What Are Renters Rights

Knowing what you're entitled to as a tenant of a rented property

Many renters feel that putting up with a less than stellar landlord is simply a matter of course. Others may feel there's nothing more they can do if a landlord refuses or neglects to properly upkeep a rented property. Still, others may wish to avoid conflict or may even fear the landlord will take retaliatory actions, such as refusing to renew a lease or refund a security deposit. It's important to know what rights you have as a renter so you can feel safe and comfortable in your apartment. Renters' rights and laws exist at all levels of government to ensure tenants aren't taken advantage of and can enjoy a habitable living space. Not every inconvenience is covered under the law, but for many issues, such as your landlord entering your apartment without notice or ignoring your request for repairs, you have recourse through renters' rights.

Your Basic Renters Rights

What are renters' rights? First and foremost, you have the right to a safe, clean living space. In other words, your landlord has to provide a habitable apartment. Your landlord must address safety concerns, whether through maintenance or repair, address significant pest infestations, and provide working heat, water, and utilities. As a tenant, you are also protected under anti-discrimination laws under the Fair Housing Act. Landlords may not discriminate against or refuse to rent to tenants based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability, age, or family status. Some states also protect other groups, such as LGBTQ+. Importantly, you also have a right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of your property, meaning your landlord must provide notice and have sufficient reason to enter your apartments, such as for making a repair or check.
what are renters rights

Rights Can Vary by State

Landlords cannot ask you to waive certain basic rights in a lease, and state laws are often in place to regulate things. Some states have laws surrounding security deposits, notices for raising the rent or accessing the premises, and eviction, but they vary quite a bit. Make sure that you look up your state's Tenant's Rights Handbook so you know what rights you have as a renter. Be aware that your landlord is not allowed to charge a higher security deposit without reason and must return your deposit within a time limit after your lease ends, minus any (documented) damages. Your landlord may evict you if you have broken conditions of the lease, but they are required to provide notice, allow you to fix issues such as late rent, and give you a chance to appear in court.

renters rights and laws

How To Protect Yourself

It is important to read your lease carefully before agreeing to it, to see what responsibilities you are agreeing to. Get everything in writing, as you may need to refer to it in case of a dispute. Be sure to photograph the condition of your apartment before moving in, so you won't lose out on your security deposit for pre-existing damages. Make sure you know how to contact your landlord and keep records of any communication. Renters insurance is always a good idea, as it will protect your personal belongings and provide liability coverage. Always keep your apartment clean, seek permission for new roommates, operate appliances safely, and repair any damage caused by you or your guests. Know your renter's rights and laws in your area. Consult with a lawyer or local housing department if you feel your rights are being infringed upon.