Renting a space to live can be an exciting milestone in life. However, difficult landlords in the rental market are not uncommon. In the rental market, knowledge is power. Knowing your rights as a tenant can save you from bad leases and some major headaches.
Envision the apartment of your dreams. Hardwood floors, natural lighting, stainless steel appliances, en suite bathrooms, complete with a laundry room in your unit. You’ve toured it. You love it. It’s yours for the leasing. Move-in day arrives, you move in your last box, sit down on your couch, and that’s when you hear it. You moved in next door to a loud heavy metal band with what sounds like a wolf howling nonstop.
What do you do? Who do you call? You just signed a one-year lease (we hope you read it before signing). What are your rights?
Your rights are dependent on federal laws, state laws, and local laws, but here are the basics of tenant rights:
The Right to Fair Treatment & No Discrimination
A federal law called the Fair Housing Act states that landlords must treat each tenant fairly and cannot “discriminate against current or prospective tenants on the basis of their race, gender, familial status, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or disability.”
The Right to a Habitable Home
Landlords must rent you a house or apartment that is safe to be lived in. You have the right to have hot water, running water, electricity, and a space that is free from infestations of pests and rodents. City ordinances also usually require certain quiet hours and provide a non-emergency number to call if noise is a problem during these hours.
The Right to Timely Repairs & Maintenance
Your landlord must maintain the rental property described in your lease terms. The landlord has the option to repair the problem or can ask you to correct the problem, provide a receipt, and have that amount deducted from your rent. If you, the tenant, refuse to repair the problem, the landlord is still required to fix the problem in your unit.
Security Deposit Rights
The majority of landlords require a security deposit before a lease is complete. The security deposit is used to pay for any repairs or cleaning needed at the end of your lease term. Additional deposits may be required by the landlord for pets and other liabilities. Your security deposit rights include the right to be informed of how your security deposit is used when your lease ends and how quickly remaining deposit amounts are returned. Check your state laws and local laws for more on your security deposit rights.
The Right to Privacy
Every tenant has the right to privacy in their rented space. A landlord should always give advance notice (24 hours) of entering the premises for repairs, safety checks, and pest control.
Every tenant also has reasonable rights to personal information privacy. However, landlords do have the right to conduct a background check and credit check before leasing. They also have a right to enter your property in case of an emergency and to show your unit to prospective renters (if advanced notice is given).
As always, it pays to know your rights.
James Schroeder is an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia focusing on real estate, estate planning, business and nonprofit law. He maintains offices in Sardinia Ohio and Egg Harbor City New Jersey. You may reach him at (973) 886-4563 or (609) 270-7590. Most of his clients come from Sardinia, Mount Orab, Georgetown, Russellville, West Union, Peebles and Seaman in Ohio and Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Port Republic, Galloway and Mullica Township in New Jersey but if you are from anywhere in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia can call to discuss your legal issues.