Do you know what to expect from your landlord? The landlord-tenant relationship can be a tricky one, made even trickier by the fact that while your apartment is your home, it’s also your landlord’s business. It’s hard not to feel like you’re the one holding less power in the transaction, especially if you’ve had a not-so-great landlord experience in your past. But here’s the good news: you have more power than you think. There are a number of landlord obligations that help balance out the relationship and serve as a guide of sorts for managing your interactions and expectations.
As a tenant, it’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can about your own rights. Giving your lease a close read is part of that, as is learning about the landlord obligations that dictate the responsibilities owed to you. Below, we’ll go over eight of those obligations (as determined by landlord-tenant laws) so you can get a brief overview of what to expect.
8 Landlord Obligations
To offer a fair housing environment
One of the biggest landlord obligations is the requirement to offer fair housing. Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, family status, or disability. This means that a landlord cannot deny you housing or charge you a different rate based on any of these listed factors.
If you’ve already made it past the leasing process then you may think this obligation is covered, but you can file an FHA complaint at any time that you feel you are being discriminated against by your landlord.
To deliver the unit on move-in day
The day your lease goes into effect—also known as move-in day—is the day that you should have access to the unit. This means that you get the keys, and that the unit is vacant and ready to be moved into. This is definitely a biggie in terms of landlord responsibilities, and is hopefully not an issue you’ll ever have to deal with. But in the event that your landlord is asking you to move in on a later date than the date specified in your lease know that you the right to occupy on the date you originally agreed upon.
To properly manage your security deposit
All landlords have a right to require a security deposit, but what they do with that deposit is a whole other story. For instance, just because the check is written out to them doesn’t mean they can go on to spend it. Your landlord is obligated to follow the state and local laws surrounding security deposits in your area. These laws dictate things like whether the security deposit has to be held in an interest-bearing account, the conditions under which a security deposit can be withheld from a tenant upon move out, and what happens to your deposit if your landlord sells the property during your lease term. Rest easy knowing that the law is on your side here.
To ensure you have a copy of the lease
Your lease is the contract that binds the landlord-tenant relationship. And as such, it’s crucial that both parties have a copy of the most up-to-date version of it. As a tenant, you should always be able to easily look over your rights and what both you and your landlord have agreed to. If you don’t have a copy—and even if you had one but misplaced it—let your landlord know so that they can get you a new one.
To properly maintain the rental property
Not getting hot water? Window locks not working? Having trouble with bedbugs (eek)? It’s your landlord’s responsibility—and not yours—to solve these problems, as well as other problems that keep your apartment (or your building) from being safe, clean, and/or habitable. This includes everything from ensuring the plumbing, electrical, and heating/cooling systems are working correctly to dealing with pest problems. In most states, there is also a time period in which major repairs must be made by—often about two days.
It’s worth noting that landlord obligations to keep a property habitable don’t extend to everything. Dripping faucets, loud refrigerators, and chipping paint might not be ideal to live with, but they don’t keep your apartment from being livable. That being said, your state or local building codes may dictate obligations above and beyond the standard maintenance descriptions. If you’re dealing with a problem that your landlord refuses to fix (or is expecting you to cover the cost for), check the relevant laws to see what recourse you might have.
To notify you before entering the apartment
Your right to privacy in your apartment is more than just an assumption. In most cities and states, landlords are required to give their tenants a heads up before entering the premises, meaning they can’t just barge in unannounced whenever it’s convenient for them.
The exact amount of notice your landlord must provide you with should be outlined in your lease and is usually around 24 to 48 hours. If your landlord is stopping by without notifying your first—either when you’re home or when you’re not home—they are breaking this important obligation and should be called out on it. Check your lease before saying anything so that you’re armed with the right information.
To provide notice before raising the rent
It should never come as a surprise to you if you choose to renew your lease and then see that the monthly rent is more than what you were previously paying. While your landlord can certainly increase rent at their discretion between lease terms, they need to provide you with notice first—about 30 to 60 days, depending on what your lease says. This is to give you time to find other housing in the event that you were planning to stay but cannot afford the increase.
To be accessible
Emergencies happen. And when they do, it’s important that you can reach your landlord. In fact, even when there’s not an emergency you should be able to get in touch relatively easily. This means that your landlord is obligated to provide you with necessary contact information; most notably their full name and phone number. You should never be left wondering how you are going to get in touch or spending days on end attempting to connect.
Depending on where you live, your landlord may have additional obligations. If you think that your landlord is reneging on a responsibility—or if you just want to get a full picture of what your rights are—look up your local landlord-tenant laws. It’s always good to know exactly what you can expect.
Do you have a landlord who isn’t fulfilling their obligations? Make sure that you have as much documentation as possible outlining your landlord’s responsibilities and the problem(s) that you’re dealing with and then reach out to someone who can help. A good place to start is the Tenant Rights Hotline (888.495.8020), which provides free counseling for tenants on relevant disputes. Another organization that may be able to help is the Tenant Resource Center. If you have the resources, you may also want to consider reaching out to an attorney who can take a look at your case and let you know if you have any relevant legal claims.
Published at Fri, 07 Jun 2019 18:32:10 +0000