In South Dakota, 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, South Dakota varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. South Dakota law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in South Dakota
Landlord Responsibilities. South Dakota landlords are required under the state’s basic livability standards to keep all of their rental units (including those that are presently occupied) “fit for human habitation.” This includes keeping certain essential amenities in those units “in good and safe working order” through regular repairs and maintenance. These amenities which are essential for statutory habitability include the following:
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and fixtures
- Adequate plumbing
- In-unit heating
- A reasonable supply of hot and cold water
In addition to these essential amenities listed here, South Dakota law dictates that a tenant may request a repair to any appliance, structure, or utility system in their dwelling that is provided for in their lease agreement. If a South Dakota landlord receives this kind of repair request, they must act upon it within a “reasonable” amount of time.
Because this language is not defined by the state, it is the responsibility of landlords and tenants in South Dakota to hash out their own time-based system that can facilitate a “reasonable” response time to a necessary repair. Regardless of the specific standards established, a South Dakota landlord must always take care to abide by their guidance. Otherwise, their units may fall into statutory uninhabitability, which in turn would give an affected tenant an opportunity to terminate their lease unconditionally.
Tenant Responsibilities. South Dakota requires all tenants who enter into a lease agreement or rental arrangement to preserve their premises “in good condition.” While specific tasks necessary for meeting this standard are not enumerated, these same laws do require South Dakota tenants to “repair all deteriorations or damage” that are a result of their actions or neglect.
As with other leasing terms, South Dakota landlords are given the authority to enforce these basic tenant responsibilities. As such, if a tenant fails to perform these responsibilities in a responsible or continuous manner, their South Dakota landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit that outlines what kind of repairs need to be made immediately. If the terms outlined in that notice are not followed or completed in full, that landlord then has the right to evict their tenant for failing to meet their legal unit preservation obligations.
On the reverse side, however, South Dakota does allow tenants to take alternative action against their landlord when their actions or inactions cause their unit to become statutorily unfit for human habitation. To that extent, a South Dakota tenant can withhold rent payments in certain situations, so long as they provide proper notice of their intent in advance. A similar procedure may be followed if a tenant wishes to perform the repair on their own and deduct the associated costs from their next rent payment.
In both cases, the tenant should deposit any withheld funds in excess of a single month’s rent in a separate bank account. Then, they must provide their landlord with a receipt detailing precisely how much has been withheld on each occasion.
Evictions in South Dakota
While an eviction may be sought for any number of reasons, a South Dakota landlord is most likely to utilize one of these common justifications when seeking to force a tenant to move out due to their non-compliant behavior:
- Nonpayment of rent – South Dakota tenants are required to pay periodic rent at the end of each month (subject to any relevant grace periods included in their lease’s terms). After that point, their landlord may consider them to be “non-paying” and issue them a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If the tenant in question does not pay the full amount of money listed on that notice, they may be subjected to a forced eviction at the end of the brief notice period.
- Violation of lease terms – Much like late rent payments, South Dakota landlords are allowed to issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit at any time they observe their tenant violating one or more terms of their lease agreement. South Dakota’s laws do not indicate if this notice should include terms that enable a tenant to cure their behavior. If they, then the tenant in question must abide by those terms or else face eviction at the end of the notice period.
- Illegal Acts – South Dakota landlords appear to be able to use their own discretion to dictate what illegal acts on their property constitute grounds for eviction. Specific acts need not necessarily be written into a lease agreement to apply to tenants, either, due to a lack of statutory standards for this kind of eviction. In fact, as far as evictions triggered by an illegal act go, South Dakota only requires a landlord to issue a 3-Day Notice to Quit before their eviction action can go into force.
Evictions without a lease. South Dakota law considers tenants who rent without entering into a lease agreement to be “at-will” with regards to their leasing relationship. This means that their landlord can generally evict them for any reason or no reason at all. In the case of the latter, an “at-will” tenant in South Dakota must always be provided with 30 days of notice before an eviction order can go into effect.
