Renter's Rights on Rental Agreements

By Lainie Petersen
Rental agreements, specific legal rights
for sale or lease image by Keith Frith from Fotolia.com

Whether a renter has a long-term lease or a short-term rental agreement, she has certain rights granted by law which include the right to notice of rental agreement changes or termination, privacy rights, and expectations for landlord maintenance of the property.

Rental Agreement vs. Lease

A lease is a binding contract between a landlord and tenant for a specific, and usually lengthy, period of time. The terms of a lease cannot be changed except by mutual consent and the lease does not automatically renew.

A rental agreement, on the other hand, is a short term (often weekly or monthly) agreement that renews itself until one party gives notice of termination to the other. A landlord may also change the terms of a rental agreement if she provides the tenant with notice in accordance with state law.

Right to Notice of Tenancy Termination

Tenants with rental agreements have a right to advance written notice that the landlord will be terminating the agreement. The amount of notice required depends on state law, but is often determined by how often the tenant pays rent.

Right to Safe Storage of Property

Most states require the landlord to both safely store a tenant's "left-behind" property and to attempt to notify the tenant of its whereabouts.

Right To Privacy

State laws restrict landlord's entry into a renter's home to a few specific conditions, including the need to make emergency repairs or to make a periodic inspection.

Right to Repairs and Maintenance

Tenants have the right to require that their landlord make those repairs necessary to keep the dwelling livable.

Security Deposits

Landlords can only deduct the cost of repairs beyond "normal wear and tear" from a security deposit. Landlords are also required by law to return a security deposit within a specific period of time after the rental agreement terminates.

About the Author

Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.