Landlord Tenant Act: What are Your Rights as a Renter?

Mass real estate

Many renters aren’t aware that they have certain rights that are protected under the law. Interestingly enough, most landlords are aware of this, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they convey the laws properly to their tenants. If you’ve ever felt taken advantaged of as a renter, it’s probably time that you review the Landlord Tenant Act, which basically outlines the responsibilities of the landlord and that of the tenant when the two parties are in contract with each other. We’ve written up a quick outline of the Landlord Tenant Act and everything that you should absolutely know about it.

1. Laws of the lease

The lease is the physical contract between you and your landlord. These days, a lease can be signed electronically, but most of the time, the lease comes in paper form. The most important and basic things that a lease spells out are the amount of rent and the length of time that this lease agreement is valid. Your landlord has the right to make changes to this lease, and it can absolutely be anything that he or she wants. The only thing your landlord can’t do is ask you to waive your legal rights. If you come across a landlord that’s willing to do an oral lease, we suggest that you put everything in writing instead.

2. Security deposit

There are different security deposit laws in different states, but the basic ideas are the same. Landlords are not required to ask for security deposits before a tenant moves it, but they certainly can. Some states put a cap on the amount of security deposit that can be charged, while other states specifically state what security deposit amount must be set in place. As soon as you move out, your landlord is responsible for giving you a breakdown of what was deducted from your security deposit, if any of it was used to repair any damages that you might have cost. There’s a time limit set for landlords to get this done. Typically, landlords have 30 days to return any money due to the tenant. Sometimes it might even be as soon as 14 days.

3. Rent

The law requires that your landlord declare the rent amount to you ahead of time. Your landlord is also not allowed to change the rent in the middle of a lease agreement. The time to change rent would be in between the renewal of the lease, upon which you as the tenant has to be given a written notice and enough time to decide whether you’ll sign and agree to the new agreement and rent amount.

4. Maintenance problems

This is usually the trickiest part of renting because it’s never written out what parts of maintenance the landlord is responsible for and what parts the tenant have to take care of. According to the law, the landlord is ultimately responsible for necessary repairs that include plumbing, wiring, or the central air system. The landlord is also responsible for the upkeep of the building and the rental unit. The tenant is only responsible for upkeep. If you have a landlord that refuses to do repairs on your unit, you can certainly take legal action, but make sure that you consult with your local housing authority first to ask about particular state laws.

5. Privacy matters

The law states that landlords are not allowed to simply enter a tenant’s unit whenever he or she wants to. It’s basically illegal for the landlord to just show up. The landlord is required by law to notify the tenant that he or she will be entering the unit, and this notice has to be written and given to the tenant at least 24 hours prior. That being said, landlords have all the rights to put a clause in the lease agreement that could basically cancel out this law. This is why it’s important to read your lease before you sign it.

6. Eviction laws

There are plenty of reasons that you could give for a landlord to evict you. That being said, your landlord is still required to follow proper eviction procedures as outlined on the Landlord Tenant Act. Landlords are often required to give the tenant written notice and allow enough time for the tenant to fix whatever the problem may be that’s cause for an eviction. If no action has been taken, the landlord has to file a notice in the local court, after which a judge will have to decide whether to evict you or not. It is illegal for a landlord to evict you without involvement of the local court. You can sue any landlord that tries to self evict you.

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