Tenant-Landlord law in the USA

By | September 7, 2021
Tenant-Landlord law in the USA

Last Updated on by Admin LB

This article on ‘Tenant-Landlord law in the USA’ is written by Pranava Pishati and attempts to explain the procedure of rent, interest, rights of tenants that are mentioned in federal law, state statutes, local ordinances, safety and housing codes, common law, contract law.

I. Introduction

When going into a rental agreement, it is critical for tenants to understand their rights. These rights are outlined in Landlord-tenant legislation, which controls the renting of commercial and residential property. It is mostly made up of state statutes and common law. This section of the law is critical when renting an apartment or a property.

Tenants must know landlord-tenant statutes in order to understand their rights and duties and avoid being exploited by the landowner.

A lease has two major parties: the landlord and the tenant, each with their own set of rights and duties. while the landlord is responsible for keeping the facility safe and functional and according to the conditions of the lease agreement, but he also has the right to obtain the monthly rent in full (by the due date),

Tenants have additional rights under federal, state, and municipal legislation[1]. These include the right not to be discriminated against, the right to a suitable domicile, and the right not to be asked more for a down payment than is permitted by state law.

II. Procedure of a lease

When the owner of a home or business agrees to provide someone else the temporary use of that location in exchange for money or labour, the two have engaged in a legally binding rental contract. The basic rights and responsibilities are usually spelt out in the rental agreement.

If you break it, the landlord may be allowed to ask you to leave and hold you accountable for future rent payments and other damages. It makes no difference whether the agreement is oral or written. Because it is a rental agreement(lease), some of its most crucial elements are prescribed by law. In some of these agreements, neither the landlord nor the tenant can change them. Other stipulations are up to the landlord and tenant.

This leasing procedure is divided into three steps: the formulation of the rental agreement, renting of the property, and the termination of the tenancy.

1. Rental agreement

This procedure demands the tenants to follow certain rules that are established by the law

  1. Inspecting the Property Prior to Signing a Lease- Prospective renters should be permitted to inspect the rental unit before paying any money. They should also be permitted to investigate the utilities, appliances, electrical systems, and so on. Landlords have the right to reject cooperation. A list of concerns is beneficial to both the landlord and the renter since it protects all parties if there is a disagreement regarding who is responsible for any repairs[2].
  2. Screening and Pre-Lease Fees – Many landlords charge a screening fee to potential tenants. Some landlords, however, do not. This charge is typically used to pay the cost of reviewing the tenant’s references.
  3. Security Deposit- Landlords have the authority to request a security deposit from tenants. This is money paid by the renter and held by the landlord to cover any injury to the rental unit that goes beyond normal wear and tear. It can be used by the landlord to pay for any outstanding rent or money owed to the landlord under the lease or another arrangement. The security deposit cannot be used to pay rent, save for the last month of an agreement for title cancellation or mortgage foreclosure redeeming term, when the renter may postpone payment of rent.
  4. Residential Tenant Reports– Tenant-screening reports are governed by the federal “Fair Credit Reporting Act.” This report offers information about tenants or compiles tenant reports for a charge, due, or on a non-profit co – operative basis.
  5. The Lease- The lease specifies the conditions of any renting agreement. This can be a formal, written agreement or an oral agreement. The owner of a building with 12 or more residential units must employ a signed lease. A petty misdemeanour is charged against an owner who fails to give a written lease as needed. If the number of residential units is less than 12, the owner may employ an oral agreement without breaching the law[3].
  6. Tenant Disclosure- Before signing the contract, paying rent, or making a security deposit, a prospective tenant must be given a copy of all pending inspecting orders for which a complaint has been issued. A tenant or prospective renter must also be given a copy of all pending denunciation orders and findings that the property is unfit for human occupancy.

2. Renting the property

While renting the property, they must pay the rent on the due date, regardless of whether they have a periodical lease or a definite term lease. The lease specifies the due date and amount of rent. A landlord who receives cash rent or other payments from a tenant shall give a written acknowledgement for payment promptly if the payment is made in person, or within three business days if the payment is not received in person. If a renter fails to pay the rent, the landlord may evict the tenant by legal means.

3. Tenancy termination

When the landlord or tenant terminates the tenancy, they must follow both the conditions of the lease and state law. Periodic and definite term tenancies have different notice requirements.

