Renters of apartments or single-family dwellings often aren’t aware of the basic rights of renters. These do vary from state to state, but most states have several rights in common. Landlord violation of rights of renters can sometimes be challenging to change. It is first important to know the state laws that are applicable to you and your type of dwelling. Also, documenting any potential violations in writing is extremely important.
According to most state codes, one of the most undisputed rights of renters is the right to privacy. Except in an emergency situation or abandonment of a property, a landlord cannot enter your property without prior notification, usually at least 24 hours. A landlord is not allowed to enter your property without such notice, and would be committing breaking and entering by doing so.
However, along with this right comes your responsibility to allow the landlord access to the property, should he or she give appropriate notice. In most cases, this is fairly informal. The landlord calls and says he needs to come fix the plumbing, and you’re there to let him in. The landlord can enter the property when you are not home, with 24 hours notice.
Another of the basic rights of renters is access to a pest free home. This means your apartment or home should be clear of cockroaches, fleas, rodents, or ants prior to your occupying the property. Further, the landlord must continue to provide you with a pest free home unless you or your animals are responsible for the introduction of new pests through pets. Usually, people who have pets cannot require their landlord to keep their home free of fleas, for example.
Basic rights of renters also include access to hot and cold water, and facilities to provide heat and electricity. Technically, it is illegal in most states for a landlord to rent a facility that does not provide such access. Many states further require access to cooking facilities among the rights of renters. If the landlord provides washers, dryers, refrigerators or stoves, these must be kept in good repair, as well.
Not all landlords must pay for heat or electricity as part of the rights of renters. The decision of who makes this payment tends to be written in any rental or lease agreement. However, if the landlord does pay for these things, then he cannot shut them off if the person is behind in rent. He can, however, issue eviction notices almost immediately if a person doesn’t pay all of their past due rent.
In apartments, the rights of renters also include access to garbage facilities. These need to be appropriately maintained and accessible. Further, all common areas must be kept clean, safe, and in good repair. Further the rights of renters include the ability to sue the landlord should the renter or guests of the renter be injured as a result of potentially dangerous areas of the property. Asking a tenant to waive this right is generally illegal.
The rights of renters also include provisions for when repairs need to be undertaken. For example if water, electricity or heat becomes unavailable, repairs generally must begin within 24 hours notification of the problem. Sometimes, in emergency situations, repairs might be impossible through no fault of the landlord. Often, however, the landlord must initiate repairs almost immediately after being notified. Each state sets its own guidelines on when it is possible to withhold rent and pay for repairs on one’s own if the landlord refuses to repair property.
Most importantly, landlords are barred from evicting or raising the rent of tenants who request needed repairs. In many states, landlords must give 60-90 days notice prior to a raise in rent. However, people who rent on a month-to-month basis may have more difficulty proving that an eviction was not recriminatory, unless the landlord has an established history of violating the rights of renters.