Here’s What a Landlord Cannot Do
1. Make you move out immediately.
If you have a written lease (which is always a good idea to protect yourself), your contract should state the minimum amount of time your landlord must give you to move out if they want to evict you. If they give you less time than your lease requires, their actions are considered a breach of lease. Even if your lease doesn’t state a requirement, local laws may protect you. In Maine, the minimum notice is seven days if a tenant has caused severe property damage and not repaired it, and 30 days otherwise.
If your landlord tries to pressure you to move out immediately, their verbal statements and actions could be considered harassment. In this case, your landlord could be violating your tenant rights to quiet enjoyment, and you may need to consult local laws.
2. Spy on you.
If you’ve found surveillance cameras inside a rental home, and you didn’t give your landlord permission to place them there, your landlord could be violating your tenant rights—and your privacy. There are some exceptions, like for outside cameras or cameras in public places. If you think your landlord uses surveillance cameras to watch your comings and goings—or worse, observe your actions while you’re inside your home—it could be time to contact local authorities. Spying on you isn’t just creepy; it also tops the list of illegal landlord actions in most states.
3. Enter your home without notice (except in an emergency).
Your landlord’s rights to enter your home will depend on where you live. In general, landlords cannot enter your home without reasonable notice, except in an emergency. What constitutes reasonable notice or an emergency? “Reasonable notice” is often open to interpretation by state. In Tennessee, Justia states that an emergency is “a sudden, generally unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action.”
4. Ask discriminatory questions.
Okay, this one should be obvious, right? Not so fast. In many states, questions that are considered small talk in everyday life are illegal for your landlord to ask. Here are just a few questions a landlord cannot ask in most states:
- When are you getting married?
- Where were you born?
- Do you have children? Are you planning to start a family?
- How old are you?
According to real estate codes in Washington state, it is illegal to deny housing to someone if they are a military veteran or live with a trained service animal (amongst other things). Pay attention to the questions that a potential landlord asks when you’re looking for somewhere to live.
5. Ignore major repairs.
You’ve asked your landlord four times this month to repair that rotting step on the front porch, and you haven’t heard a peep from them. How long do you have to wait to take legal action? The answer (and your options) can vary by state.
In Indiana, the law states that a landlord has a “reasonable amount of time to make repairs or provide a remedy” for an issue, but states like Ohio have a specific time frame. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, your landlord has no more than 30 days to make repairs. After that, you might be able to get a court order asking your landlord to make the repairs, or you may be able to reduce your rent or break your lease without penalties.
Can a landlord ask you to make repairs yourself? Well, not really, but if you live in a state with a repair-and-deduct statute, you could be protected if you do repair something yourself. For example, Illinois law states that your landlord has 14 days to make repairs. Illinois Legal Aid says that, once 14 days have expired, you, the tenant, can make the repairs yourself and deduct the costs from your next month’s rent payment.
If a neglected repair poses a hazard or violates local codes, you should know what a landlord cannot do if you report the issue to authorities, which leads us to #6.
6. Retaliate if you complain or report code violations.
In extreme cases, a neglected repair can lead to a building code violation or a serious health risk. If your landlord refuses to repair something that violates local codes, you can choose to report it to a local building inspector or another appropriate agency. Additionally, if you believe your right to quiet enjoyment is being violated, and you complain to your landlord, the landlord cannot retaliate to “punish” you.
As long as you are operating within your legal tenant rights (check your local laws on reporting specific types of violations to government agencies), your landlord cannot retaliate for actions such as complaints or reports to authorities. In California, it is illegal for a landlord to increase your rent or terminate your tenancy within 180 days of filing a formal complaint or report, according to the state’s legislative information site.
Dealing with Illegal Landlord Actions or a Breach of Lease?
It’s time to find a place where your right to quiet enjoyment is respected, and you can truly feel at home. ApartmentSearch can help you find a reputable place to live in your city. Say so long to your shady landlord, and look for your perfect apartment today.