III. Tenant’s Interest

The right to hold or use property is referred to as a legal interest in the property. It belongs to the legal owner, who is the person whose name appears on the title deeds at the Land Registry[4]. A legal interest gives the owner power over the property; in the case of tenancy, a restricted interest is conveyed. This interest accrues on the first day of the month after the complete payment of the security deposit.

The interest accrues until the last day of the month in which the deposit is returned by the landlord. When a tenant sues to collect a withheld security deposit, interest accrues from the date the judgment is issued in the tenant’s favour.

1. Transferring the Tenant’s Interest

A tenant is normally permitted to transfer her property interest to a third party, subject to the constraints expressly indicated in the lease. This transfer consists of two distinct actions:

  1. Assignment– The tenant assigns her whole interest in the property to a third party. The third party is essentially the new renter.
  2. Sublease – The tenant transfers her interest to a third party while retaining a revisionary interest. The sublessor is the renter, while the sublessee is the third party.

The term “revisionary interest” refers to the fact that, given specific agreed-upon conditions, the sublessor’s interest in the property will revert to him[5]. When this occurs, the sublessee’s interest in the property is terminated.

IV. Rights and regulations that protect the tenants

1. The right to a convenient residence

A “habitable dwelling” is a house that is suitable for living in. This means that your rental should be free of hazardous situations, a significant infestation of rats or cockroaches, or other issues that severely impair its habitability. The majority of state laws forbid landlords from including anything in the lease that “waives” this privilege[6].

2. Anti-Discrimination Statutes

Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against current or potential renters based on their race, gender, familial status, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or disability under the federal Fair Housing Act. Advertisements that do not include any of the protected qualities are also prohibited. Some states additionally extend these protections to other groups, such as LGBTQ people.

3. Victims of violence have the right to terminate a lease

Under certain conditions, a victim of domestic abuse, criminal sexual behaviour, or stalking who anticipates imminent harm against the tenant or the tenant’s minor children if the tenant or the tenant’s minor children remain in the leased premises may terminate a residential lease arrangement.

4. Privacy rights of tenants

In general, a landlord may enter a tenant’s unit only for a “reasonable business purpose” after making a good faith effort to give the tenant reasonable notice. If a landlord violates this law, the tenant may sue the landlord to break the lease, reclaim the damage deposit, and earn a civil penalty of up to $100 per infringement.

5. Retaliation

A landlord may neither evict a tenant nor terminate a tenancy in retribution for the tenant’s “good faith” endeavour to enforce the tenant’s rights, nor may a landlord reply to such attempts by raising the tenant’s rent, eliminating services, or otherwise changing the rental conditions. For example, if a tenant reports the landlord to a governmental agency for breaching health, safety, housing, or building rules, the landlord cannot “take revenge” by evicting the tenant.

6. Property That Has Been Condemned or Is Being Sold

For a range of factors, the landlord may decide to close the rental property where you live. but a  landlord cannot close the property in the middle of a lease term (with or without notice) without breaching their contract with you[7]. If your landlord violates this rule, he may be held accountable for actual damages, moving expenses, your deposit, and other statutory fines.

V. Conclusion

These methods and rights may differ from state to state across the country, despite the fact that many statutes and civil codes are relatively similar there are major variances in the statutes from state to state. Laws may differ in terms of what is necessary for a rental advertisement, how to correctly conduct a tenant screening, terms required in a rental application, and more, as each state’s Constitutional legislation allows them to enact and enforce new laws for their state.


[1] ‘Tenant Screening, Landlord Forms & Property Management Help’ (AAOA, 2004) Available Here,  accessed 28 August 2021

[2] ‘Landlords And Tenants. Rights And Responsibilities’ (Ag.state.mn.us, 2021) Available Here,  accessed 28 August 2021

[3] ‘Landlords And Tenants. Rights And Responsibilities’ (Ag.state.mn.us, 2021) Available Here, accessed 28 August 2021

[4] ‘Legal Interest And Beneficial Interest In Property’ (Rocketlawyer.com) Available Here, accessed 28 August 2021

[5] ‘Landlord-Tenant Law’ (LII / Legal Information Institute) Available Here.

[6] ‘Tenants’ Rights Basics – Findlaw’ (Findlaw) Available Here.

[7] ‘Tenants’ Rights Handbook’ (Depts.ttu.edu, 2012) Available Here, accessed 28 August 2021

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