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Around the world, property prices are climbing, making the prospect of owning one’s own home more and more of a seemingly impossible goal for many. Increasing housing prices have led many who can’t afford to buy their own property into the private rental sector. While most landlords and property management agents are honest and upstanding businesses, it’s still important to familiarize yourself with some of the laws and regulations surrounding rentals to make sure you’re making the best rental agreement for you. Depending on the country in which you live, you’d be astonished at how little legislation or regulation exists to ensure that private tenants get a fair deal and price for their (increasingly costly) rent. In fact, in the UK there isn’t even legislation requiring that landlords even have to make their property liveable.
Whether you’re looking for your first-time apartment or a long-time leaser, if you’re thinking about renting, make sure you know the rights you have as a tenant.
Your security deposit or down payment should be protected
While little legislation may be in place to ensure the quality of your rental property, there are measures in place to protect your down payment on your property. In the US, most states have a limit on how much many is required as a deposit. The Deposit Protection Scheme or your local equivalent is in place to ensure that should your landlord spend your deposit within the length of your tenancy, he or she will have a legal obligation to pay it back. Of course, you have obligations of your own and outside of reasonable wear and tear, you will be expected to leave the property in the same condition as you found it. To maximize the amount of the security deposit you get back, you might want to consider hiring a move-out cleaning agency to ensure that the house or apartment is spotless before you hand over the keys. Of course, you could always throw on some marigold gloves and tend to the property yourself, but if the property is found to be insufficiently cleaned, under the terms of most agreements you will be liable for (reasonable) additional cleaning costs.
Landlords have a legal obligation to treat tenants equally in terms of the size of the security deposit although certain factors (such as age, pet ownership or risky furnishings like a waterbed) may affect this. If your deposit is higher than your neighbors’ you have a right to know why.
Your right to privacy
Although you don’t own the property, you have a right to privacy throughout your tenancy which your landlord must legally abide by. Your landlord cannot enter your property without prior arrangement (at least 24 hours in most states and areas) unless they need to attend to an emergency like a fire or flood. When making repairs, your landlord is obliged to arrange a suitable time with you before entering the property to carry them out.
If you live in the US, good news! Unlike our British counterparts, we have legislation in place to ensure that the rental property is habitable. (There is some slight variation on what constitutes habitability from state to state.) If the property has unsafe wiring, crumbling plaster or infestation of mice or cockroaches your landlord has a legal obligation to fix this.
Just because you don’t own your own property doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be secure, protected, comfortable and happy in a rental property that you can make into a home! When you’re looking for your new rental home, make sure you know your rights as a tenant.