Legal Rights Renting an Apartment or a House

The Fair Housing Act prohibits anyone from being denied the right to rent, against discrimination of race or color, national origin, religion, family status or handicap. The Department of Housing, and Urban Development enforces the Fair Housing Act. The department wants to be informed, of any discrimination. Their toll free telephone number: 1-800-669-9777. The Act does exempt housing operating by an organization and private club, which limits occupancy members. Also, owner occupied buildings with no more than four units, and single family housing sold or rented, without the use of a broker. Any disabled person, can make modifications to a dwelling, at the expense of the renter for easier access. However, before vacating the property, the disabled renter must restore at their expense, back to the original restoration. Renting an apartment or house, is beneficial only if the renter plans on living there for a short time, or needs time to familiarize living in a new neighborhood.

Agreeing upon a rental agreement, between the landlord (Lessor) and tenant (Renter), should be in writing a lease. A lease is a Long Term Contract, at least one year, and limited rights to end the agreement. The lease out lines the rights of the tenant, and the landlord. The lease must have the names of the landlord and tenant, description of the lease premises, the amount of the rent, and the duration of the lease. Also, include when the rent is due (day of the month), amount required for a security deposit, allowing or disallowing subletting, (Some lease contracts may stipulate restrictions for subletting), who will pay utilities, and if pets are allowed. Additional options maybe in including, in the lease regarding any free services that are provided, parking availability, and specific laws of jurisdiction, regarding your city, county or state regulations. Most residential leases contain, an implied warranty of habitability. This implies the landlord must provide essential services, safe and livable or habitable. The landlord may break the lease, if any additional tenant moves in, despite being a spouse. However, in some states this waived, only if the original tenant, remains in the residence. If two roommates rent a residence, then each is responsible for half of the rent. When one roommate moves out, then other roommate is totally responsible, for paying the entire rent. A lease contract could have “acceleration clauses,” which means that the tenant is liable paying the rent, during the duration of the lease, even if the tenant moves out earlier. However, in some situations, the landlord may collect the rent money, if a reasonable effort is made by the landlord locate a new tenant, to cover the previous rental lease. Legally, a tenant may present justifiable reasons, for breaking a lease, if the premises are destroyed beyond repair by fire or flood, premises becomes uninhabitable (no water, heat, or infestation), failure to disclose hidden defects in the residence or failure for the landlord to comply, with terms of the lease. Eviction cannot happen, unless proper notice was given to the tenant, to rectify a problem that is in violation of the lease. If the landlord can show justification to a court, then an eviction notice would be submitted. There are jurisdictions, allowing the landlord to physically remove the contents of the tenant property. A verbal contract between the landlord and tenant often creates a disadvantage, to the tenant, when there is no time frame of expiration, on the lease. If the rent is not paid on time or any damage done on the premises, then landlord can evict the tenant, and dispose of their property outside. The landlord cannot break the lease, if the building will be converted to a condominium, however may not renew the lease. In many states, tenant is offered the option, buying the converted condominium and may not be forced to leave, but continue to pay the rent, upon the renewal of the lease (Possible to a new landlord). Noisy neighbors are very rarely evicted. Unless the circumstances are persistent, and there is a direct violation of lease terms or creates a troublesome situation, for other residence. Landlords are not held responsible, for any burglary, assuming the landlord provide necessary security measures, including doors that lock, and well lighted areas. A landlord may not enter into a rental residence, if there is a suspicion of any illegal activity. A landlord may provide sufficient notice to a tenant, for inspecting inside of the residence. Otherwise, the landlord may be charged with trespassing.

Customarily in a lease agreement, the tenant provides landlord, one month’s advance security deposit. The money is deposited into the landlord bank account. Any portion of the money is spend to make any repairs or fix any damage, after the tenant leaves or pay any rent that is uncollected. A portion of the security deposit maybe used by the landlord to employ a cleaning crew, to clean the apartment, after the tenant vacates. Landlord can charge the cost to replace a damaged carpet, only after depreciation cost. The tenant should inspect, and take photographs of the residence, before moving into the home. The photographs will show, if there was any damage, before anyone moved into the rental apartment. Before signing the lease and moving, notify the landlord of any repairs, that need to done in the apartment or house Common practice that a lease agreement requires the tenant to purchase fire insurance Otherwise, the tenant is liable for any fire damage.

Other situations may not be mentioned, in a lease: Replacing the lock on the front door. If the existing lock is defective or violation of the building code, then the landlord is responsible for replacing the lock. Otherwise, the renter can replace the lock at tenant’s expense. Hanging pictures, sun – shades or other related item, may not be permitted, if those modifications are not permitted in the lease or permitted by the landlord. The Soldier’s and Sailor’s Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), permits a lease contract to legally terminate, if the tenant enters into active military service, and can provides written notice to the landlord.

Often a landlord, will check the references, and credit history of a prospective tenant. References will include contacting any previous landlords. Also, verifying income, employment status, bank verification, checking credit report, Social Security Number, driver’s license number, and any criminal