What Are Some Common Tenant Rights?

What are some common tenant rights? A tenant has the right to full and sole enjoyment of the property and also has rights with respect to eviction for nonpayment of rent. One of the most important rights...

One of the most important rights that a tenant has is the right to a "warranty of habitability". A warranty of habitability states that a tenant is entitled to a rental unit that is safe, sanitary, and livable. Examples of violating this warranty include failing to eliminate insect of rodent infestation, not providing working utilities or performing inadequate repairs. If a landlord violates the warranty, many states allow the tenant to break the lease and move out without penalty and/or sue the landlord for a reduction in rent.

Another critical right that tenants have is the right to privacy. A landlord may not enter a tenant's apartment without notice and without adequate cause. Examples of adequate cause include providing necessary repairs, showing the apartment to prospective tenants or entering in response to an emergency such as a fire. Gary Knippa, a property manager with over 30 years of experience in the real estate field, says that "A tenant does have a right to total and sole enjoyment of the property to the point where a landlord is required to put a keyless deadbolt on the door for example, whereby once the tenant is inside the property no one can get inside including the landlord and including the owner."

Knippa goes on to say that "a tenant does have additional rights in the way of eviction. If the rent becomes unpaid or late, an owner just can't go in and throw all the stuff out. There is a definite legal process and the tenant gets a chance to appeal that if they want to. It's a fairly cumbersome process to remove a nonpaying tenant from the property, but it's a very consumer friendly process as far as the tenant is concerned."

Tenants also have rights that protect them from discrimination and harassment. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or religion. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects tenants who are disabled from discrimination and also requires many facilities (including rental units) to set up reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Many states also have additional laws that protect tenants from discrimination on the basis of other factors such as marital status and sexual orientation. The states also protect tenants from harassment. Landlords are not to verbally abuse, threaten or assault tenants. Using unlawful tactics to collect rent such as locking a tenant out of his or her unit or shutting off the utilities are also considered to be forms of harassment and is strictly prohibited in many states.

Another right that tenants have is the right to organize. They have the right to form, join and participate in tenants unions or other organizations created for the purpose of protecting their interests and legal rights. They also have the right to meet in any common areas or private unit in the building without fear of harassment or retaliation by the landlord.

If a tenant has paid a security deposit prior to moving into the apartment, the tenant has the right to have that deposit returned in full upon moving out, provided the tenant has left the apartment clean and in good condition.

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