If you plan to rent a furnished house in the United States, it is highly important to be aware of your rights as a tenant. Rental agreements for furnished houses are governed by state-specific landlord-tenant laws. These laws are often a combination of state statutes and federal common laws such as "Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act" or the "Modern Residential Landlord-Tenant Code."
Some of the provisions in these laws are mandatory in all states, especially those that concern the protection of your right as a tenant. Rental agreements may be set between you and your landlord but always remember that no provision in the agreement must go against the prevailing landlord-tenant law in your state.
Terms and Conditions
In a furnished house rental agreement, your landlord must be obligated to give you full access of the house and all its content for an agreed upon rate and payment terms, within an agreed upon time period. In most cases, you have full responsibility for utility bills during the term of your stay.
You and the landlord must also agree on the terms of occupancy. This means that the lease agreement should specify the number of persons who will reside in the house as well as your living arrangement. This can affect the rates in some cases.
The landlord also serves the right to impose a security deposit which he can use to pay for possible repairs and renovations in the house once the lease is terminated.
Before signing the house rental agreement, the landlord must present documents that contain the specifications of the house and its contents. You have to know beforehand what is and what is not included in the lease. A List of Furnishing and any such form of inventory must be attached to the rental agreement. Any other written request and correspondence that may affect the rental agreement must also be attached to the document.
On the other hand, you have to present a proof of your capacity to pay the rent such as bank statements, payroll slip and credit history.
All rental agreements must include your promise to keep the house and its furnishings in good condition. You have to immediately inform the landlord if there's any need for repair and maintenance due to normal wear and tear. Expenses for these are normally shouldered by the landlord. However, the landlord may specify in the lease agreement if he is not willing to pay the cost of repair and maintenance for a certain condition. You must inform the landlord if you don't agree with any of these.
You are, however, liable as a tenant for any loss or damages that are not incurred due to normal wear and tear. You have to shoulder possible repair and replacement for these and/or take the cost from the security deposit. Again, it all depends on your arrangement with the landlord.
In case of default, you are still responsible for paying all your rental dues as agreed upon in the lease agreement. The landlord is obligated to let you stay until you are able to pay your rent until the expiration date of the lease agreement. You may or may not leave the house's premises until you are able to pay, again, depending on your arrangement with the landlord. If the landlord chooses to let you stay until you are able to pay your rent, you are no longer obligated to pay for the days beyond the expiration date of the lease.
If you choose not to renew or extend the lease, your landlord is required to return the security deposit within a certain time frame provided by state laws. A state-by-state chart showing the deadline for returning security deposits is provided by the NOLO website.
The landlord may choose to deduct the cost of repair and maintenance from the security deposit. You have the right to contest any unreasonable deductions though.
According to the Fair Housing Act, your landlord should give you five day's notice to cure any possible breach in the rental agreement. Otherwise, legal measures can be sought by the landlord against you. This often results to eviction if not settled.
On the other hand, you may give the landlord 10 days notice to settle a breach in the agreement. You may also seek for legal measures against your landlord which can result in lease termination and, possibly, other forms of legal sanctions.
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