from their landlord will result in a New Mexico tenant’s eviction.
New Mexico tenants are also entitled to take one form of lawful “alternative action” against their landlord. Specifically, a New Mexico tenant may withhold rent from their landlord when they feel that their landlord has inadequately met their obligations, both under the law and the terms of the applicable lease agreement.
Before this action can go into effect, though, a New Mexico tenant must provide a 7-Day Notice of Abatement to their landlord. Once that period elapses, the tenant may begin to withhold between 1/3 and 100% of the daily rent value (depending on the issue’s severity).
Evictions in New Mexico
New Mexico state law allows for legal eviction under a variety of circumstances, including the presence of an unauthorized non-service animal or pet. However, these following circumstances are among the most common justifications for filing an eviction in New Mexico:
- Nonpayment of rent – Under New Mexico’s current laws, rent is due on the stated in a tenant’s lease agreement. However, their landlord may institute a grace period to extend this safe payment period. In either case, a New Mexico landlord who fails to receive a rent payment from a tenant at the end of the established payment period may issue a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant in question still fails to provide payment after those 3 days, then their landlord will have justifiable cause to seek an eviction by filing a Summons and Complaint suit.
- Violation of lease terms – If a New Mexico landlord observes a lease violation occurring, they may immediately issue a 7-Day Notice to Cure or Quit to the offending tenant. This notice must include details describing the infraction, as well as the terms that the tenant must meet to have this eviction notice removed. If the tenant fails to respond to the notice or fails to meet its terms, then they can be evicted as soon as the end of the 7th day. Also, if a tenant commits the same infraction within a 6 month period , their landlord need not give them a chance to cure their behavior and can instead issue a simple 7-Day Notice to Quit.
- Illegal Acts – New Mexico state law specifically enumerates several illegal acts that may justify a landlord’s choice to seek eviction by filing a 3-Day Notice to Quit. These include the following:
- Making, possessing, or distributing illegal drugs
- Using an illegal weapon (unless for the purpose of self-defense)
- Entering another person’s home or vehicle with the intention of committing assault or theft
- Causing more than $1,000 in damage to the rental property
- Causing physical harm to another person
- Committing sexual assault or molestation
Evictions without a lease. “At-will” tenants in New Mexico are entitled to differing amounts of notice in advance of their eviction. Specifically, a New Mexico landlord must provide the following amounts of notice in order for their eviction request for an “at-will” tenant to be legally honored:
- Month-to-Month rental agreement – 30 days of advance notice
- Week-to-Week rental agreement – 7 days of advance notice
Illegal Evictions. New Mexico’s civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in many facets of housing, including when it comes to evictions. As such, landlords operating within this state may have their eviction requests voided if they are found to be primarily or even incidentally targeted at a tenant based upon a protected class characteristic.
New Mexico landlords are also prohibited from seeking out retaliatory evictions. In practice, this means that an eviction that is filed in reaction to a tenant exercising one of their legal rights may be voided. In the same vein, a New Mexico landlord cannot evict a tenant simply because they are a victim of domestic abuse (though they can evict domestic abusers more readily).
Security Deposits in New Mexico
To ensure that all security deposits are collected, maintained, and redistributed with integrity, New Mexico maintains these following financial standards and regulations:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – The maximum amount a New Mexico landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit actually depends on the length of their lease agreement. Specifically, leases of less than a year cannot require a security deposit valued at more than 1 month’s rent under that lease agreement. Leases that last longer than a year can go above this established cap, though it is unclear if there is a second limit for these extended leases.
- Interest and Maintenance – New Mexico does not require landlords to maintain their security deposits in any particular manner, regardless of their size. This means that a New Mexico landlord does not need to utilize a special kind of bank account to maintain their collected deposits, including one that incurs interest. However, a New Mexico landlord is still required to pay interest on their tenant’s security deposits if their deposit is worth more than a single month’s rent under the applicable lease agreement.
- Time Limit for Return – A landlord in New Mexico is required to return any and all remaining security deposit funds to their rightful tenant within 30 days of their lease terminating. This returned sum may need to be accompanied by an itemized list of deductions, but only if any deductions were made over the course of the tenant’s leasing period (including post move-out).
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a New Mexico landlord fails to comply with any of these security deposit regulations (including an unwarranted delay in a deposit’s return), they forfeit any claim to the tenant’s deposits. Moreover, a New Mexico landlord in this situation forfeits their right to a counterclaim and their right to take independent action on the matter. A New Mexico landlord in this situation may also be required to cover a tenant’s court fees, as a penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – A landlord in New Mexico may make justified deductions from their tenant’s security deposit for the following reasons, as well as those outlined in their specific lease agreement:
- Cover unpaid rent or utility bills
- Repair damages that exceed regular wear and tear
Lease Termination in New Mexico
Notice Requirements. When a New Mexico tenant intends to terminate their lease, they must often provide advance notice to their landlord to indicate their intent. When notice of this find is warranted, as in the following situations, it must always be in writing:
- Any length lease with a fixed end date – No advance notice required.
- Week-to-Week lease – 7 days of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 30 days of advance notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. If the option is available, a New Mexico tenant’s best choice for breaking their lease early would involve invoking an early termination clause in their lease agreement. However, in situations where such a provision is unavailable or inoperative, the following legal justifications can also be utilized to break off a lease before its natural conclusion:
- 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 – New Mexico landlords are legally mandated to adhere to all state and local health and safety codes, including the state’s warranty of habitability. If any standards set out in those statutory codes are not met, then the affected unit may be deemed “uninhabitable” for the purposes of tenancy. New Mexico tenants are not legally obligated to continue to live in an uninhabitable dwelling and may push for an immediate lease termination if such negative conditions crop up.
