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Top 10 Things To Know About Landlord Tenant Law

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Landlord-tenant law governs the relationship between apartment tenants and landlords. Protect your rights as a renter; learn these top 10 points about landlord-tenant law.

  1. A landlord cannot discriminate against you. In other words, a landlord can't refuse to rent to you on the basis of your race, gender, national origin, color or religion. In some cases, landlords also cannot discriminate against you based on the number of children you have (although they can set maximum occupancy rates for an apartment)
  2. Your landlord can check your credit when you apply. This is to ensure you will be a good renter and pay your bills on time. However, you must give your landlord permission to do so.
  3. Landlords can only request limited pre-payment. In other words, when you move in, the landlord can request first and last month's rent in most states. However, he cannot request that you pre-pay all the rent or regularly request pre-payment.
  4. Your landlord generally must give you advance notice before entering your apartment. While your landlord is usually permitted to enter to make repairs and maintain the property, most states require that he give you at least 24 hours notice before doing so.
  5. Your landlord can't evict you without notice and warning. The warning usually must be in writing and usually the landlord can evict you only if you commit certain violations - such as not paying rent, making excessive noise or damaging the property. Furthermore, in most states, a landlord first must get an order of eviction from a court prior to evicting you.
  6. Your landlord can't evict you during a lease term without cause. If you signed a one year lease, you get to live in the apartment for one year unless you don't pay or you otherwise violate the terms of the lease. Otherwise, your landlord is not legally allowed to make you move (nor can he raise your rent) during the term of your lease.
  7. If your landlord doesn't make repairs, you can make them and withhold the money from the rent. The repairs must be reasonable repairs. For example, you can't put in new tile and charge the landlord for it. You can, however, pay someone to come and fix your heat if your landlord has ignored requests to do so. Keep records and attach a specific note to your rent check explaining why you deducted the repairs, your attempts to have the landlord resolve the problem, and the bills for the repairs.
  8. You can also withhold rent if your landlord doesn't make needed repairs. If your home is not habitable, you can withhold the entire rent until your landlord fixes the problem. Again, keeping records is key.
  9. The law normally mandates how long your landlord can keep your security deposit. If you move out, this means your landlord has to give you back the security deposit - minus a bill for any necessary repairs - within a given frame of time. The time limit varies by state - in some cases it is thirty days, in others the law just requires return within a "reasonable" time.
  10. You must give required notice before moving out to avoid damages. If you are required to give a month notice and you don't, or if you break your lease during the term, you may be required to pay the landlord the rent he lost as a result of your behavior. However, landlords have a duty to mitigate the damages - which means they must take steps to find a new renter; they can't simply keep collecting rent from you for the six months left on your lease without trying to find someone new to move in.

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