How Do Renters’ Legal Rights Work?

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As a renter, many of us do not think about our legal rights until something goes wrong. Take for example a tenant law in Washington DC that was recently revised. According to The Washington Post, the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which has been a law in DC for around 30 years, was revised by the DC Council. Prior to the changes, TOPA prevented renters from being kicked out if the owner of the property decides to sell. In such cases, the tenants had the right of first refusal and an opportunity to buy the property back. However, following the revisions, renters no longer have the right of first refusal or the opportunity to buy the property back, and therefore, can be kicked out if their landlord decides to sell the property. There are exceptions to the law change, such as if a renter is disabled or over 62 years old. Laws like TOPA are the reason renters’ legal rights are a far more complex issue than many tenants understand.

Renters’ Legal Rights When Applying for an Apartment or House

As the example above demonstrates, it is crucial that tenants know their legal rights before they ever sign a lease agreement with an apartment complex, for a condominium, or for a house. Prior to a renter applying for a house, condo, or apartment, there are laws that govern both their conduct and the way they are supposed to be treated by the landlords or management companies taking their application. For instance, if you put in an application to rent an apartment or house, you can not be turned down for religion, race, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, family status, or nationality. In addition, if your application was rejected because of your credit, you have a right to a written explanation of the negative information on your credit report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What Are Tenants’ Rights While Living in a House or Apartment?

Once a tenant and a landlord or management company have agreed on a lease, there are more laws that apply to their arrangement. If a tenant has a disability, the landlord or management company must make reasonable accommodations for him or her, like providing the tenant with an apartment unit on a lower level if needed or installing ramps for wheelchair access. A requirement that applies to all tenants is that the condo, house, or apartment must be habitable. This means it must not contain any dangerous conditions. If it does, those conditions must be disclosed and repaired. In addition, to be considered habitable, the home must have usable water, heat, and utilities.

What Rights Do Renters Have When Facing Eviction?

If you are in danger of or have been served an eviction notice, time is of the essence. Therefore, knowing your legal rights as a renter in this situation is vital if you have any hope of keeping your home. Under the law, your landlord has the right to evict you if you broke a promise in your lease, such as you commit a crime on the property, have an animal living with you that is not allowed on the premises, or you do not pay your rent. However, in many cases, notice of claim of eviction provides tenants with time to fix the reason they are being evicted, including repairing broken property, relocating the animal living with them, or paying the overdue rent.

Do you have questions about eviction or some other type of housing-related issue? Ask a real estate lawyer. An attorney can analyze your situation, answer your questions, and tell you the best options available to you to resolve the problem.

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