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."
Yes, some of the illegal actions are indeed illegal in some states, but NOT in every state. Self help eviction for instance. I am a landlord in a state where I am happy to report it is VERY legal. Don't pay my rent and yes one day there will be a notice posted on your door (as per the lease) and 5 days later your keys won't fit the lock anymore. Similar for the nonsense cited about the possessions left behind. Yes, in states whose court decisions have been leaning towards socialism for the past few decades, places like NY, MA, and CA, the landlord can't sell or dispose of the items left behind. That is why I am not a landlord in those places any more. In states that are pro capitalism however, what you left behind you abandoned on the day you failed to pay the rent. Why do we put that in the lease? Simply so the tenant can't stand up in court and claim he/she hadn't realized their coin collection could be seized and sold to cover back rent if they were dumb enough to still have it in the place on the deadline stated on the notice prominently posted on their front door when the rent became past due. In my current state, since I am not a business, the tenant who rents my mom's old house is a trespasser when the rent day arrives if the rent is not going to be paid. If I was stupid and started an eviction process, then under the state law I would be stuck and forced to wait the year and a half the court might take to hear and decide the matter. Fortunately my state gives small owners a choice. This choice includes visiting a local street corner and hiring 4 unemployed youth (formerly called hoodlums and thugs when I was younger) to help throw a trespasser and his stuff out. Yes, I have been to court in situations like the ones cited. I have won every time. Like I said the article is poorly researched and shouldn't be taken as a gospel valid in every state. Check with a lawyer in your state, note also that in some states the rules vary from town to city to county so that the rule in one part of the state may be totally different in another part of the same state.
Landlords deserve what they get, they are evil and they got in this business for the wrong reason. Yes I do believe a landlord should make a profit, but I also believe a tenant should be given a decent place to live. For some reason landlords think they are somehow superior, when in fact they are just average joes stuck paying more than one mortgage. If you screw tenants, you ruin yourself. It is true there are bad tenants out there, but if you actually check references properly you will probably not run into them as often. Truth is you guys go after money first and thats why you continue to get f***ed in the A$$. My property mgmt hates me because I actually want to be able to sleep in my apartment at 1am and not deal with noisy neighbors so they refused me services and now legally they are in major hot water. Stupid is as stupid does. I tried to work with them for months to get the issues taken care of and they tried to bully me, and now after months of antics they are walking around scared because of the all the laws they have broken. Well I could show pity but I won't. They had no problem being A$$holes when "they assumed I was some dumb chick in my 20s" so I am going to do what I love to do and teach them MFs a lesson.
Being a landlord is not for everyone, you better check your work ethic and personality out thoroughly before you invest in real estate.
As a TENANT, I'd like to inform the landlords that are posting that you guys aren't a big cup of joy to deal with either.
My landlord lives in a completely different state than the house we rent. She informed us that if something breaks, fix it and send her the bill and she will take it off of our rent. Thank goodness that nothing major has broken yet.
She also "forgets" that she has certain conversations with us, mostly any conversation where the rent will be a couple of days late. When she "forgets" that we already told her that the rent will be a couple of days late and exactly when we are going to send it (even paying her extra "late fee" plus an extra $15 to overnight the rent to her, being that she lives in a different state) she does things like sending her daughter to my door to inform my 14 year old child that "Your parents are liars who don't pay their bills"... or leaving nasty messages on my voice mail where she curses at us and calls us losers or liars who don't pay our bills. So.... we do the responsible thing that she asked us to do and call her if rent will be late and in return, we get to be verbally abused over it.
This summer, we had a house inspection and she actually had to come to the house to fix some things and freaked out because there were a few weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk and told us that since we don't take care of her house, she should up the rent. While fixing things that she needed to fix, the group of workers she had over (mostly her family members) stood in the backyard drinking beer and left their half empty beer cans all over my 3 year olds swingset and in his toy box.
Tenants have no REAL rights. They can't complain to anyone, because then they face being kicked out of their home and they can't afford to move again.
