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Is Your Landlord Breaking the Law?

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We’ll admit it; it’s tough to find a place to live that can meet all of your wants and needs. Even if you do find the perfect place – affordable, amazing location, plenty of space, fully working appliances, reasonable neighbors – you still have to get past the landlord. Often times, you are so stressed about wanting the apartment you forget to assess if you even want this person as a landlord. It puts them in a position of power right off the get-go.

However, you need to know your rights. If your current or potential landlord falls into any of the following categories, they could be breaking the law.

1.) They mask discouragement with concern. If you’re elderly or have kids, many landlords might try to discourage you from renting with them. This is illegal, of course, so they may take another route. Mentioning that they feel the place is unsafe for children might be a way to scare you off and leave the space open for a kid-free family. So ask people in the general area what they think. If you see a family nearby ask them if the area is safe for kids. You’ll probably get a much straighter answer from them.

2.) Changing your locks. You have an obligation to pay your rent, and by paying it they have an obligation to provide you with shelter. If you don’t pay your rent they have every right to evict you. However, they cannot just change your locks. That actually takes a court order. By changing the locks, they are basically separating you from your things, and they need court permission to do that.

3.) They can’t damage or hold your things. And while we’re on the subject of keeping you from your stuff, you should be fully aware that your landlord cannot keep you from retrieving your belongings. They can’t claim some of your things as a replacement for rent owed, and they cannot through them out into the front yard to get rid of you. They have to provide you a way to come get your things.

4.) They can’t use your security deposit for normal wear and tear. If the carpets are a bit grungy or the stove is old, they can’t keep your security deposit to replace those things. Your security deposit is only used for things that you have caused damage to since you’ve moved in, like broken windows or holes in the walls.

5.) They don’t keep your living conditions updated. Say three months after moving in the heater in the building goes out, so your landlord brings up a little space heater. Not good enough. You agreed to live in a building that was heated throughout, not one where you have to carry a little, loud heater from room to room. If your living conditions have been downgraded since you moved in, your landlord cold be breaking the law.

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