When it comes to the legal implications of a leasing agreement, renters are at an inherent disadvantage. Unlike their landlords, renters aren't aware of all the laws and regulations covering a landlord-tenant agreement. Because of this lack of familiarity, some landlords do try to take advantage by cutting corners on their responsibilities.
Renters, meanwhile, may be totally unaware that they're being wrongly treated or being forced to accept sub-standard living conditions. While most renters don't have the luxury of gaining an in-depth understanding of landlord-tenant law, there are some basic landlord obligations that are easy to understand and applicable in almost any situation. Here's a guide to some of the basic standards to which renters can hold their landlords.
Landlords must provide a safe, quiet environment
In virtually every part of the country, a safe, quiet experience is the responsibility of the landlord. According to the National Paralegal College, this agreement is implied in any signed lease even if it isn't expressly stated. These standards of living can be provided in many ways so long as they produce the intended result. This is why many landlords institute quiet hours and noise restrictions in multi-dwelling units.
In terms of providing tenant safety, landlords have to meet several different standards, including the installation of smoke detectors and locks on all doors and windows, background checks for renters in neighboring units, and restrictions on the types of animals permitted in the unit.
Landlords must respond to repair requests in a timely manner
Routine repairs in any rental unit is the responsibility of the landlord. Every state defines "timely manner" in its own way, but in general landlords need to take action quickly to get those repairs addressed -- even minor ones that don't severely crimp daily life for the tenants. In cases of extreme repair needs that cause additional problems for tenants, there could be ground for those renters taking legal action against their landlord.
Security deposits must be securely stored
While many states have their own rules governing the details of this responsibility, landlords are required to protect their security deposits in some manner, according to About.com. In some states, this means depositing security funds into an interest-bearing account established solely for the purpose of holding deposits. This helps ensure the safety of those funds while protecting them from being inadvertently spent.
Always check local landlord-tenant law
Most landlord-tenant law is decided at the local and state level. You should always consult your local landlord-tenant laws to find out the specific responsibilities of your landlord as dictated by local law. If you've recently moved to a new location, you may experience a change in the responsibilities your landlord has in regards to his tenants. Don't assume that the laws are standard. Even though some responsibilities are very common in all parts of the country, you'll want to be sure before you take any action.
If you're concerned that your tenant rights are being violated, you can always contact your local Fair Housing Council for more information or assistance. Whatever the case, remember that tenants have rights in their legal arrangement with landlords, and you shouldn't be afraid to stand up for yourself when your rights are violated.