If you have been searching for a rental or have past rental experience, you know all about rent prices and you probably even have a pretty good idea of what your local rental market looks like. But you might not know everything there is to know about renters’ rights. Even if you’re a landlord, it’s important that you have a solid understanding of these so you can ensure your tenants are being treated fairly (and vice versa).

What Are Tenant Rights?

Tenant rights are what you’re allowed to do as a tenant. While this can be a contentious topic, generally a tenant has the right to possess, use, and enjoy the property they’re renting. These rights ensure a tenant lives in and uses the rental unit happily and by the law. They may include:

The right to privacy: A landlord may not enter a rental unit/home without permission or without first giving you a reasonable amount notice. However, this is not the case if there is an emergency.

The right to habitable premises: Your rental has to be up to par with habitability standards like heating systems, water pipes, and fire alarms.

The right to safe dwelling units: Your landlord has to keep your rental safe and they’re responsible for repairing any damage inside the rental unit, unless specified in the lease agreement.

The right to fair housing practices (housing rights): Landlords should not tolerate housing discrimination against anyone based on race, sexual orientation, familial status, or any other legal rights.

Tenants’ rights are often established by state laws, but they may also be established by the lease agreement between the landlord and the tenant. If you want legal advice about your tenants’ rights, it’s best to seek legal assistance from an attorney or housing agency.

What Are Landlord Rights?

Tenants have a lot of legally specified rights, but so do landlords. These rights include the right to terminate a rental agreement, the right to evict tenants, and the right to collect rent from tenants.

Landlords have the right to ask you to leave their rental property for a just cause, like if any criminal activity is going on inside their rental. And if you don’t, they can evict you. If a landlord wants to evict you, they must follow specific steps.

If your landlord is trying to evict you unfairly or illegally, there are steps you can take. You might be able to get a court hearing if they did not follow the eviction process as stipulated by federal, state, and local rental laws.

Landlord Responsibilities

As a landlord, you’re responsible for property management and keeping the rental unit safe and habitable for tenants. You need to ensure that no one is living in an unsafe or unsanitary environment.

Many states use the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) as the basis of their landlord-tenant laws, which is a federal law that was enacted in 1972. Another important law that formed the foundation of landlord-tenant laws was the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and it’s essential for landlords to have a basic understanding of both pieces of legislation.

Here are some key responsibilities as outlined in the URLTA. Landlords must:

  • Comply with the Act’s anti-discrimination laws

  • Comply with their state’s landlord-tenant laws

  • Collect and return security deposits based on local laws

  • Provide legal written rental lease agreements to every tenant

  • Provide habitable housing to tenants

  • Provide no retaliation against tenants fighting for their legal rights

  • Follow the law when terminating a rental agreement

  • Make full legal disclosures

You shouldn’t violate any renters’ rights, and you also need to do routine repairs on your property and keep the common areas clean. If there’s a problem with something, like clogged toilets or drains, then you’ll either need to fix it yourself, arrange for a handyman to come out, or define some other reasonable maintenance process in your signed lease agreement.

Consistent Communication

Regardless of which side of the rental equation you’re on, establishing and maintaining consistent communication is key to having a great rental experience. Make sure to provide the other party with your updated contact information, and when in doubt just reach out and discuss your problem.

Evictions are an arduous process that no landlord or tenant ever wants to go through, and consistent communication can help keep everyone out of small claims court. Most rentals never result in an eviction, and in fact a majority of landlords and their tenants would recommend one another if asked for a referral.