TV's 'World's Worst Tenants': Don't try this at home
The show's producer says the show isn't billed as a guidebook. "'Want to know how to get your tenants out? Watch "World's Worst Tenants" and find out how.' This isn't that show," Greulach says.
But the show does not display disclaimers. As is evident from the comments by Facebook fans, viewers believe they have tuned in for a reality show with a good dose of legal education.
"Live in a different state, laws might be different," wrote one fan, "but learned a lot. People need to know their rights as tenants and landlords."
On the Facebook page, fans post questions for Howard about how to deal with their own tenant issues, and Howard posts "Todd's tips." In one, he erroneously posts that a tenant who is given three days notice to move after a new sale will "have to oblige." In fact, federal law guarantees that tenants can remain for 90 days or the remainder of their lease, whichever is longer.
"My concern is that a landlord will look at this show and say, 'I can break in. I can force my way in and conduct inspections. I saw it on TV,'" Kellman says. "And that's completely wrong."
"You don't get police powers or court powers because you're a landlord," he says. "Maybe in feudal England."
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Know your rights
Landlord-tenant laws vary by state and town. Landlords and tenants alike should seek independent advice from professionals before resorting to self-help, lawyers say.
If you're among the one-third of Americans who rent, you have basic rights that apply everywhere and that are important to know, especially if your landlord is a fan of "World's Worst Tenants":
- Only an officer of the court — typically, a police officer —can carry out an eviction, and he needs a court order to do so.
- Only a law-enforcement officer can enter your home against your will. And, again, he needs a notice from the court.
- A landlord can enter under the guise of an apartment inspection only if the terms of the inspection have been spelled out in a lease and the landlord gives 24-hour notice for the exact time. Even so, if you, the tenant, are home and still refuse entry, the landlord cannot force his way in, says Janet Portman, a lawyer and the author of several Nolo legal guides for landlords and tenants. Instead, the landlord could begin eviction proceedings for violating the lease.
- Landlords can enter in an emergency, to show the unit or to perform agreed-upon repairs.
- There is rarely, if ever, a legal justification for violence, Portman says. "Any landlord who physically assaults a tenant has assaulted a tenant," she says.
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