From non-refundable security deposits, which are technically illegal, to the lousy upkeep of rental properties, some landlords refuse to adhere to the landlord-tenant law. If you encounter any of these warning signs, it may be a sign you need to keep looking.
- Your landlord will not let you see a Certificate of Occupancy (i.e. – CO). Some rentals require landlords to have a certificate of occupancy (CO), but in certain circumstances — like when you are renting a condo or a single-family home, for example — you are probably safe to assume that your new home is covered by one. But if you are considering renting a basement, attic, or garage apartment, you should make sure it is a legal dwelling before you enter into a lease agreement. If it is not, there is a chance that it may not be up to code, meaning it is not safe. Dangers can include potential fire hazards.
- Your landlord asks if you were born in another country. Landlords cannot legally ask about your national origin, how many children you have, if you have a girlfriend (or boyfriend), or any other questions that could point to ulterior motives. Denying applications for discriminatory reasons, like race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or disability are illegal.
- You are expected to pay a nonrefundable deposit. This should raise a red flag. A deposit is always refundable unless there are reasons not to refund it. For example, a pet deposit is refundable if no pet damage is done when the tenant moves out.
- The security deposit is REALLY high. Most landlords charge a security deposit before a tenant moves in, and that is perfectly legal in all states. However, landlords are often limited as to how much of a security deposit they can charge. The security deposit is a way for a landlord to cover any damages that may occur during a tenant’s stay, but make sure you shop around before simply handing over too much cash up front.
- The terms of the lease do not sound right. You should understand everything in your lease agreement. If not, you need to ask for an explanation from your landlord. Just because it is in the lease, does not make it legal. For example, saying a tenant waives the right to sue or has to pay the landord’s attorney fees in the event of any type of dispute is unlawful.
- Your landlord stops by… a lot. Beware of a landlord who lives nearby and stops by often. Outside of an emergency, under no circumstances can landlords use their keys to enter your apartment. When you become a tenant, you have a right to privacy. Landlords are allowed only after they have given you notice, which is usually 24 hours.
- Your landlord raised the rent in the middle of your lease. Raising the rent is not illegal, if it is done the right way. If you have a signed lease, your landlord cannot raise the rent until lease-renewal time. And if you live in a rent-controlled unit or are a Section 8 tenant, your landlord has further limitations on how much rent can be raised.
- Your landlord wants to sell and wants you to move out immediately. Property owners can sell their property at anytime. But if they are also renting it out, they cannot simply kick their tenants out whenever they like. They must give tenants proper notice. If you have a lease, for example, unless there is an early-termination clause that allows your landlord to break the lease early, you have the right to live out the lease in the unit.
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