Are you planning on signing a new lease? You’ve already sorted through moving companies, packed your things, and now it’s time to find your new home. Your first move, though, should be to educate yourself about renters’ rights in your new state.
Most states have laws in place that require landlords to disclose specific information to their tenants. Usually, the lease agreement explains this information.Required information includes whether any fees are refundable, the identity of anyone the landlord has named to act on their behalf, educational materials the renter may need, and more. For a full list organized by state, you can consult this list of Required Landlord Disclosures.
In Washington state, for example, there’s no limit on how much landlords can require as a security deposit. Other states cap the amount of a security deposit. In most states, there are limits surrounding the time frame for the return of a tenant’s deposit.
Often, landlords must return a tenant’s deposit within 14 days of the tenant vacating the apartment. In other situations that time frame stretches to 30 days. This rule is in place to protect you as the renter and ensure the landlord can’t keep your deposit indefinitely.
There are also many rules surrounding late fees and other rent-related issues. For example, tenants have the right to receive at least 30 days’ notice before the landlord raises the rent, and three days of grace period to pay rent or move before eviction proceedings begin.
Landlords are obligated by law to provide tenants with safe and habitable homes. If they don’t, tenants have the right to withhold rent or to “repair and deduct,” if a landlord does not take care of essential repairs. These are by far some of the most important rules to educate yourself about.
While the laws are extensive, the gist is this: If there’s something around your rental home that needs some repairing, you must submit a written request for the repair to your landlord. If the landlord does not fix or address the problem, Nolo states that you have the right to proceed to “big stick” measures, such as the following:
If you must use any of the above “big stick” tactics, the law prevents landlords from retaliating against you for exercising your legal right and complaining about unsafe or unsanitary living conditions. There are also special protections for tenants in domestic violence situations and tenants who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination.
Even if you’re living in a rental unit, you have a right to your privacy. To support this, most states place restrictions on when and how a landlord can access the rental property. For example, a landlord that wants to inspect or visit a rental property must provide two days notice of entry, or one day to show the property to new prospective tenants or buyers.
While nobody wants to break a lease, it happens occasionally. In some states, the Landlord-Tenant Act allows only a few reasons for breaking a contract during the term. These may include the following:
Month-to-month leases are popular among temps and other people who only need short-term housing. In these rental agreements, tenants can avail of a copy of the rental agreement. This tenancy continues until the tenant issues 20 days of written move-out notice (enough time to start looking for interstate moving companies) before the rent is due.
If you have a verbal rental agreement in some states, the law considers it a month-to-month tenancy.
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Now that you’re set for an interstate move, it’s time to settle into your new location and start exploring your new home state. No tenant wants to have to defend their rights. But understanding what the law grants is a smart way to ensure you protect yourself and your family.