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By Thea Theresa English

Understanding your rights as a tenant

As a tenant you have certain rights and it is important that you know them in case legal issues arise. Make sure you thoroughly read your lease and ask the landlord questions if you are unsure of some of the terms. If you need to have a pet in your apartment because of a medical condition such as blindness, the landlord cannot deny you the ability to have the pet. Tenants have the right to live in an apartment that is clean and in good condition.

Terms of the lease

There are certain terms of a rental lease that tenants need to be aware of. Normally the tenant is required to pay a security deposit at the beginning of the lease but this is not the same as the monthly rent. Make sure that this is stated in the lease before signing it. Depending on the lease, it might say that you will receive your deposit after moving out only if the apartment is in clean condition. This gets tricky because your standards of cleanliness might not be the same as his. You want to ask him what he would consider a clean apartment.

Safety also matters

Tenants have the right to a safe environment. Smoke detectors should be installed within 10 feet of every bedroom and there must be working locks on the doors in the apartment. Some landlords have security systems in the home. Privacy should be respected and the landlord should give notice in advance if he needs to enter the apartment when you are not there.

About evictions

This is a touchy subject regarding tenants' rights. Before a tenant a landlord evicts a tenant, he must give a notice in writing and the reasons for the eviction must be fair. For example, persistent non-payment of rent would be a valid reason for eviction. If the tenant refuses to move, the landlord can file a court order to have the eviction take place. Tenants have the right to an eviction hearing to plead their cases and avoid an eviction.

An apartment fire occurred. What are tenants' rights in those situations?

When an apartment fire occurs, it is the landlord's responsibility to repair the home but the tenant will need to remove items from the apartment. Tenants do not need to continue with rent payments if the apartment remains inhabitable after the fire. In this situation the tenant might also be able to end the lease.

Check your state's laws on tenants and landlords

Each state has its own laws regarding tenants' rights, so research your state's laws to be informed. This comes in handy during times when legal issues occur that are not specifically mentioned in the lease. Local real estate attorneys can also help you.

Tenants who are informed about their rights are better equipped to deal with their landlords. It helps to do research on potential landlords or property management companies before signing the lease.

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