As a tenant, it might seem like you’re subject to your landlord’s every whim, but that’s not necessarily true. There are numerous laws and legal protections in place for the benefit of renters – you just have to know what they are! Keep reading below for five things your landlord doesn’t want you to know.
You can negotiate
One of the most important things to know when renting comes up before you even sign the lease. Most potential renters don’t consider that they can negotiate the terms of a lease before signing the papers. This approach may not work if you’re renting in a large apartment building, but if you’re in a smaller multi-family unit and communicate personally with the landlord, you can likely negotiate multiple things on your lease agreement.
Negotiation can include anything from pets and sublet arrangements to even how much rent you pay or how much of a deposit you put down! It can never hurt to try.
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the unit
Your landlord often won’t tell you what things in the apartment they’re required to maintain, so it’s your responsibility to find out what they are. These laws can vary by state and city, but if there are any issues with your apartment that make it unlivable, your landlord is required to fix them.
When the landlord refuses to make repairs to keep the apartment livable, a tenant is often legally able to withhold their rent and use it to pay to have repairs done. Additionally, if your landlord is supposed to cover certain utility bills and stops paying them, you can withhold rent and use it to pay your utility company.
Rules on when your landlord or others can be in the apartment
You might not know that your landlord legally needs to give you adequate notice before they or anyone else, like a repairman, can come into your apartment. This can vary based on which state you’re in, but it’s usually at least 24 hours or as many as 72 hours.
“Castle doctrine” is a legal doctrine that gives a person certain rights within their own home, such as the right to forcefully defend their property. What you might not know, however, is that this also may legally give you the right to ask your landlord or anyone else to leave your apartment at any time.
Your city may have additional laws protecting renters and offering you certain powers over your landlord. Especially if you live in a large city with many renters, such as New York City or L.A., you should look into your local laws.
Check your city’s website to find information about any of these additional helpful protections. For example, in New York City, tenants have a legal right to a fresh coat of paint in their apartment every three years, and some cities have a cap on how much the landlord can charge for rent.