Tenant Rights – Know your rights as a tenant
Your rights as a tenant are governed by state law. As a tenant you have certain rights. If you rights as a tenant are violated, you can sue the landlord for any damages you may have suffered as a result of the violation. You can also terminate the lease. If the landlord terminates the lease after violating your rights as a tenant, you can use the violations as a defense against eviction.
Tenants’ Basic Rights
All tenants have a right to privacy. The landlord must give prior notice before entering the property. Tenants have the right to refuse entry to the landlord if no prior notice was given by the landlord. Your landlord cannot:
- Lock you out of the property
- Interfere with your utilities
- Take away your possession
- Threaten you
As a tenant, you have the right to have your family and friends visit you. If your landlord prevents your family or friends from entering the property to visit you, you can file a lawsuit against him or her.
Condition of Property
You have the right to expect the property to be in a decent livable condition. The landlord must maintain the property properly and must carry out regular maintenance. The landlord is also responsible for carrying out the repairs that may be required from time to time to ensure that the property is in a decent livable condition. The property should be safe and the power, water and heating systems must be functioning.
A landlord has the obligation to keep all public areas of the property safe. If you have been injured while in a public area of the property, then you can claim compensation from the landlord under certain circumstances. Even your guests who have been injured in the public area of the property may be entitled to claim compensation from your landlord.
As a tenant you have a right against discrimination. If you have been discriminated against on the basis of your gender, color or religion, you can file a lawsuit against your landlord. If you are a tenant in a building with other tenants and you have been denied certain facilities which all other tenants have been provided with and you are paying the same rent, then you can sue the landlord for discrimination. A landlord cannot discriminate against a tenant on any of the following grounds:
- National Origin
- Disabilities – mental and physical
- Familial status
The following are considered as discriminatory conduct and prohibited by law:
- Advertisement which specifically lists a preference or limitation which would exclude certain categories of people from applying.
- Making statements that would indicate that the landlord does not want certain categories of people as tenant.
- Falsely stating that the apartment is not available when in fact it is.
- Using different sets of rules to determine eligibility for tenants belonging to certain categories.
- Terminating the tenancy for discriminatory reason.
If a landlord has rejected your offer because of your credit report, the landlord is required by law to disclose that he or she has refused your offer because of your credit report.
Generally, all landlords will require a security deposit when you enter into a rental agreement with them. As a tenant, you have the right to get this deposit back from the landlord when you vacate the property. The landlord can however deduct the cost for any repair he or she may have made to the property during your stay. If the landlord does not refund the entire or a part of the security deposit, you should attempt to negotiate with the landlord. You can use the services of a mediator. If negotiations fail, you can file a lawsuit in the small claims court.
Under Federal law, the landlord must provide you with a lead hazard information notice and disclose to you of the presence of any known lead based paint on the property.