Getting your first apartment is one of the tell-tale signs of maturity and adulthood. When it comes to being a tenant, the first thing that comes to mind is communication, being a good neighbor, and paying your rent on time. What many first-time renters are not familiar with is their rights, and what could happen without the proper protection.
There are insurance plans and laws in place that landlords are familiar with in case they have a tenant giving them a hard time. Why wouldn’t you want the same protection for yourself? Here is a quick rundown of what kind of rights you have, and how you can protect yourself in case things don’t go as planned.
The Landlord-Tenant Act
The Landlord-Tenant laws were created to protect both parties and resolve conflict. While laws vary according to your location, they usually set the same standards:
- Landlords cannot go in the property without notice, except for emergencies.
- Landlords must lease and maintain a property that is safe, habitable, and compliant with local regulations.
Along with the Landlord-Tenant Act, you also have the right to fair housing: landlords cannot discriminate or deny you rent on account of prejudice. Check with the local laws in your area to find out what your rights are.
Tenant Insurance, also known as renter’s insurance, offers coverage the same as house insurance would. It protects a tenant’s belongings during natural disasters or burglary.
There may be confusion about who bears the responsibility for replacing or repairing any damages on the rental property. Some landlords may even require their tenants to present proof of their renter’s insurance. Regardless of whether they demand it or not, don’t assume your landlord can cover anything that happens to the property or your belongings. Get protection!
Landlords have all types of coverage as well, which protects their property or any loss of income they might experience. If you’re curious about what kind of insurance a landlord should have, look here for a free quote on affordable coverage that can protect both parties.
The Lease Agreement
No matter what, every rental arrangement should have a lease agreement. Carefully review all of the conditions of the tenancy before you sign on the dotted line. This is what a lease agreement usually entails:
- Lease and notice terms
- Payment details like rent, fees, and utilities
- Whether pets or home projects are allowed
- Tenant and landlord responsibilities (who is in charge of the lawn, repairs, etc.)
Make a copy of everything you sign between you and your landlord: your initial tenant application, your lease agreement, notices, anything, and everything. Also, make sure you keep a record on file of all your payments and your insurance information. A paper trail can clear your name of any misunderstandings or accusations in the event of a tenant-landlord dispute.
Also, take photos of the property’s condition as soon as you sign your lease agreement, and before you leave. Any dispute regarding insurance, damage, or maintenance can be resolved by providing evidence. Make sure there is a time-stamp feature when you snap your pictures to prove when it was taken.
Know When and How to Complain
There are issues regarding maintenance, repairs, or noise complains that you can take up with your landlord, but do you know who to turn to if you need to report your landlord?
For discrimination, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. You can also complain to state agencies about neglected maintenance, disputes around deposits, payments, and unfair evictions.
Notices and Eviction
Your state’s laws regarding eviction may not be mentioned in your lease agreement, so it’s your responsibility to be informed about your rights. Your landlord has the right to evict you if you:
- Committing crimes on-premise
- Violate the lease agreement
- Cause severe damage with no intention to fix it
- Received notice in advance for remodeling or selling property
If you haven’t received a notice or the premises are uninhabitable, you have the right to fight the eviction. Remember that you must have evidence! Losing an eviction lawsuit may put you in debt and make it more difficult to rent from future landlords.
Your Rights as a Tenant
Keeping your guard up doesn’t mean you’re suspicious of your landlords; it’s a safety net for yourself and your dependents. What’s important is making sure everything will go well between you and your landlord, all while being prepared if it doesn’t.