- Landlord Harassment – Generally speaking, a New Mexico landlord must provide 24 hours of advance notice before they can be permitted entrance into a tenant’s unit. Though there are some exceptions to this rule, landlords that fail to adhere to this right of entry standard may be viewed as harassing their tenant without reason. If such an action becomes a pattern of behavior, an affected tenant may request an immediate lease termination on the grounds of landlord harassment.
Terminating a lease early in New Mexico does not automatically mean that the tenant in question is off the hook financially. In fact, some leases require a former tenant to continue paying for the unit or to “buy out” their lease’s remaining value if a new tenant is not immediately placed in their former dwelling. A New Mexico landlord must help a tenant with the process of re-renting that unit in a reasonable manner, in order to help mitigate the cost of losing a tenant.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in New Mexico
Rent control & increases. New Mexico’s current statutory code explicitly prevents local municipalities from instituting any kind of ordinance that amounts to rent control or stabilization. As such, landlords operating in the state are able to set their own rent prices, regardless of the age of their buildings. Moreover, a New Mexico landlord need not justify their rent increases before they take place
However, New Mexico landlords cannot simply raise rent prices whenever they want. This is because New Mexico tenants are always entitled as much notice as the length of their rental period before a rent increase can take effect for their lease. In other words, a week-to-week lease requires 7 days of advance notice, while a month-to-month lease requires 30 days.
Rent related fees. New Mexico places some limitations on how and to what extent landlords in the state can charge fees to their tenants. For example, a late rent payment fee in New Mexico cannot exceed 10% of the price of rent for that period. Also, this kind of fee can be charged to a tenant no later than the last day of the month following the nonpayment.
Meanwhile, other regularly occurring fees are fairly cut and dry when it comes to regulation. That’s why returned check fees in New Mexico must be $25 per instance, regardless of the bounced check’s face value.
Housing Discrimination in New Mexico
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. In addition to the protected classes established in the federal Fair Housing Act, New Mexico provides class-based protections to several other groups of citizens when they are seeking out equitable housing. These supplementary protected classes include the following, as outlined in the New Mexico Human Rights Act:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Spousal affiliation
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. New Mexico’s current regulatory structure makes it difficult to determine if any one group within the state’s government is responsible for administering and enforcing the state’s fair housing standards. Even so, a variety of state-published resources indicate that the following behaviors and business practices may be viewed as discriminatory if they primarily target individuals covered by a protected class:
- Refusing to sell, rent, lease, exchange or negotiate for a unit
- Instituting differing rental amounts, security deposits, enforcement of rules, or other terms and conditions between tenants
- Representing a unit as not available for inspection, sale, or rental when, in fact, it is
- Publishing advertisements that imply a preference for or against certain types of tenants
- Directing anyone to homes or rental properties in a particular area against their best interest (steering)
- Denying a loan or offering different financial terms and conditions
- Encouraging tenants to sell on the grounds that the demographics of their neighborhood may change (blockbusting)
- Failing to provide reasonable accommodations
Due to a lack of established state-level administration for these fair housing standards, New Mexico tenants who feel that they have been discriminated against should report their complaint to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Though HUD tends to handle each complaint on a case-by-case basis, their regulatory agents can help tenants in New Mexico take the next step towards seeking damages if their complaint is proven through investigation.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in New Mexico
Though they didn’t fit under another category, these last several New Mexico landlord-tenant laws are just as important to know if you want to avoid conflict with your landlord or tenants:
Landlord Entry. Landlord entry in New Mexico comes with a few caveats beyond its standard 24 hours of advance notice requirement. For example, this standard may not apply when a New Mexico landlord is requesting entry to perform a requested repair. Also, if a landlord is accompanied by a public inspection official or a service provider representative, they may not require any advance permission. Tenants who wish to establish entry protocols for that scenario should request an appropriate policy be included in their lease agreements.
Meanwhile, in an emergency situation, a New Mexico landlord may freely enter a tenant’s unit without permission or advance notice. This privilege cannot be abused, however, or else the affected tenant may have grounds to terminate their lease in response.
Small Claims Court. New Mexico’s small claims court system is able to accept cases arising from landlord-tenant disputes that are valued at less than $10,000. That being said, these courts do not accept eviction cases at this time. Moreover, they only accept cases that fall within the appropriate statute of limitations (6 years for a written contract, 4 years for an oral agreement).
Also, landlords and tenants in Bernalillo County are generally required to resolve their disputes locally with the country’s Metropolitan Court. More information on that court can be found here.
Mandatory Disclosures. New Mexico landlords are only required to make two kinds of informational disclosures to new tenants. The first concerns lead-based paint and its potential hazards. This kind of notice is federally-mandated and must be provided to all new tenants in buildings built before 1978. Also, New Mexico landlords must disclose the names and addresses for all owners and agents that can manage a tenant’s property over the course of their tenancy.
Changing the Locks. New Mexico’s current statutory code does not provide guidance regarding when a landlord or a tenant can change a unit’s locks. However, that same statutory code does make clear one circumstance in which a New Mexico landlord cannot change a tenant’s locks. Specifically, New Mexico landlords are prohibited from changing a tenant’s locks as a form of retaliation (also known as a “lockout.”)
Local Laws in New Mexico
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Albuquerque Landlord Tenant Rights
The city of Albuquerque maintains a number of local ordinances that increase a tenant’s obligation to keep their unit in a clean state. This includes an ordinance to compel tenants to prevent all situations that could cause disease, attract rodents, or breed insects. Meanwhile, this city’s housing code also requires landlords to maintain doors and windows that are reasonably weather-tight, as well as provide a sink, bathtub, and toilet in all rental units. More information on Albuquerque’s local housing code can be found here.