Each state has a different Landlord-Tenant Act designed to protect the rights of both parties in a rental agreement. You’ll have to check with the laws for your individual state to find out specifics, but this article covers some general rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants that are mostly consistent from state to state.
Landlord-Tenant Acts generally specify that the rental agreement established between the two parties is the primary determinant of each person’s rights and responsibilities. However, they often specify particular rights that are not waived by any rental agreement. These rights include the right to obtain police assistance free of charge in emergencies, the right not to pay legal fees for the landlord, the legal rights of the tenant ( i.e., a rental agreement may not waive these rights), and more. Discrimination against potential tenants who have children is also specifically prohibited. Other types of discrimination against tenants are prohibited by the Federal Fair Housing Act, which binds landlords and tenants in all states.
Landlord-Tenant Acts mandate that the landlord keep the rental premises in a safe and habitable condition, and specify that the landlord is responsible for making repairs, supplying provisions for waste disposal, providing water service, and offering appropriate heating and cooling systems as the weather necessitates. The landlord is also required to maintain any common spaces in an acceptably safe and clean condition. Some states may require the landlord to notify the tenant of particular responsibilities the tenant has, such as maintaining smoke detectors present in the rental unit. The landlord may also be charged with notifying tenants of any health dangers that may be specific to the locality, such as mold.
Likewise, the tenant is required to pay rent on a timely basis, use all amenities in a responsible manner, refrain from destroying any portion of the rental property, and dispose of all waste materials in an appropriate manner. Allowing individuals not named in the lease agreement to live on the premises is not acceptable, and the tenant needs to occupy his or her allotted rental space in a manner that does not disturb other tenants’ ability to enjoy their living environments. Some states also specifically forbid the tenant from involvement with illegal substances or gang activity, and being involved in a physical assault or illicitly using a firearm on the rental premises.
Most of the landlord-tenant act requirements are rooted in common sense, and as long as your behavior doesn’t tend toward extremes, you should be able to avoid getting hit by your landlord for violating the lease terms.
Get familiar with your own state’s landlord-tenant laws to determine whether any terms of your lease or other landlord demands are illegal, and get legal help if you want to dispute any terms of your lease. If you signed a lease, you’ll probably have trouble getting out of it, but if you do your research beforehand, you can avoid entering a situation that will only be problematic in the long run.
If you think your landlord is violating any terms of your state’s Landlord-Tenant Act, you definitely have legal recourse. Read our article on landlord-tenant disputes for more information what you can do in these situations.