Tenants' Rights and Illegal Evictions
It is hard to imagine that in the midst of so many families losing their place called home, there is little knowledge of tenants' rights. First of all, everyone should know, that it is a requirement in our system that rent, and house payments must be paid. So, if you are in the mindset that you make money to do only fun stuff, with no obligation to pay your bills, (like rent), please know that there will be consequences. On the other hand, if you are in the midst of family hardship, and on the verge of losing your home, or job, this might be helpful information.
Make sure you are not in the midst of an illegal eviction. Notice the article below.
In Kansas, any of the below situations are illegal. If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant an amount equal to one and one-half months’ rent or the damages the tenant sustained, whichever amount is greater.
No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:
Changing the locks.
Shutting off utilities.
Removing tenant belongings.
A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
See the article below for more information.
Tenants’ Rights and Rental Agreements
Tenants should know six fundamental rights when signing a rental agreement, from the right against discrimination to eviction rights.
Updated July 14, 2022 | Written by Susan Chai, Esq.
Right to Protection Against Housing Discrimination
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits housing discrimination, ensuring fair treatment and equal housing opportunity throughout the United States (US). Under this federal law, a potential tenant’s rental application cannot be refused based on any of the following:
The FHA also safeguards disabled renters’ rights to special assistance and removes barriers to physical access within their rental accommodation.
Right to Quiet Enjoyment
Quiet enjoyment is a tenant’s right to possess and use their rental accommodation without any interference from their landlord.
A malfunctioning smoke alarm, persisting pest infestation issues, unannounced property inspections, and maintenance work continuing past the proposed deadline are all violations of this tenant right.
However, scheduled repair works, sounds of the surrounding natural habitat, phone calls and summons to inquire about overdue rent, and announced routine inspections are acceptable disturbances that do not constitute a legal nuisance.
Right to a Habitable Residence
Maintaining the leased premises in the habitable condition is one of the essential obligations of a landlord. The landlord is responsible for providing a rental that meets basic habitable residence requirements, such as:
Compliance with safety regulations
Functional and reliable electrical, heating, and water systems
Protection from foreseeable criminal activity
Preventative measures against environmental hazards
In the event of a landlord failing to meet habitable residence requirements and refusing to make the necessary repairs, the tenant can take action by:
Withholding rent payment
Making repairs and deducting the cost from the month’s rent
Breaching the lease agreement and moving out of the rental
Taking legal action against the landlord
However, there is a fine line between normal wear and tear, excessive damage, and damage (other than normal wear and tear) caused by the tenant.
With a malfunctioning heating system as the example, let’s look at what constitutes normal wear and tear, damage, and excessive damage:
Inefficient heating of your unit due to a deteriorating heating system. This is an example of normal wear and tear. Mechanical components have a limited lifespan, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to replace an overworked heating system with a new one.
Inefficient heating of your unit due to heater broken intentionally or accidentally by the tenant. A heater broken due to the tenant’s actions is a negligent damage issue that is the tenant’s responsibility. The tenant must pay for the repairs, and if they fail to do so, the landlord can deduct repair costs from the security deposit.
Inefficient heating of your unit due to a faulty heater Your landlord must ensure that the leased unit has a functioning heating system. A defective heater is an excessive damage issue and the repair work is the landlord’s responsibility.
A comprehensive lease agreement can resolve these complicated unit repair issues by categorizing repairs into normal wear and tear, negligent damage, and excessive damage. The contract can assign the repair work responsibilities accordingly.
Rights Involving Rent Increases
Rent control laws are regulations that set price ceilings on the amount that a landlord can demand when leasing their residential property to a tenant.
At the state level, rent control laws are not common, with 37 states forbidding the enacting of rental control measures.
For states without rent control, landlords have the right to increase rent by any amount. If you’re a tenant housed under a leased rental agreement, your landlord cannot increase the rent until either the end of the lease period or as dictated in the contract.
Under month-to-month lease agreements, the landlord can raise the rent by providing a prior notice for a rent increase. Notice for rent increase varies across states, with most states allowing 30 days.
Rights in the Event of Eviction
If a tenant fails to comply with the lease agreement, such as on-property pet restrictions or failure to pay rent on time, the landlord can start the eviction process.
The eviction process includes serving an eviction notice, which details the period of time within which tenants must vacate the rental. Landlords must file this notice with the local court before ordering eviction from their property.
Tenants have the right to protest against the notice in court and are not required to vacate the rental before the conclusion of the eviction proceedings.
Eviction laws vary widely across the states. Some states allow tenants the right to remedy a rental agreement violation within a set deadline. In contrast, other states allow landlords to pursue eviction regardless of the lease violation(s) correction.
Right to Your Security Deposit
Governed by state and federal law, tenants’ rights are a series of non-negotiable landlord-tenant codes that spell out your rights to a safe and functional living space.
Under most state landlord-tenant laws, landlords must return the security deposit within 30 days of lease termination. Unless landlords deduct damage costs and unpaid rent from the deposit, they must return deposits in full.
Suppose your landlord does not refund you your security deposit or fails to provide a list of deductions upon returning a deducted deposit. In that case, you have the right to claim the deposit by taking legal action against the landlord.
You can avoid court proceedings by entering terms mandating the return of the deposit in your rental agreement.
For immediate help go to LegalMatch and fill out the online form for an attorney. At least get free counseling. You can also go to Legalmatch.com for more information.