The landlord-tenant relationship is a contract when you have a lease. Both you and your landlord agree in writing to do certain things - and to not do others. Some of your responsibilities are obvious. For example, you must pay your rent. Others may be a little more confusing. You have certain rights as well, although they may differ from state to state.
You Have a Right to Privacy
When you rent a property, it becomes your home. Generally, your landlord cannot enter your home without warning just because he owns the property. Most states allow landlords to enter without notice only in an emergency. Otherwise, the property owner or an employee must let you know ahead of time. The amount of warning your landlord must give varies by state law, but it's usually at least 24 hours.
You Have a Right to Decent Living Conditions
Your landlord is responsible for making sure that your dwelling isn't dangerous, hazardous to your health, or in such horrible condition that no one should have to live there. This usually involves making repairs to the structure, such as if your roof is leaking. If your lease includes utilities and these accounts are not your name, your landlord is responsible for paying them so you have heat, hot water, and electricity.
You're Responsible for Damage
If you, your guests, or your pets damage the property, you're usually responsible for paying for these repairs yourself. For example, if your roof is leaking because of something you did, you have to pay to have it fixed. If you don't have it repaired and more damage occurs because you left the problem unfixed, you might also be responsible for the costs of any further damage. It's your responsibility to keep your rental property reasonably neat and clean.
You Can't Disturb Others
You can't disturb the peace. This usually doesn't include reasonable events, like your five-year-old's birthday party - but it might, if you shoot fireworks off in your backyard during the celebration. Generally, disturbances include issues like frequent visitors day and night, playing music at full volume well into the night, or holding yard sales every weekend so your neighbors can't get to their own dwellings due to the traffic.
Some Exceptions Might Exist
If you have questions about what you can and can't do with your rental property, or about your rights to privacy and repairs, check your lease. Just as laws vary from state to state, your contract with your landlord might state something different from the usual rules. If it does, the contract is usually binding.
A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding renters' rights and responsibilities is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a real estate lawyer.