7 Ways Your Landlord Is Breaking the Law (and Your Lease!)

in Legal Issues on by
Man fights with his landlord over what he believes to be a violation of their lease agreement.

Renters are often intimidated by landlords, especially if renting a home is a new experience for them. To them, the landlord may be seen as a kind of parental figure, or just someone they don’t dare cross for fear of losing their living space. But if you’re going to keep from being taken advantage of, it’s essential to understand your rights as their tenant from day one.

Although the landlord typically owns the place where you live, that doesn’t mean they can treat you however they want. Many terms of the landlord-tenant relationship are spelled out in your lease. Others are covered by local, state, and/or federal laws, all of which are available to read online or at local offices.

For now, we’ll go over a few of the most common landlord violations, and give you a few tips to help deal with them:

Refusing to Do Repairs

Repairs fall into two categories, minor and major. Minor ones like closet doors off the track, chipped counters, and torn screen doors are a pain in the neck, but they don’t necessarily pose a health risk. Your landlord should fix these problems but is not bound by law to do so.

However, if you have ceiling fixtures that keep shorting out, wall plugs that spark, a toilet that won’t flush, deadbolt door locks that don’t work, or no hot water, you have a major issue on your hands. Under the law, your landlord is obligated to fix things of this caliber. If your landlord keeps putting off the repairs or simply refuses to make them, they are violating the terms of your lease.

If this happens, send a certified (not registered) letter to the landlord clearly describing the problem and how you would like it to be solved. Include a clear explanation of what you’d like done (full repair, replacement, etc.) and the next steps you’ll take if the problem isn’t immediately addressed. Another option is to call the local city building inspector, whose contact info you can find by searching “local city building inspector” online.

Another alternative is to make the repairs yourself or call a professional to do the work and deduct the cost from your next rent payment. You can also withhold the next month’s rent until the problem is fixed. Just remember that these two choices have stipulations and limitations depending on what state you live in, so check them out before you act.

Another way to address repairs not being made is to sue the landlord in small claims court. In this case, you’ll have to get three estimates for each job that needs to be done before you file your claim.

Trying to Enter Your Unit Without Warning

Nothing is more irritating or invasive than a landlord who uses a key to enter your dwelling when you’re home or away, completely violating your right to privacy. Before you take action on this matter, you’ll have to check your lease for details on your rights. Next, contact the local housing authority or tenants’ rights association to find out what local and state laws cover this issue.

Typically, unless it’s an emergency such as a fire, flood, break-in, etc., landlords can only legally enter your rental property with 24 hours notice. Common reasons may include making repairs, showing the property to potential buyers or renters, or conducting a routine inspection scheduled for every unit.

If your landlord shows up without prior notice, politely ask them to come back later, after you receive appropriate notice. If they keep knocking on your door out of the blue, put your request of notice in a certified letter. If that doesn’t work, reach out to your local housing authority again for further help.

Trying to Raise Your Rent in the Middle of Your Lease

Rent cannot be raised on the whim of a landlord. The terms of a one-year lease, including the monthly rental rate, can’t be changed until the end of the year. Changes to a month-to-month lease require a 30-day notice.

Attempting to Evict You to Sell The Property

Month-to-month renters usually require a 30-day notice to move for a property sale, but this too varies by state. California renters, for instance, get a 60-day notice. Six-month or longer leases typically can’t be affected by sales until the end of the lease. If these situations aren’t covered in your rental agreement, call your local housing authority for help.

Asking Inappropriate Personal Questions

The Fair Housing Act forbids landlords from legally asking about your country of origin, if you have children or a romantic partner, and many other questions that imply they have an opinion about you or your way of life. You should simply refuse to answer questions like this, but if do you accidentally answer and are denied the rental because of that answer, it’s a strong enough violation of landlord-tenant conduct to file a housing discrimination complaint. The only legal grounds for denying a person a rental are bad credit, insufficient income, poor rental history, and problems related to your criminal background check. They can also refuse rentals to smokers or people with pets, assuming those pets are not registered service animals.

Asking for a Non-Refundable Deposit

Stop in your tracks if you see the words “non-refundable deposit” in a lease agreement. A security deposit is only non-refundable if you trash the place and don’t leave it how you found it (reasonable wear-and-tear excluded). Before you sign a lease with questionable deposits, review your state’s landlord-tenant laws on the attorney general’s website or through your local housing authority.

Seeking Revenge if You Complain

Sometimes a landlord will try to raise the rent, evict you, or otherwise harass you if you ask for reasonable things to be fixed. In these cases, document everything you can using emails, texts, and photos. If the situation escalates, take your case to the local housing authority for advice.

11 Responses to “7 Ways Your Landlord Is Breaking the Law (and Your Lease!)”

  1. April 05, 2020 at 9:11 am, Thomas keelan said:

    I'm living in one bedroom that has not been cleaned in alot of year's I'm not a neat person but this room needs to be cleaned it's very dangerous Joe Persico is a nice man my room that I live in needs to be cleaned I'm a Diabedic and has sleep apnea I use a machine.

