While most people consider home-ownership a big part of the “American Dream,” nobody gets to that point without renting for some time first. Renting allows time to be sure you truly love an area before investing more permanently. Renting can not only be a wise decision but a majorly beneficial one, as long as you fully understand your rights as a renter.
In the United States, there are 7 things your landlord must do:
- Keep your home at a comfortable temperature
- Fix any plumbing issues
- Wait before raising the rent
- Provide notice before entering
- Keep your building up to code
- Disclose necessary information
- Report illegal activity
As a renter, you have rights, and it’s vital to know exactly what they are. Read on to learn more about what things your landlord must do in exchange for your hard-earned rent money!
Keep Your Home at a Comfortable Temperature
Your first right is incredibly basic: the right to feel comfortable within your own home. In this case, “comfortable” means that your landlord must supply you with both heat and ventilation.
A comfortable temperature also means one that isn’t humid. Your heater shouldn’t just warm the air in your home; it should circulate it and remove humidity. Any other situation is just begging for mold or other dangers.
While air conditioning isn’t always included in the list of things your landlord must do, it is necessary if you live in a sweltering climate. For example, in states like Mississippi or Arizona, summertime frequently means enduring temperatures of 95 degrees or higher for entire weeks. It would be unsafe for a landlord to skimp on air-conditioner repairs in that manner of heat!
If the heat becomes especially unbearable, your landlord has a responsibility to remove you from the situation, even if that means paying for a hotel room until they’ve fixed the problem.
Fix Any Plumbing Issues
Your landlord is also responsible for keeping the water and plumbing properly functioning. Within twenty-four hours of notifying your landlord of any plumbing issue, they have a responsibility to send a professional in to look at the problem.
There’s only one exception to this rule: if you’re responsible for the plumbing issue, you’re responsible for fixing it as well.
If the landlord can prove that you are at fault for the plumbing problem– either intentionally or through neglect– you could be on the hook for the bill!
Wait Before Raising the Rent
When you move into an apartment or rented house, you sign a contract. This contract, known as a lease, lays out the agreement regarding how long you’ll be staying there and how much you’ll pay the landlord while you do. Until the time described in that lease is up, your landlord can’t raise your rent!
As you might imagine, this means it’s vitally important to sign a lease before moving into a home. Read your lease thoroughly and carefully before signing anything! Otherwise, you might find that your landlord has included a clause allowing them to pull the rug from under your feet with little notice.
Provide Notice Before Entering
Because the property is technically theirs, landlords have a right to enter your home for maintenance, repairs, or many other reasons. However, providing you with advance notice is one of the things your landlord must do before entering your living space!
Just because it’s not your property doesn’t mean it’s not your home! You have a right to your privacy. Except in rare cases of safety concerns, your landlord can’t enter the property without first providing notice of exactly when they might arrive.
Frequently, this notice comes in the form of a flyer taped to your door. Be sure to read any messages fully so you can be informed of when your landlord might be around and for what reasons. Even if you have nothing to hide, you’ll still likely appreciate the time to prepare for a visitor!
Keep your Building Up to Code
Every state, district, and city creates a standard by which they judge whether a building is “up to code.” While this standard can differ from one spot to the next, it usually spells out the ways that a space must be considered safe and structurally sound.
A building that is up to code should have:
- Correctly fitted windows that open and close.
- A well-functioning electrical system
- Even, safe flooring
- A strong roofing system
- No major damage to the structure of the home
Accidents and major weather incidents may occur that compromise the safety of your home, but as a renter, that’s not your responsibility. This news should come as a relief to anyone who lives in areas plagued by wildfires, hurricanes, or tornados!
If you’re worried that your living space may not be up to code, reach out to your landlord, and they can schedule an inspection to address the problem. It’s a good idea in cases like this to have all exchanges logged through email. If you’ve reached out and feel ignored, know that you have options.
Disclose Necessary Information
You know how in scary movies, there’s always that moment where the landlord says, “Legally, I have to disclose that the last tenant to live here was viciously murdered?”
While most states don’t require landlords to reveal if there’s been a death in the home, there’s still a grain of truth to this trope. There are specific facts that a landlord must disclose before you move into a new space.
Here are just a few things that your landlord should fully explain:
- Information about security deposits
- Any existing damage to the property
- Whether you’ll be sharing utilities with your neighbors
- The smoking policy
- Any registered sex offenders in the area
- Recent flooding or other damage
In addition, the law requires that your landlord tell you if the person who lived in this space before you was involved in violent activities, such as cooking meth or performing drug deals out of your unit.
You should never have to worry too deeply about what may have occurred in your living space before you moved in. If it could potentially introduce you to any risk, your landlord will tell you!
Report Illegal Activity
You’ve absolutely got a right to feel comfortable within your own home. The number one step in this is feeling safe within your home.
If you notice illegal and unsafe activities in your apartment complex, bring the issue to your landlord. Keeping you safe is one of the most important things your landlord must do!
Renting comes with some significant benefits: convenience, flexibility, and the chance to quickly move for a better job. More importantly, renting means having another person there to defend your right to safety and comfort. Or, at least, it should!
When you rent space from a landlord, you create an agreement that, for as long as you live there, there are certain things your landlord must do. At its core, this means making quick repairs, allowing you to feel safe, and building a sense of privacy and trust between the two of you.