Empower Your Rental: Understanding Your Tenants’ Rights

Although America is still a land of homeowners, the number of people who are renting homes and apartments is growing. That’s particularly true among people in their 20s, who are most likely to rent their living spaces. As home prices continue to rise, this trend is likely to continue. Currently, the number of people renting homes is the highest it has been since 1965.

Individuals may have different reasons for renting, but it’s important to know what rights you have as a renter. Whether you’re renting a home from an individual landlord or an apartment from a large company, there are certain laws that dictate how you can use the space and what kind of responsibilities your landlord has.

Knowing Your Rights as a Tenant

Understanding your rights as a tenant can help you become a better renter in addition to knowing how to protect yourself legally. It’s best to know what should be enforced and when you might need to get tenant representation.

When it comes to your application, the Fair Housing Act prohibits you from being rejected on the basis of race, religion, age, sex and more. If you’re rejected because of your credit check, the landlord is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to tell you the reason for the rejection. You can then request (in writing) a copy of that information so you know what you need to work on.

Once you’re accepted as a tenant, there are three important real estate tips you need to know:

Your landlord must provide a habitable residence

The law specifies you have a right to a “habitable home,” which means it should be safe, have running water, and not be infested by pests, such as rats or cockroaches. If it’s not habitable, the landlord is legally bound to fix it. Immediate problems like heating and plumbing issues should be resolved within 24 hours, while less urgent repairs should be handled within 48 hours.

You have a right to privacy

A landlord is allowed in your rental unit for such things as fixing a broken appliance or inspecting it for safety and maintenance reasons, but landlords cannot access your rental without “reasonable notice.” (The amount of notice required varies from one state to the next.) They also can only enter at “reasonable” hours and are not allowed to let someone else enter the unit without your permission or to share personal information about you with others.

How to get your security deposit back

States have different laws about security deposits, but landlords are generally held to strict guidelines. Improve your chances of getting your security deposit back by giving proper notice to vacate (21 to 60 days, depending on the state) and keep a copy of the notice.

When the landlord inspects the unit after your move, ask to be there so you can address any problems or do more cleaning. State law also dictates how soon the landlord must return your deposit, and if anything has been deducted from it, they must provide an itemized statement on how the money was used.

What Warrants an Eviction (and How It Works)

States have different guidelines for eviction, but there are certain procedures that must be followed. If you are facing eviction, your landlord must give you a specific amount of notice (in writing) and give you a chance to fix the problem.

Some of the reasons for eviction include failing to pay rent, violating a specific condition in the lease agreement, and causing serious damage to the property. In some cases, a landlord may ask you to leave, even if you haven’t done any of the above, which is called an eviction notice without cause. When this happens, the landlord must give you a sufficient amount of time to find a new place to live, which is usually 30 to 60 days. If you do not move out, the landlord could file a lawsuit against you.

When to Get Tenant Representation

If you’re facing eviction or if your landlord is not following legal guidelines, then you might want to get legal tenant representation. Look for a lawyer in your area that specializes in landlord-tenant cases so you know your rights are well represented. Keep in mind, however, that attorney’s fees can add up quickly, so make sure you consider the risks and benefits before going that route.

Where to Find a Place You Love

One way to avoid tenant-landlord problems is to read online reviews of apartments or use ApartmentSearch.com to find apartments with approved landlords. Then, once you’ve found the apartment or home rental of your dreams, you can make your move easier and more efficient by using CORT Furniture Rental to furnish your new space. You won’t have to deal with the hassle of moving furniture, but you can still get the look and feel of home.

See How CORT Can Help
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