research on landlord-tenant law

Your landlord owns the property, but tenants have rights too.

Worried that your landlord may show up at your door unannounced? Think you could be fined without reason? While your landlord may own the property you’re living in, you have rights too. And if you move into a Philadelphia, PA, apartment and the lock on your building’s front door suddenly stops latching, you need to take action. Know your rights as a renter with these basic landlord-tenant laws.

Right to privacy

If you think your landlord can barge in at any time, think again. While these laws are state-dictated, in most cases, the landlord must give the tenant reasonable notice (usually 24 hours) before entering your humble abode. However, should there be an emergency, such as a fire or burst pipe, expect them to show up without warning. And if you’re moving out and your unit is on the market, many lease agreements will allow potential tours for new tenants — but you should receive notice in time to tidy up.

Right to “habitable premises”

The day may come when you find your apartment is unlivable (and we’re not talking about the mess from a party the night before). If, for instance, your heat stops working in the dead of winter or you have a cockroach infestation, you can take action to be temporarily relocated, on your landlord’s dime. “Landlords have a responsibility to maintain the condition of their rental properties and should be reported if they are not doing so,” says Matthew Kennedy, a licensed real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Burnet in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.

It’s important to keep in mind that your safety and well-being should override your lease agreement. Don’t be afraid to speak out when you feel it’s necessary. “If you find yourself in a situation where you feel that your health and livelihood are at risk, don’t hesitate to contact your local attorney general,” says Kennedy. “They are there to help. Also, your local social services office will be able to offer you information and resources if you find yourself in a legal situation with your landlord. They will have a list of attorneys that you can gain access to if you qualify for legal aid.”

Right to safety

Although your apartment may be habitable, it’s also important that it’s safe. This includes working and appropriately placed smoke detectors, door and window locks, access to emergency exits, and more.

Check the laws where you lease

Each state has special restrictions, but your landlord — and you as a tenant — has to abide by the basic laws of the people. Most landlord-tenant laws are state-specific, so make sure you look at your city, county, and state laws. “Your tenant rights will be spelled out both in your lease and in your local city or county regulations,” says Don Tepper, a real estate agent with Long & Foster in Alexandria, VA. Do your research and avoid being caught off-guard.

Have you had an experience with landlord-tenant laws? Share your comments below!