Landlord & Tenant - Rights and Duties


General Information about Landlord & Tenant Law

Length of Lease

  • If you have a lease for a definite length of time, your lease ends at the end of that time without notice.  For example, a 1 year lease ends at the end of 1 year.
  • If you do not have a lease and pay your rent every month, you are a month -to-month tenant.  You or your landlord may end the tenancy with 30 days WRITTEN NOTICE.
  • If you do not have a lease and you pay rent every week, you are a week-to-week tenant and either you or your landlord may end the tenancy with 7 days WRITTEN NOTICE.
  • If you are behind in your rent, your landlord must give you at least a 5 day written notice called a NOTICE TO PAY OR QUIT.  You must pay the rent you owe or move out within those 5 days.  The Landlord can then file an eviction action against you in court.  You can be evicted and loose access to public housing for up to three years.

Rental Agreements

  • You may be required to pay security or pet deposits, and the first and last month rent at the time you move in.
  • You and your landlord may enter into a reasonable rental agreement that may be enforced by a state court.  If terms of the agreement do not agree with rights guaranteed by state or federal law, the court will not enforce those terms.
  • When you rent, the landlord must tell you IN WRITING the name and address of the manager, the owner, or other person who must accept WRITTEN NOTICES from you.

Lock Outs Are Illegal
It is not legal for your landlord, at any time, to move you out or lock you out without first sending you a SUMMONS and giving you a chance to appear in court.  You may be able to sue your Landlord for damages if you are locked out illegally.

Security Deposit
This is the money you pay before you move in.  It is to ensure that you leave the property clean and in good repair.  Your landlord is required to keep your deposit in a separate tenants’ account.  Unless the landlord agrees, you may not use your deposit for your last month’s rent. When you move, you must give your Landlord a written request stating that you want your Security Deposit back and give a mailing address to which the Landlord is to mail you deposit.  Your Landlord has 45 days from the date of the letter to return the deposit.  If he keeps all or part of the deposit, he must give you an itemized list of damages and costs.

Public Housing
Special rights and rules may apply if you live in public housing.
For more information, please contact Legal Aid by calling 1-888-534-5243 or contact your public housing agency.

Rules for the Landlord

  • At all time during a lease, the Landlord must keep the residence in good repair and keep the common areas in a safe, clean and sanitary condition.
  • Apartments: Landlord is required to provide:
    • trash containers and removal, running water, hot water and heat;
    • air conditioning, but only if written in the lease.
  • Single family homes:
    • Tenant pays for utilities and trash removal, unless the lease the Landlord will provide these.
    • Usually Tenant must care for the lawn unless lease says the Landlord will provide lawn care.

Other repairs or improvements you or the Landlord agree to make can only be enforced if there is a SEPARATE WRITTEN AGREEMENT.

Landlord’s Right to Enter Your Home
Tenants must be reasonable about the landlord’s right to enter.

  • The Landlord must give you at least 24 hour's notice to enter your apartment.
  • He may enter only during reasonable times, unless it is an emergency, like a fire, a flood or to make emergency repairs.
  • You must allow your Landlord to enter your apartment for usual inspections, repairs and for other reasonable purposes.

Landlord’s Rights
Damage to the apartment or house during the lease
If you or your guests cause damage beyond normal “wear and tear,” the Landlord may give you WRITTEN NOTICE that you have 10 days to make repairs or clean.  If you do not have the repairs made within 10 days of the written notice, the Landlord may enter and repair the damage or clean it and give you an itemized bill for the repairs or cleaning the next time your rent is due.

Health & Safety
If you break a rule in your lease and it affects the health or safety of others, the Landlord may give you WRITTEN NOTICE that if you do not fix the problem within 10 days, you have 15 days to move out or you may be sued for eviction.  If you fix the problem within 10 days, the Landlord may not evict you at the end of 15 days.

If you cause a fire, flood or other EMERGENCY situation, the Landlord may evict you with 24 to 48 hours WRITTEN NOTICE.

Criminal Activity
A Landlord may immediately file an eviction case in court, if you, anyone who lives with you, or your guest, either: conducts drug-related criminal activity at or near the place rented or commits a crime that threatens anyone’s health, safety or peaceful enjoyment of their home.  The Landlord must only give you a 24 hour WRITTEN NOTICE that your lease is being terminated.

Property (Items you leave behind)

  • If you are evicted, the sheriff will post a notice on your door. You ONLY HAVE 48 hours to remove your property.
  • If you leave any property behind, you must pay the landlord what you owe before you can get your property back.
  • If the Landlord believes the property has no value, he can throw it away.  If the Landlord believes the property is worth something, he can mail notice to your last known address giving you two choices:
    • You can pick up your property before a certain date and pay what you owe; OR,
    • If you do not pick up the property, the Landlord will sell the property and subtract the amount received from the amount of rent you owe.  You will be charged for the cost of the sale and storage costs.

Tenant’s Rights
Move In:  If the Landlord keeps you from moving in, you must give a WRITTEN DEMAND for your money back and include a mailing address.   You may have to sue in Small Claims Court to get your money back.

Repairs:  If your Landlord does not keep the property in good repair and the condition is harmful to health or safety, you can either:

  1. Repair & Stay:  If the problem can be fixed for $100 or less, give the landlord WRITTEN NOTICE that if he doesn’t fix it within 14 days, you will fix it for up to $100 and deduct the money from next month’s rent.  You must give your landlord an itemized bill for the work done; OR,
  2. Repair or Move out:  You must give the Landlord WRITTEN NOTICE that if the repair is not made within 14 days you will move out in 30 days and not pay any more rent.
  3. Unlivable:  If the property is, or becomes “unlivable” or “uninhabitable,” or is dangerous, you may give the landlord WRITTEN NOTICE of the problem and move out right away.  PLEASE TALK TO A LAWYER ABOUT WHAT IS CONSIDERED UNLIVABLE OR UNINHABITABLE!
    You cannot continue to live there, claim it is unlivable, and refuse to pay rent.
  4. Utilities:  If your landlord doesn’t supply heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or any other essential service, you must give him WRITTEN NOTICE of the problem and then you may:
  • End the rental on WRITTEN NOTICE; or,
  • Arrange for the service yourself and deduct the cost from the rent; or,
  • Sue for the difference between monthly rent cost and what it is worth (without the gas, etc.); or,
  • Move during the time the service is off and not pay rent for that period.
Last Review and Update: Jul 13, 2017
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