Landlord and Tenant Rental Housing Rights

Landlord and tenant rights, laws, and legal relationships are put in place in every state to curb the rental disputes that occur between property owners and their tenants. These laws are available at the state and federal levels of operation.

Both parties, that is, the landlord and tenant, should endeavor to know their rights as required for a property before signing the rental lease. Avoidance of this usually leads to endless court cases and proceedings, which, in the end, may result in the landlord losing his property in foreclosure or the tenants having to pay for damages when the rental laws are not adhered to.

Real estate agent with house model and keys

The landlord-tenant law is usually composed of state status and common law which are observed differently in the 50 states of the US. These laws are commonly divided into two distinct parts; the  Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA)  and the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.

These laws are not only effective on residential properties but also on commercial properties as well.

For landlords, they must familiarize themselves with both the state and federal rental housing laws and their rights before allowing tenants into their properties.

In the case of lease violations, when tenants may fail to pay the rent as due or cause some damage to the property,  landlords are not permitted to evict the tenants through illegal means or forceful eviction , but must give the tenants legal and fair notices as required by the state or federal rental law.

By not doing this, as a landlord, you may lose your case and property in court if the laws are not put in place and the tenant’s rights are breached.

Whether you are renting a home, an apartment, or a commercial property, as a tenant, there are laid out laws and rights to protect you and also point out the landlord’s responsibilities to create a safe environment for you. Also, landlords have rights that tenants are supposed to accord to them.

Some of the general landlord-tenant rental rights are outlined below to assist you in making the right choices and to avoid rental disputes and court proceedings.

Tenant Rental Rights and Laws

  • Tenants have the right to rent any type of housing they desire in the state or country. Landlords are not permitted to discriminate against tenants or refuse to offer them housing because of race, sex, religion, or ethnicity.

If this is done, the tenant has the right to place a report against the landlord and even win the case in court. This rejection can only be possible if the housing unit is made specifically for people with special needs or the elderly.

  • The landlord-tenant rights allow a tenant with a disability to live in comfortable accommodations, and the landlord is obligated to make this possible by putting in place some installations to make the housing accessible for the tenant.

Landlords cannot reject a tenant with a disability, but instead must explain the housing condition to the prospective tenant and put in place the necessary tools, like installing ramps. 

  • If a tenant is rejected for rental housing based on a credit check, the tenant has a right to know what the cause of the rejection was, and this must be provided by the landlord. The landlord can also advise the tenant on how to get a fair credit report.
  • Tenants have the right to live in a safe and habitable accommodation. This is the sole responsibility of the landlord to ensure that the property is safe, clean and has every necessary utility in place before renting the property to the tenant.
  • The tenant is entitled to rent receipts which must be issued by the landlord when payment is made. The rent receipt can be tendered in the case of legal proceedings and for when the tenant wishes to vacate the property.
  • Landlords are also not permitted to enter the tenant’s apartment without prior notice. It could be for repairs or to address other matters regarding the property, but the landlord must go through the proper process of giving notice before entry. The notice varies according to different state laws.

Landlord’s Rental Rights and Laws

  • Landlords have a right to a security deposit, which is paid by the tenant as an agreement before moving into the property. The amount of the security deposit paid varies, but it is used as a form of collateral for cases such as repairs, eviction, disputes, unpaid utilities, and in the case of any other issue. 
  • The security deposit may be returned at a later time as discussed by the landlord and tenant or by the state law, but there would be a deduction for any issues concerning the rental property and the rest given to the tenant.
  • Landlord-tenant rental laws and rights allow the landlord to do a proper background check and screening before a tenant moves into the property. These screening exercises can be conducted as speculated by the housing laws in the state where the property is situated. Carrying out a background check on tenants ensures the landlord does not allow miscreants and other illegal people to stay on the property.
  • The landlord-tenant law gives the landlord a right to evict the tenant if there is a breach of the lease agreement. This could be if the tenant has committed a crime, is living with multiple people not stipulated in the agreement, or other issues.

If the tenant does not adhere to the eviction notice given by the landlord, he or she would be required to appear in court, and should the landlord win the case, the tenant would be asked to pay damage and attorney’s fees.

  • The landlord is entitled to an application fee before the lease of the house is signed by the tenant. The application fee is used to cover the cost of the credit check and any other proceedings.

The application fee must be accepted by the landlord before the house lease can be signed. The fee should not be more than $25, and if the landlord requests more, he or she should give a written document explaining why there is a need for extra payment.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is usually in charge of unfair housing and discrimination against tenants, and placing a report ensures that the government agencies take adequate actions against the landlord.

To get accustomed to the state’s rental laws, landlords and even tenants can check the American Apartment Owners Association website to educate themselves on the laws and rights governing each state, and this can be accessed free of charge.

Final thoughts

Landlords and tenants should endeavor to get familiar with the landlord-tenant rights and laws specific to the state where the property is being leased to avoid legal and court issues. Disputes usually occur if there is damage to the property, unpaid rent, return of the security deposit, or other housing issues.

In the cases of these disputes, landlords and tenants should endeavor to settle the matter with the help of legal counsel by coming to an agreement or taking the case to court and having a chance to defend themselves. Tenants should educate themselves on the different rental rights to avoid unexpected circumstances.