Illegal Evictions. South Dakota prohibits landlords from retaliating against their tenants on several fronts, including when it comes to evictions. As such, a South Dakota who exercises any of their rights as a tenant cannot be evicted for that reason alone. Similarly, South Dakota tenants cannot be evicted for chiefly discriminatory reasons. As such, any eviction order enacted by a South Dakota landlord may be voided if it is found to be explicitly or implicitly based upon a tenant’s protected class characteristics.
Security Deposits in South Dakota
Under South Dakota law, landlords operating in the state can only lay a claim on a held security deposit if they follow all of these related regulations:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – South Dakota landlords are not allowed to charge security deposits valued at more than 1 month’s rent under the associated lease agreement. However, South Dakota landlords and their tenants can agree to a greater security deposit standard limit through a separate written agreement. This is often utilized when one or more aspects of the rental unit or the tenant themselves poses a greater risk to the long-term maintenance of the unit.
- Interest and Maintenance – South Dakota does not require landlords operating in the state to utilize any special kind of banking or escrow account to maintain their collected security deposits. This includes a lack of requirements pertaining to the acquisition of interest on maintained security deposits. If a South Dakota landlord does choose to utilize a bank account that accrues interest, though, they are able to claim the full value of that interest as their own.
- Time Limit for Return – Landlords in South Dakota are required to return any and all remaining security deposit funds owed to a tenant within 2 weeks of their tenancy ending. Then, within 45 days of that same tenancy cessation point, a South Dakota landlord must provide their former tenant with an itemized list explaining why certain deductions were made from their security deposit.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – South Dakota landlords who fail to abide by any of the state’s security deposit maintenance standards will forfeit their claim to the improperly withheld deposits. They may also be required to pay a fine of punitive damages valued at no greater than $200 per instance.
- Allowable Deductions – South Dakota landlords are generally able to make deductions for any reason relating to a breach of their tenant’s lease agreement. However, deductions to cover repair costs and unpaid rent are the most common and justifiable reasons typically written into the terms of a lease agreement.
Lease Termination in South Dakota
Notice Requirements. In South Dakota, tenants whose lease agreement indicates a fixed end date need not inform their landlords of their intent to terminate their lease in advance of that natural conclusion. However, periodic renters in South Dakota are required to provide the following amounts of written notice before their termination request can be officially registered:
- Week-to-Week lease – 1 week of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 30 days of advance notice
- Yearly lease with no end date – Must be agreed upon in advance in writing
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. An early termination clause is the most efficient way to break off a lease early while remaining fair to both the tenant and their landlord. However, this type of clause does not feature in all South Dakota tenants’ leases. So, a South Dakota tenant that still wants out of their lease may want to consider evoking one these alternative lease termination options:
- 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 – While South Dakota’s statewide habitability standards for rental housing are considerably sparse, landlords in the state are still required to abide by them at all times. This includes making any necessary repairs in a timely manner such that the units themselves remain fully safe and livable for their tenant. If this duty is not properly maintained, that South Dakota landlord runs the risk of their units becoming statutorily uninhabitable. Such a condition may allow an affected tenant to immediately terminate their lease without further conditions.
- Landlord Harassment – South Dakota landlords are required to always provide 24 hours of advance notice before entering an occupied unit to transact regular business. This entry standard (and any further requirements indicated in an applicable lease agreement) must be followed at all times or else that South Dakota landlord may be accused of invading a tenant’s privacy. In the long run, that kind of landlord harassment can be used as grounds for an immediate lease termination on the tenant’s part.
South Dakota landlords are not legally required to assist their former tenant re-rent their former unit in the wake of an early lease termination. As a result, a South Dakota tenant may be compelled to continue paying rent on their unit until they are able to find a new tenant to take over the lease.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in South Dakota
Rent control & increases. South Dakota’s civic code preempts local governments from enacting or enforcing any kind of ordinance or policy that has “the effect of controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private residential property.” As a result of this rent control prohibition, South Dakota landlords are fully able to set their own rent rates on a case-by-case basis. They are still required to provide 30 days of notice in advance of any new rent increase going into effect, however.
