Is your landlord breaking the law?
It's not enough to complain about the landlord's rash behavior or inattention to repairs. As a tenant, you have legal rights, and your landlord could be in violation. Here are 7 common situations to consider.
See if you can nail this question: One day the heat goes out in your apartment, and your landlord brings over a space heater. Do you: a) thank him; or, b) ask when the heating system will be up and running again?
Polite or not, the answer is "b." You can dole out a quick thanks for the heater if you like, but make sure all sides are clear: This is a temporary fix only.
Too many tenants fail here, unaware that by law the landlord must repair the primary heating unit — and air conditioning and major appliances, etc. — swiftly. Failure to do so breaches the rental contract and poses a safety risk.
So why is this critical for the tenant to know? Shouldn't the landlord know this? Isn't someone watching the landlord?
There's the problem: Many landlords aren't aware of their legal responsibilities, tenant advocates say. It's not as if landlords need a license, and no one is randomly checking up on them. Housing officials respond only if you, the tenant, call — and even then they're likely to ask, "Did you notify the landlord?"
Welcome to the world of renting, where it's up to you to be on alert. If something seems amiss or unfair, that's the time to ask, "Is my landlord breaking the law?" (See "How landlords get away with it") If you think the answer might be yes, document the incident and, if necessary, contact a tenants association.
Housing laws vary from state to state, and even from town to town, but the basics tend to apply everywhere. For some ideas of what these look like, here are seven examples. See if you know the answer: "Is that legal?"
1. It's just a friendly little conversation — or is it?
You make an appointment to view an apartment. When you arrive, with your child in tow, the manager smiles and says, "Oh, I didn't realize you had a child. I'm concerned about safety; the fence around the pool is not secure."
Is the landlord violating federal anti-discrimination laws?
The answer's a little messy. Words alone don't break laws, unless you scream, "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater and cause immediate harm. But if that landlord rejects your application and leases to a childless person, you may very well get a friendly reception from a housing lawyer and a judge.
Under federal law, landlords cannot choose tenants based on familial status, age or health.
But many landlords either don't know this or believe they can subtly dissuade those people from applying. They might say to a parent or an older person: "Are you sure you'd want to deal with these stairs?"
"We routinely see this," says Adam Murray, executive director of the Inner City Law Center in Los Angeles.
"They will say, 'Oh, you have kids, I didn't realize that when you called. I really want to rent to single folks.' Or sometimes it's couched: 'I don't think the building is safe for kids.'
"Routinely, landlords will say this, and often they don't know," Murray says. "The question is: Is the landlord discriminating on that basis? The law is pretty clear — you can't not be renting to someone on the basis of that."
2. Locks changed? What do you expect when you don't pay the rent?
You are 30 days late paying the rent. The landlord has asked again and again for the money, and you still have not paid what's owed. Finally, the landlord changes the lock so you cannot enter, forcing you to either come up with the cash or leave.
This happens more than people realize, tenant advocates say, and it is a blatant violation of the law.
Even in Arkansas — one of the most landlord-friendly states in the nation — it's not OK for landlords to change the locks without going to court first and obtaining a judge's order.
"I have landlords all the time who will resort to strong-arm tactics and bullying tactics, where they will tell a tenant, 'I'm going to come tomorrow and I'm going to change the lock,'" says Dylan Potts, a landlord-tenant lawyer with Gill Elrod Ragon, in Little Rock, Ark.
Potts has even seen leases in which a tenant pre-authorizes the landlord to come in and change the lock if the tenant is three days late, for example.
"Even with the contractual term, that is void and against public policy," Potts says. A landlord can't write around the law. (See "Renters: Beware of these lease clauses.")
Tenants are routinely removed this way, he says. The problem is that tenants don't know their rights, and usually can't afford legal counsel. They think their only option is to leave.
Landlords, meanwhile, are surprised to learn that self-help eviction, as it's called, is not legal.
"I think the landlord, as the owner of the property, feels like he has the right to remove someone from the property if that person is not obliging with the terms of the contract," Potts says. But a judge and, later, police must carry out the eviction process.
