Know Your Rights: Is Your Landlord Trespassing?

0
188

Most lease contracts state that a landlord has a ‘visitation right.’ This is the opposite of the tenant’s right to privacy. 

Can the owner just enter the building? Or can the tenant refuse access?

The answers to these questions deserve the necessary clarification.

All tenants have legal rights. You have these legal rights too!

Landlords can’t just enter your apartment whenever they please. Read on to learn how to tell if your landlord is trespassing.

Let’s get started!

1. Get a Written Contract

Verbal agreements are legal but not advisable.

It is legal and possible to reach a verbal agreement to rent with your landlord. This agreement is valid as long as it doesn’t exceed one year.

If one year passes without a written contract, the agreement remains a month-to-month contract. To break it, your landlord will only have to tell you 30 days in advance.

Thirty days may not be enough to seek a new apartment. You don’t want to end up in the streets.

For that reason, it’s better to have a written contract. It allows you to collect all the negotiated details of the contract transparently. 

It also facilitates the process in front of a court in case of problems between landlord and tenant.

2. Can the Owner Enter My Apartment?

Can the landlord come in just like that? After all, it’s their property.

You might expect that! Yet this is not entirely the case.

In principle, an owner can do everything with the property. At least, as long as it does not infringe the tenant’s rights!

The moment a landlord decides to rent out a house, rights get transferred to others. These are the rights of the tenant.

This also means that an owner can no longer enter his or her own home. Without your consent, a landlord shouldn’t enter your apartment.

The only exception is unless there’s an emergency. Also, if you’ve been away from your apartment for a while he/she can come in. The landlord can also enter if they have a court order.

Despite the landlord’s right to property, they must respect your privacy. To enter your property, there must be a good reason to do so.

The landlord should:

  • Inform you in advance.
  • It must be during a reasonable time of day.
  • Wants to enter to make necessary repairs or inspections.
  • Wants to show the apartment to potential buyers.

If the landlord enters your house without your consent, they’re guilty of housebreaking.

3. Rent Payment

Tenants from month to month must pay by check or money order on the 10th of each month. The due date to pay rent from week to week is the 5th of each week.

If you don’t pay before the expiration, the owner may charge you a late payment penalty. Owners are not allowed to offer a discount if they pay before the due date.

Keep a record of your payments. Your canceled check or copy of your money order is your receipt.

Avoid paying rent in cash! Don’t forget to get a receipt for any cash payment you make.

The landlord might only increase your rent at the end of the term of your rental agreement. This is applicable only when you have a written rental contract.

Without a written contract, the landlord can increase your rent at the beginning of any month. However, tenants have protections if they increase the rent to punish you.

4. Are Evictions and Lock Change Trespassing?

Unless your landlord holds a court order to evict you, you can stay in your apartment. Even if a bank is running the owner’s building, you have the right to stay.

 It is contrary to the law that the owner:

  • Changes the lock of your apartment
  • Stays with your belongings
  • Does anything else to prevent you from entering your apartment.

If your landlord doesn’t let you enter your apartment, call the police and ask them to let you in. It is illegal to prevent you from entering, even if you owe money.

An owner may refuse to rent to you if you have bad credit or criminal record. They may also deny you if you faced eviction from another apartment before.

5. Can the Landlord Have A Key and Can the Tenant Replace the Locks?

The law has nothing written concerning this. The opinions of the judges and lawyers differ.

However, what is not explicitly prohibited by law cannot get enforced either. Even if the landlord has a spare key, the rule still stands. He/she is forbidden to enter your premises.

It can often be useful if the landlord still has a key. For example, if one of the following legitimate reasons occurs: Such as an urgent repair, or if the tenant has lost his key.

On the other hand, you can install new locks, for example, to better protect the home.

6. Public Services

Your landlord has no right to mess about with your utility services. This includes electricity, heating, hot water, and gas. In case they do so, alert the police. The police can arrest the owner if they cut off a public service and don’t reconnect it.

Any public service you pay must be for your use only. Nobody should force you to pay for public services in common areas or other tenants.

7. Discrimination

Whether you rent or buy a house, you have the right to choose where to live. 

It‘s illegal for an owner to refuse to rent or treat you differently due to the following:

  • Race, religion, country of origin, or color
  • family, (the fact that you have children, married or not)
  • sexual orientation or identity
  • Disability
  • State-aid dependant people.

HIV carriers or ex-alcoholics are equally protected by law.

8. Rights for a Person with Disability

Do you encounter challenges when finding a rental place because of your disability?

The law has provisions for disabled people. You have the right to make changes to the apartment to suit you.

This is just a reasonable modification. For example, you may need access ramps, or bars to hold in the bathroom.

The owner has the right to ask for proof that you need these changes. But, it is not necessary to show your medical records or your disability information.

What you have to say is that you have a disability and that you need these changes. The owner must be flexible with their rules to you like any other tenant.

What should you do in case you get discriminated for disability?

Keep a record of phone calls, meetings, and documents related to the discrimination.

Can You Get Legal Help?

Of course, yes. File a complaint as soon as possible. You must present cases of discrimination within 180 days. 

Don’t wait for too long!

The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to find witnesses who remember what happened. It may also be difficult to trace the documents that support your case.

9. Responsibilities of the Tenant

As a tenant, you should comply with all fire and housing codes applicable to you.

  • Keep your apartment as safe and clean as possible, including appliances, tubs, sinks, and toilets.
  • Always keep trash in containers and garbage bins.
  • Use all services and equipment in a reasonable manner.
  • Don’t damage, destroy, or take an asset that doesn’t belong to you.
  • Neither you nor your guests should disturb your neighbors.
  • Respect and adhere to the owner’s rules and regulations. However, the practices must be reasonable and apply to all tenants.
  • Pay your rent in time, not unless ordered otherwise by the court. 
  • You should allow the landlord to access your apartment when there’s a reasonable request.

The right to privacy is highly regarded in the legal system. Both the right to private life and the protection of the home are examples of this.

The landlord may not just enter the rented property without permission. As a tenant, you can always oppose this and refuse access.

If a landlord violates this law, you can sue them. You have the right to complain about harassment to the police. You can even impose a monetary fine against the landlord.