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4: Make Your Housing Plan — Rent

Renter Rights and Responsibilities

You have certain rights and responsibilities as a renter. Likewise, your landlord has her own rights and responsibilities. These can vary by state and situation, so it’s important to know what applies in your case. 

Your Rights

Generally speaking, you have a right to a habitable environment:

  • Heating and air conditioning must work.
  • Toilets and hot water heater must work. 
  • Door locks must work.
  • The roof must be in a good condition (e.g., it should not leak).
  • Windows must be in working order and not sealed. 
  • Appliances that are supplied (like the refrigerator, stove and garbage disposal) must be in working condition.

Most of these rights fall under the “implied warranty of habitability” which is a warranty (implied by law simply by leasing the property) that the landlord promises that the property being leased is safe and suitable to be lived in. Breaking this implied warranty can be grounds for the renter to break the lease, and in some instances, to sue the landlord.


Renter Responsibilities

Your responsibilities as a renter will vary too. It is important to understand your rental agreement so that you know exactly what your responsibilities are, especially concerning maintenance and repairs. For most renters, these responsibilities will be addressed in the lease agreement:

  • You will maintain the property in a clean and habitable condition.
  • You will inform the landlord when issues arise that could harm the value of the property.
  • You will pay for any repairs due to your negligence or misuse of the property.

When You Can’t Pay Rent

Most landlords will not evict you if you are a bit late paying your rent, although you may be charged a late fee. But if you find that you cannot pay your rent or your income is drastically reduced, you need to be proactive about contacting your landlord. The important thing is to communicate.

  • Ask to negotiate a late payment in advance of your payment date.
  • Offer to pay some of the rent by the due date.
  • Explain your circumstances and how you expect to resolve them so that your rent will be paid on time in the future.
Scales of Justice

It pays to know the tenant rights in your state. Start with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s state portal.

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