"There has to be a sense of order in this process, and by giving the landlord total control, you strip the tenant of all potential defenses that the tenant may have to contest that type of eviction," Potts says. "It puts all the power in the landlord's hands to make all the decisions."
3. Your stuff? Sorry, it's not your place anymore
So the landlord got an order from a judge and legally changed the lock. If you weren't there, it's your tough luck if your possessions are inside his unit, right?
If you're getting the hang of this exercise, you may have guessed: The landlord most likely needs to make some effort to contact you. He can't help himself to the television because you owe him money. He can't toss your clothes on the sidewalk because he needs to clear the apartment and you didn't show up within 24 hours of the eviction date.
"The typical requirement is the landlord must go back to court if there is property maintained there by the tenant," Potts says. "There are landlords that will dispose of those possessions. My advice to landlords has always been to store the possessions."
Yes, after a reasonable amount of time, and after effort has been made to contact the former tenant, the property may be considered abandoned. A tenant can't reappear months later and try to claim his belongings.
But if a tenant was evicted only days or weeks before, or if he still legally resides there but has not paid the rent, the landlord cannot lay claim to his possessions.
"I see this tied a lot to the initial self-help eviction," Potts says. "There's no sheriff, no court. They go in and change the locks themselves, hold the stuff hostage, then bargain with tenants."
What's a tenant to do? Get help, the experts say.
"Any time anybody's getting evicted, they should be seeking legal assistance," Murray says. "There's a study that shows if you don't have an attorney, you're likely to lose.
"And on the landlord side, most will have an attorney. So you have a real mismatch of understanding what the rules are," he says. "It's not enough to just know these things."
Well, I would have hoped you guys did your research on bed bugs before puting something like that in print. Bed bugs are not recognized as a "Public Health Threat". So to group them in with roaches is wrong. As of right now, because I am very close to both sides of this problem, bed bugs are being treated as the tennant's problem. There is no requirement for the landlord to even treat them because all pest control companies do not cover them in thier general pest contract, and in courts (in KS) it is being assumed that the tennant brought them with them.
And sprays do not work and are not the answer.
The rights of tenants.
In the complex where I live, they do not have separate water meters. The water is somewhat prorated within the complex (your unit and others like it). I've been TOLD that is it averaged out by size of apartment (which has absolutely no relevance in my mind) and number of occupants in the dwelling (again, not important to me if I am one who is trying to SAVE on MY bill). I am a single occupant in a complex with FAMILIES and families with pets. I do not do my laundry each week, often times not for weeks at a time. I do not use my dishwasher and have only used the jetted tub maybe 3 times since I moved in in FEB.. I hear my neighbors machine going all times of the night. How is their usage relevant to mine? I try to SAVE and cut down on my bill, but my neighbors do not and have a more frequent schedule for laundry, use their tub, and D/W, yet their more frequent usage is figured in with my minimal usage and I have to pay more than I normally would or have in other complexes. How is this fair for me and others in my situation? IT ISN'T. Also, in my lease, there is a clause that says that DEATH cannot release you from your LEASE. SERIOUSLY. The rent has to be paid up until your contract is up. I asked how is this? Will my possessions be held hostage until my family (who did not sign a lease) pays each month? They also will not allow any other person to live in the apartment while you are paying rent on it. They will be collecting DOUBLE RENT for a place in the instance a tenant passes away while under a lease with this place. (MAA properties, formerly MAAC). By word of mouth, I have been told that they will not keep possessions of the tenants and that they do not make the families continue to pay, but what good is that, even if in an email when it is in the lease (a legal document). I have asked them to remove it from our leases if that is the case and was told that it is by the state of ALABAMA that this is there and will have to change within the state. To date, I have not further inquired, but fully intend to as well as see what can be done about my water bill being prorated or combined with other members of this place. We also pay pest control for the external only. We pay but they do not come into your individual area. If anyone has any information as to what I can start to do, please post it.
HOW ABOUT PUBLISHING AN ARTICLE ON LANDLORD'S LACK OF PROTECTION AND ABUSE BY TENANTS?
