As much as tenants are concerned about following the letter of the law regarding your lease agreement. But what about the other side of the equation? What if your landlord violates the terms he/she agreed to in that same lease?
It's not just a one-way street, and you should be just as aware of the landlord's responsibility as your own. We take a closer look at what the landlord is responsible for and what you can do when the lease is violated from the other end.
The Lease Agreement is a Contract
Both the landlord and the tenant sign the lease agreement making it a contract between two parties. It is meant to protect both the renter and the landlord's interests, not just the landlord's. This means when it comes to state law, the lease agreement is binding for both parties, not just for you. This is important to know because it prevents the tenant and the apartment (living situation) from being neglected or abused by the landlord. Don't assume that your landlord is the one with all the leverage and that only you must comply with the lease. The agreement protects your rights as a tenant, and you'd better believe this matters in a court of law.
What is a Landlord Violation of a Lease?
Before you assume your landlord has violated the lease contract, pull out your copy (you saved one, right?) and read it thoroughly. Perhaps the most significant language in your favor is what's known as the implied warranty of habitability, an implied commitment that a rental property must have basic living and safety standards prior to occupation and will continue to remain that way during the lease. Keep in mind that it is implied and does not have to be specifically stated to be enforceable. Things like heat, water, security, etc., must be maintained or repaired to be operable within a reasonable period of time.
Then there are things like notification of inspections, notification of entry by the landlord, etc. They can't simply enter your rental unit without proper notice, and that's a violation of the lease agreement. If you're unsure of your rights or can't understand the language, talk to an attorney to make sure you have solid ground on which to stand. If you've moved out and your landlord has not returned your security deposit, that's also a violation of the lease. You may not live there anymore, but that portion of the lease agreement is still binding.
What To Do if There's a Violation by the Landlord
So, let's say you have legitimate grounds to bring up the lease violation to your landlord? How should you handle things? it's important to remain calm and as professional as possible, first and foremost. Provide a written notice to them and let them know what the problem is. Allow them time (24-72 hours) to respond to you, and say so specifically in the notice. If there is no response, then send a certified letter through the U.S. Mail and make sure you outline the violation and where the lease language supports your complaint. Be as detailed as you can and don't assume your landlord knows what you're talking about. The certified letter must be signed by your landlord showing that it was received. Save that signature card in case you need it later.
If there's still no resolution, contact the actual property owner who hires the landlord to maintain the property. Continue to be professional and courteous, which will go a long way. See if you can arrange a mediation between you and the landlord via the property owner, and perhaps that will resolve matters. If you receive no response or the property owner sides with the landlord, you have recourse to go to court, but be mindful that this could involve court costs and your time. But if it's an important issue, make sure you proceed carefully.