Landlords and renters alike have certain things they can and cannot do and understanding what those are will establish boundaries and protect your renters’ rights.
Landlords or property managers are essential people in the apartment or home rental process. They help you sign and understand the lease, fix and address issues within your apartment, ensure the apartment and complex remain safe and clean and are your go-to person for any problems.
But, it’s important to know the boundaries of what a property manager can and cannot do. Read on for more information about landlord-tenant law and your rights as a renter. Knowing these 10 things a landlord cannot do will help you feel safe in your home.
1. Enter without proper notice
Your landlord is not allowed to enter your apartment without giving proper notice.
In many states, the landlord may not enter without first giving 24-hours notice. The format of notice may vary from place to place. Some apartment contracts state that notice must come in written or electronic form. Double-check your lease before moving in so you can know what to expect.
Once the landlord has permission, the tenant must let them into the apartment. Property managers usually enter to make repairs, to show the apartment to future tenants or to perform a routine check.
The only time the landlord may enter without notice is if there is a true emergency.
2. Force a tenant to leave
While evicting a tenant is legal, doing it without going through proper legal channels is not. This means that the landlord must give the tenant notice before evicting them.
The amount of notice does vary from place to place — ranging anywhere from days to months. If the landlord evicts a tenant without doing it properly, they can face serious consequences.
They also cannot turn off the tenant’s utilities without notice, especially if the apartment is in an area with extreme weather.
3. Raise your rent randomly
Once you sign a lease, it is a legally binding contract. This means that the landlord can not randomly raise the rent without cause.
There are a few instances where the rent can go up —some of these include the addition of a pet or significant remodeling.
The other time rent can go up is if the apartment is within the city’s rent control area. These usually state that landlords can raise the rent only by a certain percentage as specified. This is something you’ll want to check before signing a lease. However, outside of these situations, the rental rate negotiated in your initial lease holds strong.
4. Discriminate against a tenant
Landlords can not discriminate against current or future tenants. According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot discriminate based on nationality, gender, race, disability or family status.
The Fair Housing Act also states that the landlord cannot say that an apartment is not available when it is, can’t harass you and can’t end a lease due to race, gender or family status.
5. Prohibit service animals
If you have a trained service animal according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landlord must rent to you even if there is a “no pet” rule.
Service animals, such as seeing-eye dogs, are exempt. You’ll likely have to show paperwork about your service animal, but, you will be able to rent an apartment with one under the law.
6. Allow lead content
Landlords are not allowed to rent apartments that contain lead-based paint or any lead content. This is more common in older homes or apartments but it is still something to consider.
They are responsible for checking the lead content, making repairs and ensuring they do not rent dangerous apartments with lead exposure to people.
7. Use a security deposit for wear and tear
Security deposits are part of almost every leasing contract. They are typically held for the duration of the lease and given back when the lease is over.
The landlord is not allowed to keep the security deposit to recover things such as normal wear-and-tear.
The only time they can keep it is if there are unusual repairs that aren’t normal wear-and-tear or if you break a lease early. They also aren’t allowed to charge a security deposit that is over the state’s limit. This changes from state to state so make sure to double-check what your state limits it at.
8. Refuse to make reasonable repairs
A landlord’s job is to make sure that your apartment is safe and livable. Refusing to make reasonable repairs could end in legal action against them.
Things such as removing mold or lead paint or fixing the utilities are something the landlord must help with. These are repairs that could endanger the tenant.
It is also illegal for landlords to ask tenants to make major repairs such as fixing the balconies or stairs.
9. Use your space
As per your leasing agreement, it is the renter’s right to the space you’re leasing. This means that the landlord cannot withhold space that is legally yours.
Spaces such as parking garages or storage units cannot be used for the landlord’s personal use.
10. Change the locks
Your landlord is not allowed to change your locks without letting you know. If they want to remove you from the apartment, they must go through legal channels to do so. Changing your locks without notice could end in serious legal troubles for the landlord.
What to do if your landlord breaks these rules
If you find yourself with a landlord that breaks any of these laws, you have some options. First, file a claim with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Make requests in writing and photograph any damage if your landlord refuses to make repairs. Should your landlord continue to neglect the problems, then you can call your local department of health and report the problems. If your landlord changes the locks without telling you, you can call the police. The landlord does not have the right to refuse you access to your apartment, even if they want to evict you. If you ever file a legal claim against your landlord they are not legally allowed to retaliate against you.
Know your rights
It is so important to know your renters’ rights. There are landlord-tenant laws in place for this very reason. Your landlord can not take advantage of you when renting an apartment. Make sure to do your research on landlord-tenant law and know exactly what a landlord cannot do so you’re not taken advantage of. With this knowledge, you’ll be better served and ready to rent an apartment.