Tenants have rights too. Those rights might change slightly from state to state, but generally, tenants have some basic rights that apply to most jurisdictions. In this article, we are going to discuss some tenant’s rights basics. We are going to go over six basic rights and how they affect the landlord-tenant relationship.

1. A Tenant’s Right to Disclosure

If a tenant’s lease application is denied because of negative information received by the landlord, the landlord is required to disclose that information to the tenant. Typically, the information is obtained from a credit report, a background check, previous landlords, your employer, your bank, or other third parties.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires a landlord to notify a rejected tenant that they were rejected based on negative credit information and the course it came from. In that same notice, the landlord is required to tell the prospective tenant that the tenant has sixty days to file a request for the disclosure of the negative information. Once the landlord receives the request, the landlord must tell you "the nature of the information" within a "reasonable time."

2. A Tenant’s Right to a Habitable Home

Tenants have a right to a habitable, livable, non-slum unit. Landlords are required by law to maintain the rental property in a habitable condition. A livable unit must:

  • have windows that are not broken
  • have doors that shut and lock
  • have a roof and walls that keep out rain and water
  • have a working system for heat
  • have plumbing that works
  • have electricity that works and is safe

A livable unit cannot be infested with vermin or insects. If a rental property is not habitable, the landlord has a legal obligation to remedy it immediately.

3. A Tenant’s Right to Privacy

Tenant’s expect and have a right to privacy from their landlord. For the most part, landlords understand and respect a tenant’s privacy. The laws vary from state to state, but in most states, a landlord has to make an appointment to enter the rental property unless it is an absolute emergency. Emergency situations are usually fire or flood related. Landlords cannot knock once and barge in.

4. A Tenant’s Right to a Service Animal

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides that landlords have to make reasonable accommodations for anyone with a disability. If a person is disabled and has a service animal trained to perform a life task the landlord must make a reasonable accommodation, which includes allowing animals despite any "no pet" policies. Additionally, the landlord cannot charge a "pet" fee as an assistance animal is legally distinguishable from a pet. A landlord is not required to make a reasonable accommodation if:

  • the property has four or less rentable units, and the landlord lives in one of the units
  • the property is a single family home and rented without the use of a licensed agent
  • the property is a hotel or motel
  • the property is a private club

If the animal is an emotional support animal and not a service animal, the tenant must have a letter from a licensed mental health professional that states that the tenant is under their care, psychiatrically or emotionally disabled, and the support animal was prescribed for their care.

5. A Tenant’s Right under the Fair Housing Act

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants on the basis of their:

  • color
  • race
  • religion
  • sex
  • age
  • national origin
  • disability
  • familial status (minor children and pregnant women)

It is illegal for a landlord to reject a tenant’s application for a discriminatory reason. In addition, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate based on the above in setting rules for the property and advertising availability of units. A landlord cannot lie about vacancies in a discriminatory manner.

We hope this helped explain some tenants rights basics for the reader and that you can put this information to good use. A tenant who knows what rights they are owed is in a better position to protect and defend those rights. If a tenant feels that their rights have been violated, they can contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make a complaint or get additional information about their available options.