Tenant Rights: Knowing the Illegal Things That Landlords Do

As a tenant, you usually no longer care about what your landlord has to deal with. You sign a lease, and so long as they let you stay in the property and respect you, you’re good. This is especially true for those newbie renters. However, you have to know your rights as a tenant. Something as harmless as asking a question can be enough to sue a landlord. Are you a landlord? Well, you better read up as well! You never know what could land you in hot water.

Not allowing families in the property

You’re a tenant and you’re in love with your unit. Then suddenly, you decide to start a family and want to stay in said unit. You got married and then finally have a child of your own! All of a sudden, your landlord gives you an eviction notice, saying that families aren’t allowed on his property. Heck, some landlords would try to make it sound nicer by saying that their place isn’t “kid-friendly”. You have to know that that’s not legal.

There’s a federal Fair Housing Act that makes it illegal to discriminate against families with children. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, such as for retirement communities and occupancy limits for certain units. But contact your lawyer ASAP if you have solid evidence that your landlord is violating your rights to fair housing.

Making false promises

It’s no surprise that landlords will say anything and everything that will make tenants hand over their deposits immediately.  Those promises made during the walkthrough? Well, they can become binding if the applicants used them as a factor for signing the lease. If a landlord promises that you’ll have your own parking space or that he’ll give you discounts on the rent during the holidays, he has to fulfill it.

If you’re a tenant who feels ripped off because of those unfulfilled promises, it’s within your rights to wiggle out of your lease legally. Alternatively, you can decide to just sue instead for the difference in the value of the promise that your landlord made and what he provided to you.

Wrong questions during tenant screening

You’d think answering questions would be easy, but tenant screening is a whole different monster. Sure, there might be wrong answers coming from your end, but did you know that there are wrong questions from the landlord too? Yep, that’s right. You may think their questions mean well, but they could border into discrimination territory. They’re not allowed to ask about a potential tenant’s disability, sexual orientation, or even marital status.

Security deposits being used for unrelated expenses

Landlords almost always lose cases in small claims court if it involves security deposits. It’s not unheard of for landlords to use the money for cosmetic upgrades to the property or to purchase new appliances for the units. If the money wasn’t used for repairs, cleaning, or unpaid rent, then you have the right to file a case against your landlord. Remember, just because a tenant benefited/will benefit from the improvement doesn’t mean their security deposit should be used.

Not returning security deposits

Since we’re on the subject, landlords will sometimes not only use your security deposit improperly, they also tend to refuse to hand it over to you. Yes, people like that exist, and there are numerous states that impose deadlines on when landlords should give you an itemized list of how your deposit was used and give back your balance. It’s not surprising to find out that security deposits and property damages are common causes of landlord vs. tenant disputes.

Better yet, using services like the ones that MoveIn.Space offers can help determine if your security deposits were indeed used for the right expenses. No more pointing fingers; you have proof of what the place looked like during move-in and move-out day. It could take weeks, sometimes months, for the landlord to deliver what needs to be delivered, but you MUST get your money back, even, at least, some of it.

Landlord didn’t return any money to you? Check your state laws. More often than not, they can get penalized for it and they can get ordered to pay you back two to three times the amount of your security deposit.

Exorbitant late fees

Ah, late fees — the landlord’s secret tool in motivating his tenants to pay on or before the deadline. Sure, they can charge as high as they want, but there’s always a limit. If the fees resemble the actual monetary hit that they take when a tenant pays late, then that fee could get invalidated in court. It’s much better to just find a new place to rent if you think the late fees are a little too extravagant for your liking.

Violating your privacy

You don’t technically own the place, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to your own privacy. Most state laws indicate some very detailed rules when it comes to tenant privacy. Yet still, there are landlords who think they have the right to drop by your unit without notice. They could just be checking things, or showing it off to potential tenants. If they make a habit out of barging in unannounced, or at least, make one HUGE violation of your privacy, you have the right to break your lease.

 

Got other examples of surprisingly illegal things that landlords commit? Or maybe a story of how you brought your landlord to court because of something that they thought they had a right to do but didn’t? We’d love to hear about it!

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