Landlords always bad mouthing tenants, but what about them. When you pay your rent on time and the place you rent is falling apart do to normal breakdowns, it is the landlords responsibility to fix thing such as water pipes over 50 yrs, floors sinking in, need new doors just to name a few. Most landlords don't want to fix up the homes, but they want their money on time. Most landlord and tenant courts site with the landlords about the money. They don't care if the dwelling is in poor condition. If the tenant destroy the place, yes they are responsible for repairing it, but if things were already bad in the home, then its the landlords responsibility to fix it. So landlords stop being lazy and fix the homes like you are suppose too. We want to be comfortable just as well as you.
You really need to know this stuff as a landlord. Groups like Fair Housing
Authority are a bunch of Left wing Liberals. This article alludes to the idea that you cannot reject an application for a applicant that has children. Good example. What about "No pet" too. See they really get into your business. Another example of waste and big government. I guess if your up front and advertise, No children, no pets, your setting yourself up for problems. I like the one for Senior citizens only. What's up with that? I'd like to hang out with the old folks. They have wonderful stories about how our great country has been screwing them for years too.
I was a landlord/property owner for over 30 years. We had problems but today is different for some reason. Forget hiring a professional manager, they only take their percentage and more and the problem is still yours. Things have changed in our society and that is why we no longer rent. I had month to month leases and even included the name of the pet in the lease. Before a tenant occupied the unit, we sat down and went over the lease paragraph by paragraph. Everything was legal and if they did not like something or had questions, we discussed it. There was one mandatory stipulation which was non negotiable; it was renter's insurance. It was mandatory - no exceptions. Times have changed and I am sure that landlord's are scared. People purchased rental properties with the idea of getting rich. Tenants have changed as well and the two are on a collision course. Just remember the only problem tenants were the ones who were trying to pull one on us (the landlord) or who took advantage of the other tenants. Once I was a landlord it changed me forever. I remember a funny incident (now it is funny) regarding two young men who had hung beer signs literally over spare inch of the apartment; some walls were 14'. We told them that they stood to loose their entire deposit if the necessary repairs were not made to correct all of the holes and damage caused by their thoughtless act. Soon after our meeting, we received a nasty phone call from one of the boys fathers. We offered to meet the parent in the apartment to discuss the matter with them in person so that he could see the problem. The father was in the apartment less than 5 minutes before he turned to his son and told him that he would have done the same thing, but charged him "double!" The father apologized for his son's bad behavior and as he left, he promised that the apartment would be restored to its original condition. Most landlords do not want to go to court or allow their properties to deteriorate. All of these people who see mold, damage or have no heat - these things all existed before you signed your lease. May I ask why did you rent the apartment? If the places are so bad - don't rent them. Either the landlord will clean them up or they will eventually get torn down by the local jurisdiction for failing to meet certain living standards. Bottomline: Slum lords would not exist if people did not rent from them.
Landlords rule in Rhode Island. Although there are some great laws protecting the rights of tenants there is no one who is willing to enforce them. That leaves us elderly on a fixed income at the mercy of the landlords. I can tell you from firsthand experience that mercy is not in the landlords’ vocabulary.
Initially I thought getting a new management company would change everything about the neglect and abuses we had suffered over the past years. It was from the frying pan to the fire. Our hot water was first to go by this new management. That happened within their second week! It’s been downhill since.
All our complaints fell on deaf ears. Be it complaints to the management company, HUD, the State all the way to Washington D.C., not one acted upon our plight. It just reveals the true thoughts when it comes to this insignificant building of fifty apartments in Rhode Island with elderly and disabled tenants. HUD, State appointed housing regulators and management do not respond to our letters or telephone calls. The landlords are fully aware of this and take advantage of the situation.
To make matter worse, if anyone misses paying the rent you can rest assure that the judges are quick to sign the landlords’ eviction documents. As happened to me, landlord started eviction for nonpayment of rent. Fortunately I keep all records and was able to prove payment. She, the landlord, had pulled rental figures from previous years as not paid. Makes you wonder just how many tenants she has overcharged and if the money went in her pocket. But there again, she is a landlord and they rule in Rhode Island.
why would you buy and rent a faility in Mumbai, India, for crying out loud?
do you live there?