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What are some basic leasing laws I should know about?

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As a renter, it’s important to know your rights. Especially during the process of apartment hunting and signing your lease, you should be aware of certain limitations and legal rights each party is accountable for. Here are some basic leasing laws you should know.

The Fair Housing Act

Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination by direct providers of housing — landlords, real estate companies, banks, lending institutions, homeowners insurance companies — that make renting, buying, and seeking a mortgage or housing assistance unavailable to a person.

This act covers most housing, so no one can be denied the opportunity to rent based solely on race, religion, sex, disability, gender, family status, age, source of income, and several other factors (color, national origin, military status, marital status, HIV status, sexual preference). Let’s get specific about some of these.

For an applicant with a qualified disability (evidence of mental disability), landlords are required to make reasonable accommodation which does not cause them undue hardship.

In terms of gender, landlords can express a gender preference where a unit shares a common area (e.g. kitchen or bathroom), labeling it as “women only suite,” for example. However, they cannot discriminate against applicants due to gender identity.

Landlords are also not allowed to discourage pregnant applicants or families (applicants with children under 18) from renting, unless there is legitimate justification, such as occupancy limits or stress on building systems.

Landlord and Tenant Laws

The Landlord and Tenant Act generally outlines what is expected of the tenant and what is required from the landlord, Though minor details may differ among states, most laws of the act — regarding security deposits, privacy, evictions, and more — are universal. Here are a few you should know about.

Landlords do not have a right or privilege to spend a tenant’s security deposit. After a lease ends, a tenant is entitled to get their security deposit back with interest. In New York, the security deposit must be returned within 21 to 45 days of a tenant vacating a property.

Property owners are also required to provide a “safe and livable” environment for their tenants with proper security measures and functioning utilities. In New York, hot water must be provided 365 days a year at a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

If a tenant finds their home not “livable, safe, and sanitary,” they may (under certain conditions) withhold rent from the landlord. This includes circumstances of improper management of the security of the building as well as poor maintenance of pipelines, heating systems, and electrical wires. If such repairs are needed to be done, the tenant should first notify the landlord and ask when the repairs will be done.

It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant. The only ways a landlord can move a tenant out is if the lease is up, if a tenant withholds rent (without reason), or if a tenant has severely violated the lease. Even in these cases, the landlord must take the tenant to court and receive a “Warrant of Eviction.” A letter from the landlord or the landlord’s lawyer is not enough to evict a tenant.

Fair Housing at Common

The leasing process at Common is easy and crazy fast. We follow all of the above leasing laws, so it’s a smooth and fair process. If you have any questions, our in-house leasing team is always open and knowledgeable.

Take a free tour today and get started with the leasing process.

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