What a Landlord Cannot Do: The Top 10

by Wesley Masters | Updated: Aug 11, 2023

As a renter, it's essential to understand your rights and what your landlord can and cannot do. While landlords have a range of various responsibilities, they are also bound by certain laws and regulations that prohibit them from certain behaviors or actions.Whether you're a first-time renter or a seasoned tenant, it's important to recognize your landlord's legal obligations and to determine when to take action if you believe your rights are being violated.

What are a landlord's basic responsibilities?

A landlord's basic responsibilities include maintaining a safe and habitable rental unit, providing necessary repairs and maintenance, managing tenants and their concerns and complying with fair housing laws. Fulfilling these responsibilities creates a positive and welcoming environment for tenants and protects the landlord's reputation.

What can a landlord not do?

Landlords must follow specific rules when entering a tenant's property, dealing with tenant relations and running their rental property. We'll look at the top 10 offenders in this list.

1. Discriminate

Discrimination of any kind is not only illegal but also goes against the basic principles of fairness and equality. Landlords who engage in discriminatory behavior not only risk legal consequences but run the risk of harming their reputation.

2. Enter unannounced or without proper notice

In general, a landlord must provide reasonable notice of intent to enter the rental unit, usually 24 hours or more. They must also have a valid reason for entering the unit, such as to perform necessary repairs, maintenance or inspections. Finally, landlords must respect the tenant's privacy and property during the visit and should limit their entry to reasonable hours of the day.

3. Unlawfully evict

Understanding the legal rules and procedures can help both landlords and tenants navigate the eviction process in a fair and lawful manner. For example, they must provide proper notice of the eviction and a valid reason for the eviction, such as missed rental payments or violation of lease terms. Depending on the case, the landlord may also need to obtain a court order to legally evict a tenant.

4. Raise rent without justification

Generally speaking, a landlord must provide written notice of any rent increase, typically 30-60 days in advance, depending on the state or local laws. Rent increases are frustrating for tenants, so landlords understanding these rules can help ensure that the process is fair and they're able to deal with potential pushback or questions.

5. Harass or intimidate a tenant

Any landlord engaging in behaviors that intimidate, pressure or force a tenant out of their unit is not legal. Common examples of landlord harassment include repeatedly entering the rental unit without notice, cutting off utilities or making threats of eviction for no reason. Landlords who harass or intimidate not only violate their legal obligations to provide a safe and liveable rental unit but also put their tenants' health and safety at risk.

6. Refuse repairs or maintenance

A landlord refusing repairs or maintenance is a form of harassment or intimidation. If your landlord refuses to perform necessary repairs or maintenance, you should document the issue, send a written request and seek assistance from local housing authorities or legal aid services if necessary. It's important to consult with a legal professional before going any further.

7. Fail to return a security deposit in the legal time frame

The legal timeline for returning a security deposit varies by state and can range from a few days to several weeks. Landlords have to return the security deposit within a reasonable time after the tenant moves out, usually between 14 to 60 days depending on the state. The landlord must also provide an itemized list of any deductions made from the security deposit, such as for unpaid rent, damages (beyond normal wear and tear) or any necessary cleaning fees.

8. Refuse emotional support animals or service animals

Under federal law, individuals with disabilities are generally entitled to keep their emotional support or service animals in their homes, even if the landlord has a "no pets" policy, as long as the animals are registered as such. Emotional support animals and service animals serve an important purpose in assisting individuals with disabilities, whether that be physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional.

9. Charge tenants for everyday wear and tear of the rental unit, which is the landlord's responsibility

Normal wear and tear refers to the gradual deterioration that occurs to a rental unit over time, like minor scuffs on walls or carpet damage from regular use. The landlord has to provide an itemized list of any deductions made from the security deposit, along with receipts or estimates for repair costs.

10. Fail to provide a tenant with a habitable rental unit that meets essential health and safety standards

A landlord needs to provide a rental unit that meets essential health and safety standards, such as plumbing, heating and electrical systems. The rental unit can't contain hazardous materials and must comply with local building and safety codes as well. Maintaining these standards and appliances in a safe and habitable condition, which means making necessary repairs and addressing any health or safety concerns that arise, is of utmost importance in the rental unit.

Landlord-tenant law is the law of the land

It's important for landlords to understand their legal obligations and responsibilities to ensure that they are complying with fair housing laws and providing a safe and habitable rental unit for their tenants. Understanding your rights as a tenant is equally important so your living experience is the best possible.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
Categories: Featured, Renters

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