    Reply

  2. April 14, 2020 at 11:45 pm, Elisa clay said:

    I have 3 evictions from exactly as you expect lain above, with zero dollars judgement . But all happened prior to Jan 2020!when law went into effect. One in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Now no one will rent to me. Plz help. How can I get these removed ? My phone # 805 815-9961

    Reply

  3. April 22, 2020 at 6:46 am, Linda Tilburg said:

    I have been living in my half double almost 3 years and my land lord has never given me a copy of my lease. I have asked him many times with no response, he also has used his key to enter my home while I was in bed sleeping and came in with a man to measure windows and that’s just the tip of a large iceberg. I always send my rent check out a couple days before the first and I have received many eviction notices that I didn’t pay him rent I have had to get proof that he received and cashed the check, now this past January he sent me another one so I checked my account and the money was still there so I called him and told him I sent that out as always he said “ well it must have gotten lost in the mail so I sent him another one a week later my account is overdrawn by that amount plus overdraft fees here the day I was talking to him he was cashing the first check and conning me out of the second one!

    Reply

  4. July 07, 2020 at 6:47 am, Kevin said:

    Can a building manager make you move out to remodel the apartment if you don't want it remodeled

    Reply

  5. July 30, 2020 at 4:06 pm, yubisela said:

    i was robbed at gunpoint inside my apartment, now the landlord has evicted me because i used my gun, for which i have a license to own and carry, to shoot at the robbers, they gave me 24 hours to get out of my apartment. at first they were going to move me to another apartment and now they are saying that corporate wants me out ASAP. my family and i were held at gunpoint, including a 3 year old baby. we have no money because they took it all and we are very scared to be on the streets. we always paid the rent on time. what can i do? we were robbed at 1.45pm plain daylight.

    Reply

  6. August 10, 2020 at 9:31 am, Kipp StaropoliI said:

    My landlord is mean and cold since she found out my health condition could no longer do her house. She's got me so uncomfortable .shes embarressed me in front of other tenants about not locking screen I didn't realize the dog could and would get out .so as iam apologetic I begin to ask her a question about the dog and the door she rudely replies and says this ain't a question I told u to shut the screen. Well I did shut the screen .she refuses to answer my question which is fine but humiliating me in front of another tenant is not ok .shes gone up in my room wen gone and turned down my fan .isent that trust passing? Iam not here to make a buck .but iam paid up for the whole nth it's the only nth I've been here she's so mad I found out not only do I HAVE COPD I've got enphsima and will be testing for cancer in near future .she looked at me in the face and asked me if I came here to die .it was so mean I just went in my room and cred .shes gotta be human and respectful doesent she? Anyway her verbal abuse I can't stay to hear it .so now my 12 yr old cat and I will live in my car .the homeless is shit down at this point because of corona ..wish me luck with no family iam doomed at 54 waiting for SSI BECAUSE My backs shot from many yrs of hard work .scared and alone .ty

    Reply

  7. August 12, 2020 at 9:03 am, Pamela Yates said:

    I'm living in a room with NO running water, no toilet, no shower..absolutely NO water. I have to tote water in. This was supposed to fixed 3 mos ago..nothing has been done. I am 72 yrs old n have some health issues.
    HELP

    Reply

    • August 30, 2020 at 11:22 pm, Gina Reyes said:

      > that is absolutely against the law, u may not have a bathroom but u have to have running water, your looking at' money, you can sue your landlord,

      Reply

  8. August 27, 2020 at 6:29 am, Laura Durham said:

    Can you have couple dirty dishes, clean dishes on counter and in strainer. And trash can filled half way and you already swept and wash the kitchen floors and still get written up

    Reply

  9. August 29, 2020 at 7:09 pm, Blade Shabaiash said:

    My landlord came into my suite an stole my tv when i was gone, saying its caladarale for the damage depsit. Even though from the beginning of ar contract he didnt ask for one. An I did offer $200 from the beginning an he declined. Now that times coming to move out, he took it apone himself to break in an take my tv.

    Reply

  10. September 22, 2020 at 8:23 pm, Lori Farese said:

    I HAVE LIVED IN A APARTMENT COMPLEX FOR 18 MONTH'S NOW. THERE WAS A FIRE IN THE BUILDING NEXT TO ME THE BUILDING WAS A TOTAL LOSS. EVER SINCE THE FIRE I AM THE ONLY TENANT LEFT IN MY BUILDING. I HAVE GONE W/ O WATER FOR WEEKS AT A TIME HERE. THEY DO "NOT" NOTIFY WHEN THEY ARE TURNING THE WATER ON OR OFF ! WE DO "NOT" RECEIVE A BILL FROM THE WATER COMPANY. THE APARTMENT COMPLEX DIVIDES THE WATER BILL UP ! NOW A 1 BEDROOM 1 BATH APARTMENT & 1 PERSON SHOULD "NOT" BE HAVING TO SHARE THE WATER BILL WITH 2 BEDROOM APARTMENT'S IN WHICH HAVE 4 TO 7 CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENT'S ! THAT IS NOT REASONABLE TO CHARGE ME A LOT MORE $MONEY$ ON WATER I DID "NOT" USE PERIOD !

    Reply

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