Tenants and landlords often enter into a residential lease agreement for their mutual benefit. A landlord provides a home to a tenant in exchange for rent, while the tenant pays the fee in exchange for shelter. Although these agreements are beneficial to both parties, many times there exists a grey area that can lead to disagreements. For this reason, it is important that all parties understand their rights and responsibilities before entering into an agreement.
The following outlines some of the most common rights and responsibilities of tenants and property owners:
Right To Quiet Enjoyment
A landlord’s responsibility is to provide adequate living conditions which should include safety from outside threats such as burglary or physical assault/harm. In addition, landlords have a duty to maintain habitable conditions including cleanliness of hallways, stairwells and entrances. In this way, a tenant is able to enjoy the property without disturbance from outside sources.
Right To Privacy
Although a landlord has certain responsibilities for the upkeep of a rental unit, tenants have an equal responsibility in maintaining the cleanliness of their personal living spaces. Therefore, tenants have a right to be secure in their personal belongings and free from unnecessary intrusions by landlords or other occupants.
Repair And Deduct Rights
When a landlord fails to provide habitable conditions as agreed upon in the lease agreement, oftentimes remedial action must be taken by the tenant. Assuming that the issue is not caused by neglectful behaviour on behalf of the tenant, remedies may repair and deduct which allows for payment to be made to a third-party vendor for necessary repairs. Some states allow tenants the right to withhold rent or use their security deposit as payment.
Right To Notice Of Foreclosure
Tenants have the right to receive notice before landlords are able to take possession of their unit due to foreclosure proceedings. Although it is not guaranteed, tenants should receive legal notification that their living space will soon be lost and an opportunity for relocation if desired. However, this may vary depending on state laws and should always be verified by a landlord and tenant’s attorney prior to taking action.
Responsibility For Maintenance And Repairs
Although landlords often maintain ownership of property which includes home exteriors such as lawns, sidewalks and driveways; they also tend to neglect the overall property. Oftentimes, renters are responsible for minor maintenance tasks including cleaning walkways, driveways and gutters. Tenants who fail to comply with their responsibility may face eviction proceedings.
Responsibility For Utilities And Services
Since landlords own the property, they are responsible for providing utilities such as gas, electricity, water or heat. In some cases where a separate meter is provided for services provided by the tenant, the landlord is still responsible for the maintenance of this feature. Regardless of whether utilities are separately metered or included in rent, all expenses must be shared equally between tenant and landlord until otherwise stated in a written rental contract.
Right To Enter The Unit
Although there are circumstances where entry into an apartment may be necessary on the part of a landlord or other interested party (i.e. fire department, home inspection), there are legal limitations established for entry. Before entering the unit, written notice with an estimated time of entry should be provided and confirmed by telephone before proceeding with showing the property to prospective tenants.
Right To Retaliatory Actions
It is illegal for landlords to take retaliatory action against tenants who exercise their rights as agreed upon in a lease or rental agreement. Some common examples of prohibited actions include but are not limited to eviction, an increase of rent and refusal of services such as repairs. In these cases where retaliation has been exhibited, it may be necessary for a tenant to seek damages from their landlord through legal channels.
In conclusion, both parties have a right to enjoy property without interference from outside sources. Landlords have a responsibility in providing habitable conditions and should secure legal representation when foreclosure proceedings are underway. Tenants have the responsibility to provide clean living spaces, maintain common areas and seek legal help when necessary. The right for privacy, repair and deduct rights, a notice of foreclosure, utility expenses and timely entry into units should be established before signing a lease agreement. Any action taken against tenants who exercise their rights may be considered retaliatory which is illegal.