Do You Know Your Apartment Renters Rights?

Generally, one of the perks of renting an apartment is that you don’t have to deal with the hassles of repairs and regular maintenance. If anything breaks or goes wrong, a simple call to your landlord should theoretically fix any problems in a timely manner.

However, as a renter, it may seem like the fate of your apartment is in your landlords hands. Everyone has heard those stories about a landlord who fails to keep his/her building up to health and safety codes or those who take months to fix leaks and or broken smoke detectors.

While you can purchase renters insurance to protect your belongings from theft and fires, you should also be proactive in learning about your rights as a tenant and voicing your concerns when necessary. While tenant rights vary by state, following are some of the most common apartment renters rights, most likely addressed in your states landlord-tenant law:

1. Residences should be habitable and in compliance with housing and health codes

As a renter, you have the right to an apartment with adequate water, electricity and heat as well as a structurally safe apartment. This means if you find mold, heavy rust, bugs or rats, and/or broken or missing smoke detectors, you should contact your landlord immediately. If your landlord has violated terms related to the health, safety or necessary repairs of your apartment, you might be able to break your lease without legal or economic ramifications.

2. Generally, landlords are responsible for making necessary repairs and performing maintenance tasks in a timely fashion

Before you sign your lease, make sure you have discussed the turnaround time for any repairs or maintenance tasks and the agreed upon time down in writing. You should also check to see if you can order repairs and deduct the cost from rent.

3. Landlords cannot change the locks, shut off your utilities or evict you without notice

While you’ve probably seen movies where an unsuspecting renter comes home to find his couch and other belongings along the sidewalk, most states prohibits landlords from evicting you without a court ordered eviction noticed.

4. Your security deposit is regulated

Many states not only limit the amount your landlord can charge for security deposits, most states also require that your security deposit be returned within 14 to 30 days after you have moved out. Your landlord cannot deduct from your security deposit for normal wear and tear and some states, like Illinois, require an itemized report of deductions.