9 Legal Tips Every Renter Should Know

These tips were developed to help you understand your rights and obligations as a renter generally. Your rights and obligations are most often determined by the terms of your lease and laws that vary greatly among the states and provinces. Call a qualified attorney who can review the lease document BEFORE you sign it and explain your rights and obligations.

  1. Understand the terms of your lease before you sign. One common mistake renters make is signing a lease without fully understanding their rights and responsibilities. Leases are written by attorneys representing your landlord, not you. It is advisable to have your own attorney review your lease before signing it. An experienced real estate agent is also someone who can help you review and negotiate your lease.
  2. Purchase renters insurance. In the event of a disaster, your landlord’s insurance may only cover the property the landlord owns. Renters insurance is generally affordable and offers protection not only for your personal belongings, but also against many personal injury claims that occur on or near your rental property.
  3. Your landlord may be responsible for making repairs in a timely fashion and for keeping the premises safe and in compliance with health and other codes.  However, the landlord’s responsibility varies depending on the terms of the lease and state or provincial laws. Always consult with your attorney and ask them to review the lease with you.
  4. In most cases a landlord must give you notice before entering your home. However, this may be subject to change depending upon the language of your lease or the local laws that apply to it.
  5. Never stop paying rent to settle a dispute with your landlord. If you believe that you have a claim against your landlord, you may not be entitled to withhold your rent. Always talk to your attorney immediately if you have a dispute with your landlord. Even if you have a legitimate claim against your landlord, the landlord may still be entitled to evict you if you do not pay your rent.
  6. Under most circumstances, your landlord cannot take your property, change your locks or turn off your utilities merely because you failed to pay rent. However, the landlord may be able to file eviction proceedings against you in court. Call your attorney if you have any dispute with your landlord.
  7. Do not break a lease without understanding your rights and responsibilities. In some rare instances tenants can break a lease without notice, but laws vary and it is important to understand the proper procedure for breaking your lease. If you need to get out of your lease before it expires, call your attorney first.
  8. Generally, the landlord’s cost for repairing normal wear and tear cannot be deducted from your security deposit. Before moving into and out of a rental property, take detailed pictures of each room. Before and after pictures may be helpful if the landlord claims damages you did not cause.
  9. Your landlord must return your deposit in a reasonable amount of time. Specific time frames may vary.

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