We pay more than most tenants, and we actually have the right number of people living here and we clean the place everyday and have maintained it perfectly. Even the maintenance staff says it looks as if we just moved in our place because it is so well kept. These people have it coming to them and they will get what they deserve. This dumb manager brags about working for this company for almost 16 yrs, well, she is now going to lose her job over something so stupid and trivial that she blew out of control trying to act like she was some big boss. Now her, her supervisor, and other staff are going to lose there jobs as well for the acts that took place. Its so hilarious to me because we tried to work with them and they continue to act like monkeys. They stuck together so they will FALL TOGETHER. So now at there age, they will probably be one of the old people working at walmart or in fast food.
Renters: Know that you may lose the RIGHT TO VOTE if the Tea Party gets into higher office.
That's right - the Tea Party doesn't believe that RENTERS should have the right to VOTE.
Here is the solution to all of this, focus on buying properties v renting. You are your own boss, and you can MAKE money not dump it into the trash can and have to deal with a landlord. I read a good article about this on DINKlife.com but msn wont let me post the link to it... you can go find it for yourself online.
I signed contracts w/ Property Mgmnt, but get letter from LandLord wanting to "inspect" my house. Not really knowing the law, I agree. She tries to say "I have too many people in my home". Keep in mind she comes 3-4 days after Xmas. Yes, I have people there. She looks around, then leaves. I get a note that same day, stating I am in violation of not keeping my yard clean, pet, too many people in the home, she gave me 6 days to correct it. Came back, get a letter asking me to leave for having more persons then listed on my contract. Which I asked her to show me proof, and she can not. Isn't that an "Eviction"? They told me it wasn't. Can she do that? Can she take my deposit? Can I make her pay for the rest of my lease if she has no grounds? We were out of pocket over $3000, not to mention the rest of my lease. If I have to pay the rest of the lease for something I did, shouldn't she pay for fausly kicking me out? Can't I get anything from her? Should she at least give me my deposit back? Help
Okay so, being a Property Manager for fourteen years, I have a bit to say that would alleviate so many problems. Get a PROFESSIONAL to handle your rental for you!!!
Landlord-Tenant Laws change almost daily. It's hard to keep up with them if you are not in the business. A Professional (God willing) will know the laws, the tricks of the wanna-be squatters, the manipulations of the poor-me tenant that you are now emotionally invested in and want to help, but is bleeding you dry, what your responsibilities are versus the tenants' responsibilities when it comes to repairs.
A Property Manager is your middle-man. You should never have to have contact with your tenants, who will then (no matter how nice they are) try to use the acquaintance to their advantage. The middle-man gets to be the hard-nose for you!
The Property Manager should know the laws, the vendors used, keep up on the insurance the vendors should be required to have, along with their licenses, the condition of the property, etc. They usually will have a Landlord-Tenant, or Real Estate, attorney on hand - and speed dial! The attorney's should be the one drafting the leases. They would also be the ones handling any evictions.
Property Managers also complete the (hopefully) extensive background checks on prospective tenants. They should check for credit, criminal, sex offender, past rental verification, eviction check, and income verification (three times the amount of rent is a good rule of thumb). They should also be collecting ALL funds, verifying utility transfers, and completing a final walk-though of the property (best with photos and/or video) to protect you when the tenant moves out and says "that was like that when I moved in".
Bottom line...don't try to do it yourself! A good Property Manager averages between 10% & 12% of the monies collected on your behalf. In the end, it is completely worth it!
Most people want to live their lives running from any accountability they may have. The United States gets dumber by the second, but as long as you as individuals feel like you are good enough then why care, right?
My point about Americans wanting to pick and chose when and which rules to follow is accurate whether I am American or Hibouriganese. What does that have to do with living your life without scorn or ridicule? I will make a deal with you. I will be a little nicer if you be a little smarter....
Only a true genius feels that a typo is an indication of one's ability to or not to understand how and when to actually use a word. Why don't you call your group of intelligent peaceful Americans and see if you can come up with even part of a relevant argument as opposed to what most would call a stupid hostile rant...
Thanks for being the perfect example of my point though...
why would you buy and rent a faility in Mumbai, India, for crying out loud?
do you live there?