State and federal laws give renters rights. Your rights start the moment you start looking for somewhere to rent and don’t end until you get your security deposit back. They also apply whether you’re renting a house, an apartment, or other dwelling.
A lease agreement outlines the responsibilities of both you (as the renter) and your landlord. As such it also protects your rights.
Many lease terms and sections are standard:
You have the right to ask the landlord to take those items out of the lease before you sign it, although they may also refuse.
However, once signed, the lease becomes legally binding. You must both live up to its terms. If one of you breaks the terms, the other can take legal action to enforce it.
It is standard for landlords to require a security deposit from renters. It helps protect them if you damage the rental or leave without warning.
However, there are rules about collecting and using it:
Tenants’ rights include the right to a livable apartment or house:
Because renters’ rights also include rights to privacy, your landlord has a limited right to enter your unit. Your landlord must let you know when someone will need access to your rental for any reason, including making repairs you have asked for.
In most cases, you must give permission before anyone can enter. Emergencies are an exception.
The federal Fair Housing Act and its amendments make it illegal for landlords to discriminate, either before or after you sign a lease, for any of these reasons:
If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Some states and municipalities have their own laws that may add other protections.
Landlords must have a good reason to evict you, and they must follow strict rules for doing so.
Each state has its own procedures, but in general, the landlord has to terminate your tenancy before starting eviction proceedings. You’ll get a written notice telling you what the problem is and giving you a choice of fixing it by a certain date or moving out.
If you ignore a termination notice, your landlord can begin eviction proceedings. This is a kind of lawsuit, so it involves sending you a summons and complaint through the courts.
However, landlords can’t just move your belongings onto the street. They must arrange for the sheriff’s office or other law enforcement office to escort you off the property. You should also get one last chance to leave on your own, before the sheriff shows up.
Renters’ rights vary somewhat by state, but the basic right to a livable home and privacy is consistent. You can help protect your rights by understanding your state’s laws and everything in your lease before you sign it.