Many of us rent properties from landlords. Landlords, like all people, can be more or less trustworthy and honest. A few can be outright selfish and may take advantage of their tenants in ways that are explicitly against the law. Here are some illegal things landlords may do, and what you can do about it.
Know the law
Every state has laws outlining the responsibilities and rights both landlords and their tenants have. The first and most important step to protecting yourself from a less-than-honest landlord is to become familiar with the laws that protect you. Know what you need to, what your landlord needs to do and how to report an illegal action.
Refusal to repair the property
When an appliance or utility breaks in a rented apartment or home, it is often (though not always, know the details in your lease) the landlord’s responsibility to repair it. However, such repairs can cost a lot of money and some landlords will refuse to spend that. The best thing tenants can do is to photograph needed repairs and consult their state’s laws.
Entering the premises unannounced
The laws defining when a landlord can enter their tenants’ property varies from state to state and lease to lease, however, they all require some form of notice before they can enter the property (except during an emergency). If your landlord does come onto the property without notice, you may be entitled to damages.
Turning off utilities
In some places, the utilities for a rented property may be under the landlord’s name and is their responsibility to pay them on time and in full. As things such as heat and light are necessities, landlords who allow them to be turned off on their tenants are held responsible for doing so. Calling the local code enforcement agency is usually the first step to getting such a situation fixed.
Get your security deposit back
While it is very difficult to get a security deposit back from a landlord who is determined to keep it through any means, it is possible. The best things a tenant can do to ensure they get their deposit is to have a lot of evidence of the apartment’s condition and the agreement on the deposit. Take pictures of everything and get everything in writing!