What Are Your Rights As a Tenant?

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Many laws regarding tenant rights vary from state to state, but all tenants have the right to privacy, and a clean and safe living space that includes properly installed smoke detectors. Federal law prohibits landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on race, religion, gender, age and marital status.

In addition to federal laws, each state has its own set of laws that outline the rights of tenants and landlords. While many of the laws are similar, there are key differences that renters must be aware of. In some states, for example, a landlord may enter the leased premises in the case of emergencies, or to conduct maintenance and repairs. Some states make it clear that there are only certain hours a landlord may enter, except in the case of an emergency, while others specify that the landlord must give the tenant ample written or verbal notice.

While all states give tenants and landlords the right to binding terms, which means that the signed lease is viewed as a legal, binding contract, how things are handled when either party breaks the lease is often different depending on where the property is located. Other basic tenant rights that play out differently from state to state include the right to legal enjoyment of the premises, the limited right to withhold rent and the right to individual lifestyle while living on the property.