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!

Making Your Landlord Adore You Sneakily

You either love or hate your landlord, but you should really take the time and give some thought into making sure that they at least like you. Realtor did an article collaboration with Fox News in order to provide tenants some quick tips in how to be sneaky in making sure that your landlord falls in love with you— no, not the romantic kind of love, but something much better.

As mentioned in the article, what you’re basically doing is “sucking up” to your landlord, but hey, we’ll just call it as building an amazing rapport with the person that takes a good chunk out of your paychecks in exchange for a roof over your head. Why do you have to exert effort, though?

Because a happy landlord = happy tenant. Similar to the “happy life, happy wife” philosophy, but less stressful. You just have to do the things that you’re expected to do — you know, the things that people don’t really do anymore because there’s some sort of social stigma against nice people nowadays.

Prepping Your Property For Spring

Spring has finally arrived and aside from the usual case of hay fever, you have to start prepping your rental property to either keep your tenants, or attract new ones. HomeAdvisor and LeafFilter banded together to create a very helpful infographic to serve as a cheat sheet for the things that you should do for your property this season.

Winter isn’t a wonderland for a landlord, because you already know that you’re practically screwed. You got so used to the coziness of the inside, that you’re horrified once you see the outside. There are things that you have to do, obviously, but they’re so easy to overlook! You have to check the roof, check your plants, check your lawnmower, etc. Everything has to be checked, so, there’s that infographic to help make things easier for you.

Landlord vs. Tenant: Most common causes of dispute

Living the rest of your life as a tenant can either be better than being a homeowner or worse than sleeping on the streets. You can’t always have an awesome landlord every single time you sign a lease. Nope. Life doesn’t work that way because life isn’t fair, especially during move-in and move-out; then all of a sudden, the inspection brings up tons of things you don’t remember doing to the place. Yikes.

So what usually makes claws appear when it comes to landlords and tenants? Let’s go ahead and take a look at the usual suspects that turn both parties into monsters.

Code Violations: A Landlord’s Headache

This could range from noise complaints to parking fiascos, and even occupancy limits. A landlord doesn’t have anything to do with this, but he can find himself facing problems if someone from a neighboring home or establishment files a complaint against one of the occupants of his property. Alternatively, a tenant can invite officials over if they’re really into messing with their landlords.

A landlord’s time will be wasted, and money will go down the drain to pay for fines. The only option that they have is to kick out the tenant in order to avoid further issues. If you’re a landlord, make sure your welcome packet (here’s a quick guide on creating an awesome one) includes a copy of the laws in your area/neighborhood and your lease includes a provision regarding liquidated damages so that you can get the proper compensation should issues like this arise.

Property Damages: He said, she said

Ah, the usual cause of clashes between landlord and tenants! A landlord doesn’t really see the kind of damage that a tenant has caused until the inspection after move-out day. They have no control over it if they didn’t properly document what the property looked like prior to move-in day. Have you ever heard of the statement, “That was already like that when I got here!”? It’s quite common and, as a landlord, you probably have ZERO recollection if what they’re saying is true unless you got dated photos, signed at the back by you and the lessor.

This is one of the reasons why MoveIn.Space should be your go-to website if you’re in the rental business. Since everything that’s digital gets to exist forever, having an online record of what the place was like upon move-in will be helpful for your business. It’s completely legal to use and it’s for the protection of both landlord and tenant. Should any disputes arise, you can easily use your account on the website as a reference to settle the issue. Less headache for both you and your tenant!

Skipping on Payments

Checks may bounce, salaries will get delayed, and the queen might come to visit. So many excuses, so little time! A tenant’s most obvious responsibility is paying for the rent and any other additional expenses, such as repair fees or penalties. If you’re a landlord who has third-party providers for utilities and maintenance, this can bite your behind hard. Real hard. Especially if you don’t specify on the lease that your tenant should be responsible for any fees that they incur during their stay. So it’s best that you leave no stone unturned, especially with money matters! List what they’re responsible for paying, such as appliance repair, lightbulb replacements, etc. Then list what YOU should be paying for as a landlord, like pool and garden maintenance or repair of communal areas in the property.

Would you really want to pay for something that your tenant damaged inside their rented space?

Clash of Plans

Sometimes, the reason why landlords and tenants don’t get along well is because their personalities, wants, and needs do not match. It’s that simple. You wouldn’t know a person properly until you’ve spent enough time with them, and that doesn’t really happen with rental properties. Tenants may stage a coup if a landlord suddenly decides they’d like to add more doors to the property or maybe fill in the tenants’ pool. On the other hand, landlords may suddenly turn bitter if a tenant decides to ask their significant other to move into their place. You never can tell when a person’s real personality will show, and it’s not something that you can put on the lease. If you’re a landlord, if you can’t get along well with your tenant, just let them be and don’t treat them negatively lest you want them to trash the place upon move out. As for the tenants out there, just pray hard that your lease goes by quickly and then just move out. It ain’t a perfect world, but you can sure as hell avoid lawsuits if you try your best to keep calm.


Do you have any landlord vs. tenant stories that you’d like to share? How petty was the feud and how complicated did it become in the end? We’d love to read your stories in the comments!

How To Deal With A Difficult Landlord

The relationship between a landlord and tenant can be difficult and is fraught with potential problems. Both parties may infer actions by the other to be an affront.

Here are tips on how to deal with a difficult landlord. They include:

  • keep records
  • good communication
  • request changes in writing
  • be a good tenant
  • talk with other tenants

Good communication is of the utmost importance, even though it is listed second. When a problem inevitably does occur, being able to discuss it and collaborate on a solution will save time, consternation, and even legal fees.

Good record-keeping will actually help good communication. Having access to agreed-upon records of the condition of the space being rented is a great way to contribute to a peaceful move in and move out of a rental. Both parties taking the time to communicate and agree on the state of affairs of the space lets both parties understand what type of damages the other is looking for. This creates a sense of ownership for the tenant, which is ultimately beneficial for both the landlord and the tenant.

Top tips on finding and keeping great tenants

James Davies, CEO of self-service lettings agency, Upad gives six tips on finding and keeping great tenants. Some of the advice may result in a higher chance for destruction of your investment (e.g. “4. Lets with pets”).

To protect your investment, make sure to do a move-in walkthrough inspection with the tenant so they may participate in documenting the condition of the property. Let them know that they will have the opportunity to do a move-out inspection as a comparison. Be sure to store the report somewhere that both parties have equal access to it. This sets expectations early and lets both parties feel more protected from the other’s possible claims.