The laws of each state grant tenants certain rights in connection with the landlord tenant relationship. These rights vary from state to state, and include such matters as how much they can be charged for security deposits, how much can be deducted from deposits, eviction statutes, and the like. Although rights vary from state to state, nearly all states’ landlord-tenant statutes address the following issues:
Discrimination. The U.S. Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to deny housing to a tenant on the grounds of race, color, sex, religion, disability, family status, or national origin.
Habitability. Residential rental units should be habitable and in compliance with housing and health codes—meaning they should be structurally safe, sanitary, weatherproofed, and include adequate water, electricity, and heat.
Security Deposits. Many states limit the amount landlords can charge for security deposits. (Click Here to look up the rules in your state).
Repairs and Maintenance. A landlord should make necessary repairs and perform maintenance tasks in a timely fashion, or include a provision in the lease stating that tenants can order repairs and deduct the cost from rent.
Prior Notice. A landlord must give prior notice (typically 24 hours) before entering your premises and can normally only do so to make repairs or in case of an emergency.
Duty to Mitigate Damages. If you have to break a long-term lease, in most states landlords are required to mitigate their damages by searching for a new tenant as soon as possible rather than keeping the place empty and charging you for the full duration of the lease.
Deductions. Damage or security deposits are not deductible for “normal wear and tear.” Some states require that a landlord give an itemized report of any deductions.
Return of Deposits. Most states require landlords to return refundable portions of a security deposit within 14 to 30 days after the tenant has vacated the premises, even in the case of eviction.
Personal Property. Landlords usually can’t legally seize a tenant’s property for nonpayment of rent or any other reason, except in the case of abandonment as defined by law.
Retaliatory Eviction. Landlords are legally prohibited from evicting tenants as retaliation for action a tenant takes related to a perceived landlord violation.
Legal Process. Even if you’ve breached your lease, a landlord cannot legally change the locks, shut off your utilities, or evict you without notice; eviction requires a court order.
Constructive Eviction. Some states permit tenants to break their lease based on a landlord’s wrongful conduct. For example, if he refuses to repair something, or dumps garbage in your backyard.
Attorney’s Fees. In many states, it’s illegal for a lease to stipulate that the tenant is responsible for the landlord’s attorney fees in case of a court dispute.