The is the first of a 4-part series taken from one of our recent Newsletters that was e-mailed to all registered subscribers, via our RE/MAX of New Jersey web site. We are looking at Tenants & Landlords topics:
What Are Your Rights As A Tenant? (Part 1)
The Low-Down On Renter's Insurance (Part 2)
8 Tips Every Landlord Should Follow (Part3)
Resolving Landlord-Tenant Conflicts (Part4)
What are your rights as a tenant?
Although landlord-tenant laws vary by state, many basic tenants' rights are universal. If you have a specific concern, it's always best to consult state and local laws that govern landlord-tenant agreements prior to signing a lease. Here are some of the most common rights afforded to tenants:
- It is illegal to deny a prospective tenant housing on the basis of race, sex, religion, disability, family status, or national origin.
- Residential units must comply with housing and health codes. Essentially this means that they must be structurally safe, weatherproofed, sanitary, and provide adequate water, electricity, and heat.
- A landlord should make necessary repairs in a timely fashion.
- Landlords must give notice before entering your residence in non-emergency situations. Typically at least 24 hours notice is required, and the landlord (or representative) can only enter your residence for the purposes of performing maintenance or to show the property to prospective tenants.
- If landlords have violated key terms of the lease regarding your health, safety, or well being you may have legal grounds to break the lease.
- If you do break a long-term lease, most states require landlords to make some effort to find a new tenant. While you are responsible for the full term of the lease, they must try to find someone to relieve you of that obligation.
- A landlord may not deduct money from your security deposit due to damage caused by normal "wear and tear". Unfortunately, few landlord-tenant laws adequately define "wear and tear". Generally you should not be charged for minor damage that results from day-to-day, non-negligent use. Worn carpet is perhaps the easiest example.
- Most states require landlords to return refundable portions of deposits within a set period of time. They also usually require that any deductions withheld be fully explained and itemized.
- It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant as retaliation for any action the tenant takes regarding a perceived violation on the part of the landlord.
- A landlord cannot legally lock out tenants or shut off utilities as a means to force eviction or influence the payment of rent owed. Court-ordered eviction is the only legal means to force out tenants.
- Landlords cannot legally seize a tenant's property for nonpayment or any other reason, unless in the case of abandonment as defined by law.
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