Rent related fees. Landlords in South Dakota are typically able to charge any type of fee to their tenant, so long as the amount of the fee and the circumstances under which it may be charged are disclosed in an applicable lease agreement. This is the case for late rent payment fees, which can be charged as soon as the first day after rent is due. Returned check fees, on the other hand, must always be charged at a flat rate of $40 per instance.
Housing Discrimination in South Dakota
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. South Dakota does not maintain any civil rights laws that expand upon or supplement the federal Fair Housing Act. As such, landlords and tenants in this state can expect enforcement and administration of fair housing practices to be minimal, at best.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. South Dakota’s state government does not put forth a specific department or commission that is tasked with administering or enforcing the state’s civil rights laws. Other than the state’s Attorney General’s office, South Dakota tenants may be required to report potential discrimination to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, a South Dakota tenant can have claims of discrimination relating to several specific business practices heard and investigated. This Department then administers penalties on a case-by-case basis, including providing complainants with an opportunity to seek damages.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in South Dakota
These are a just a few more landlord-tenant laws that both landlords and tenants in South Dakota should take note of before entering into a new lease agreement:
Landlord Entry. Landlords in South Dakota are permitted to enter their tenant’s occupied unit to enact a variety of regular duties, including performing necessary repairs and showing the space to a prospective renter. However, in order for this kind of entry to be permitted, they must provide the applicable tenant with 24 hours of notice in advance. That notice must include the precise time the landlord intends to enter, as well as the identity of all persons permitted to enter at that time.
South Dakota landlords are still permitted to enter without notice in cases of emergency, though. That being said, a South Dakota landlord cannot abuse this or any other entry privilege to harass a tenant or invade their privacy.
Small Claims Court. Landlords and tenants in South Dakota are permitted to use the state’s small claims court system to settle their ongoing disputes. While this venue does not hear eviction-related cases (which are instead heard in the state’s district courts), these courts are able to accept other types of claims valued at up to $12,000. This limit may change occasionally, though, so prospective litigants should check with their local small claims court clerk to learn about the most recent limitations.
Mandatory Disclosures. A South Dakota landlord is only legally obligated to make two informational disclosures to their tenants at the beginning of their tenancy. Specifically, all South Dakota tenants are entitled to receive notice if their unit was used for the manufacturing of methamphetamines at any point in the past. However, only tenants living in buildings built before 1978 must be given federally-mandated info relating to the dangers of lead-based paint.
Changing the Locks. South Dakota does not maintain any statutory guidance regarding when landlords or tenants can change a tenant’s locks under regular circumstances. As such, it is assumed that a tenant who wishes to perform this modification must seek permission to do so. However, landlords in South Dakota may be prohibited from unilaterally changing a tenant’s locks anyway due to a statewide prohibition on lockouts.
South Dakota Landlord-Tenant Resources
You can find even more in-depth answers to your questions about South Dakota’s landlord-tenant laws using these several digital resources:
Landlord/Tenant Guide – This guide was produced by the South Dakota Consumer Protection Department and provides readers with more information relevant to the pre- and -post leasing process. Landlords and tenants alike will be able to utilize this guide’s list of permissible leasing terms and pre-leasing questions, for example.
Landlord Frequently Asked Questions Housing Choice Voucher Program – This in-depth guide on South Dakota’s administration of the federal Section 8 voucher program can be a major asset to tenants in need of affordable housing. This guide answers many of the most important questions about how these rent payment vouchers are administered, including who is eligible for the program and what kinds of terms can be utilized in a qualifying lease agreement.
How to Use South Dakota’s Small Claims Court – This brief pamphlet (produced by the South Dakota Supreme Court) provides new litigants in the state’s small claims court with key information about the court’s operations. This pamphlet even discusses how small claims court trials run, as well as how successful litigants receive their damage payments post-trial.