Tenants or people that rent property from a property owner or landlord are protected by several laws. While most landlords are honest, hard-working people that want to provide tenants with a safe, clean home in which to live, some are dishonest and more interested in making illegal demands. If you are currently a tenant or considering renting a home, you have the right and responsibility to learn about the laws created for protection.
Rights against Unlawful Entry by the Landlord/Property Owner
A landlord or property owner can only enter your rented home under very specific circumstances, which include:
* Repairs needing to be done on the home
* Inspection needing to be done on the property
* Showing potential buyers or tenants the property
* Inspecting the home during the past 30 days of your renter's term to identify any damage, which would then be deducted from the security deposit paid at the time of move-in
While a landlord or property owner can by law enter the premises while you are still renting, an agreed upon time would need to be established first, a time convenient to both parties so if preferred, you could be there.
Rights against Landlord/Property Owner Retaliation
Another strict law that protects you as the tenant is that your lease cannot be terminated or the amount of rent paid monthly increased without valid reason. For instance, if your landlord suddenly decided to increase your monthly rent payment without reason or notice, or terminate your lease after you made a complaint with the Board of Health or after you exercised any other of your legal rights, by law, this would be considered landlord/property owner retaliation. In this case, the landlord/property owner has the burden of proof to show officials viable reasons he/she made those decisions.
Habitable and Safe Living Environment throughout the Lease
As the tenant, you are entitled to have a home that is both clean and safe for the entire term of your lease. If necessary provisions are not provided or fixed, you have right to file a formal complaint or take legal action. This would include having heat, water, and a functioning bathroom and kitchen. Additionally, the home should be void of health risks to include rats and roaches.
Rights Specific to Rent Withholding
If you live in a home that is unsafe or uninhabitable, by law, you can withhold a portion of the rent starting from the date the landlord/property owner was provided with notice of such problems, which is officially known as a "breach of warrant of habitability". Monies withheld are to force the landlord or property owner to make appropriate repairs.
Keep in mind that this particular aspect of a tenant's legal rights is very serious so chances are you would need guidance and support of an attorney prior to withholding rent money. The legal right to withhold a portion of the rent money would need to be for certain circumstances, which include:
* All necessary repairs have been appealed to your landlord/property owner in writing
* An inspection was performed by the Board of Health with violations found against current health codes and these violations reported back to the landlord/property owner.
* Exact amount of money that can be withheld legally would be based on a situation by situation basis and after all repairs have been made, the money withheld would be paid immediately to the landlord/property owner.
Legal Right to Repair and to Deduct
If repairs need to be done immediately, such as a broken water pipe or no heating in the middle of winter, whether the landlord cannot be reached or refuses to make repairs you would have the legal right to make them or have a professional come in and make them. The cost of such repairs paid out of pocket could be deducted from your normal monthly rent up to four months and as long as three conditions are met, which include:
1. Board of Health has inspected and certified that the home's conditions put you and other people living in the home in danger for safety or health
2. Landlord has a written receipt from the inspecting agency of all applicable violations
3. You would be provided five days from the time the landlord/property owner is given the receipt from the inspecting agency for repairs to begin
4. All repairs would need to be finished in no more than 14 days
Rights against Utilities Removal or Shut-off
Another one of your rights as a tenant is that the landlord/property owner cannot by law order any utilities to be removed or turned off, except in emergencies or times when repairs are being completed. If the landlord/property owner has not paid utilities, putting them at risk for being shut off, you are to be notified a minimum of 30 days prior. However, the landlord can, by law request you to pay a portion of the past due utility bill, which would then be deducted from your next month's rental payment.
Legal Right against Eviction
You are also protected from wrongful eviction. For instance, the landlord/property owner cannot simply lock you out of the home or remove you from the premises. If ever faced with this particular situation, you should immediately contact a reputable real estate/renter attorney for consultation.
Rights for Rent Non-Payment Eviction
Now, if an eviction is taking place because you did not pay the rent, eviction could be stopped but only when past due monies are brought current, which would include:
* Cost of filing the Eviction Notice
* Any additional miscellaneous expenses paid by the landlord specific to eviction
* When monies are brought current, you would be provided with a 14-day Notice to Quit, based on non-payment of rent, as well as a 30-day notice for eviction for reasons beyond non-payment. In this second scenario, if the landlord/property owner decided he/she wanted you out even with past due rent paid, a 30-day lease termination would be required by law.
Oliver Darraugh is an experienced commentator and investor in the UK property market. His company Rent Back My Property helps find property buyers for those looking for a sale and rent back solution.