LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff | May 26, 2015

15 key terms to know about landlord-tenant law

Understanding these key terms from landlord-tenant law can help you protect your rights, whether you’re a first-time renter or an experienced landlord.
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Eviction

The legal process of removing a tenant from a rented property. A landlord must follow legal proceedings in order to evict a tenant, including going to court to prove cause for the eviction.

Fair Housing Act

A federal landlord-tenant law protecting people from discrimination when renting, buying, or financing a home.  

Landlord

A person who owns property and allows another person (a tenant) to have exclusive use of it (to rent it), usually in exchange for a predetermined amount of money.

The landlord can set limits on how a tenant may use the property, within applicable landlord-tenant laws.

Late Rent

Rent that is paid after the due date. A renter may have to pay a late fee, although some state laws limit when a landlord can charge additional fees.

Chronically late rent may be cause to evict a tenant.

Lease

A written agreement between a landlord and tenant. It spells out the terms under which the tenant gets exclusive use of the landlord’s property. Common terms include the length of tenancy, amount of rent, and limits on how the property can be used.

Property

The apartment, house, or room(s) the owner allows a tenant exclusive use of. In the lease or rental agreement, property is generally described by address and size.

Quiet Enjoyment

A tenant’s legal right to use and enjoy the rental property without intrusion from others, including other residents or the landlord.

Rent

Money a tenant pays to a landlord for the right to have exclusive use of property owned by the landlord. The amount is usually spelled out in the lease and paid monthly.

Rent Control

A government regulation found in some states that limits the amount of rent landlords can charge and the amount of annual increases allowed. It usually applies in urban areas.

Rental Application

A form that tenants who are interested in renting a property fill out and give to landlords. It may ask for contact information, employment history, proof of income, residence history, and other relevant information. A rental application may also ask for permission to obtain a credit history and access any criminal records.

Right of Entry

The right a landlord has to enter a rental unit. However, this right is limited under landlord-tenant laws: unless it’s an emergency, the landlord must give proper notice and get permission first.

Roommate

Someone who shares a room, apartment, or home with another person. In a rental situation, all roommates must usually be listed in the lease or rental agreement.

Security Deposit

Money that a tenant initially pays to a landlord before moving into a new rental unit. It helps guarantee that the landlord will get paid for any damage caused to the property.

Landlord-tenant law limits how a landlord can use this money, and requires renters to get any unused balance back after they move out.

Sublet

The tenant’s renting of all or part of a property to a third party. Also called subleasing, the original tenant is still responsible for all the terms of the original lease, including rent.

Subletting is not an automatic right, and some leases prohibit it. Before you sublet your apartment, check with your landlord and make sure you create a sublease agreement form.

Tenant

A person who has the right to occupy and use property owned by another person (the landlord). This right is usually governed by a lease, limited to a set amount of time, and subject to the tenant paying rent.

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