A lease agreement protects the landlord’s property, but it also allows for your privacy and ability to fight any allegations a landlord might make. Here are a few things the law requires of landlords and tenants to keep in mind when it is time to sign:
1) Discrimination – It is illegal to deny somebody housing based on their race, nationality, immigrant status, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or occupation. People with children are also protected from discrimination.
2) Security Deposit - You get this back when you move out or within an appropriate amount of time afterwards. The landlord can subtract some from the deposit if they have to repair any damage you caused to the place during your stay. The same goes for any rent you may not have paid. These are the only things your landlord can use your deposit for. You have the right to cancel the agreement and get your deposit back if the apartment isn’t ready by the start date agreed upon.
3) Other Provisions - The rules for the building, and any other terms defined by the landlord, should be clearly stated in the lease agreement. They may not allow pets, for instance. One thing to be aware of is that a landlord can be held liable for any injuries to persons or property due to the landlord’s negligence, even if they write a provisional clause for exemption in this scenario.
4) Breaking the Lease/Subletting - If you move out before the end date specified on your lease you are still responsible for the rent until you or the landlord finds a new tenant. The only way you should sublet your apartment is with written permission from your landlord. As the original signer of the lease you are still responsible for paying the rent, so make sure the person subletting is good for it.
5) Eviction - By law, you must be served with an eviction notice and a court hearing. It is illegal for the landlord to lock you out of your apartment, take any of your belongings or stop essential services like heat or water. They’re not even allowed to set foot in your apartment unless they’ve given prior notice, or have your consent.
6) Safety - Building codes are upheld by the owner to prevent injury or illness to the tenants because of unhealthy conditions. Your apartment should have at least one working smoke detector near each bedroom and at least one carbon monoxide detector. The apartment should also have already been investigated for various hazards, including the need for window guards.
Being aware of your rights as a tenant ensures a better understanding of the lease agreement a landlord may offer you. Read through it carefully before signing. Ask questions. The more you know about how the landlord conducts their business, the better the time you’ll have living in their building.
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.
Note: This post is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.