Dalena Properties
Oct 06 2017

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Tags: tenants rights  landlords and tenants  renting  lease agreement 

Know Your Rights As A Tenant
Like Landlords, Tenants also have rights!

Last month, we looked at the rights and responsibilities of the landlord, but a tenant's rights as a property renter, are just as important! It is important for a new tenant to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, so as to avoid getting into possible disputes with their landlord. Tenants also need to protect themselves from possible housing violations or worse - getting evicted.

Many tenants have often found themselves in frustrating situations because of the landlord's failure of to maintain or make repairs on the rental property. What rights do tenants have? At what point should the tenant take action and what can the tenant legally do to get the landlord to comply? Let's take a look at some of the options available to the renting tenant.

A Tenant has the Following Basic Rights:

1. The Tenant is protected from Discrimination by the Fair Housing Act.

The landlord may not refuse to lease housing or property to a tenant based on their race, religion, sex, nationality, age or sexual orientation. By doing so, a landlord would be in breach of both the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act.

2. A Tenant has the Right to Livable Conditions.

The landlord is obliged to provide the tenant with decent, livable living conditions, which includes basic necessities such as water, electricity, security, heat and working indoor plumbing.

3. Deposit & Deposit Refund.

When a tenant decides to terminate his lease agreement, they are entitled to a full refund of the rental deposit, with interest, which they paid at the start of the lease.

The deposit may not be used by the landlord to make repairs or upgrades to the premises and nor may it be used by the tenant to pay for any future or outstanding rent.

The deposit is only non-refundable when the landlord (after inspecting the property) has determined that the tenant was responsible for any damages to the property during their lease.

A deposit that is non-refundable could apply to any outstanding monies that a tenant may still owe the landlord, such as outstanding rent, damages to the property, key replacement, etc...

4. Early Termination or Cancellation of the Lease

The lease term is usually in effect for a fixed period, stipulated in the lease agreement. This is usually for a period of 6 or 12 months. However, a tenant may choose to cancel their lease early, provided they give the landlord acceptable notice (usually 25 days or more). The tenant must be aware that they may be subject to a penalty, such as an early cancellation fee.

In some rental agreements, the landlord may request that the tenant find a suitable replacement tenant to take over the lease from them, in which case the original tenant would need to advertise and fill the vacancy before leaving. This however, is entirely at the sole discretion of the landlord.

5. Rental & Utilities

The tenant has the right to receive a monthly rental invoice from the landlord, indicating a breakdown of all the rental costs, such as the rental amount and any other utilities included in the bill, like electricity, water, refuse collection, parking or cable television.

The tenant has the right to request a receipt for all rent or other monies paid to the landlord and the landlord may not increase a tenant's rental fee more than once a year.

6. Property Maintenance and Repairs

Once a tenant has signed a lease agreement, it is accepted that they will be responsible for the general upkeep and maintaining of the property during their stay. However, any major repairs to the property still remain the responsibility of the landlord. This includes electrical repairs, plumbing, heating, roof repairs, the geyser, the swimming pool and the painting of the property.

In some cases where a landlord has repeatedly neglected to maintain and repair a property, some tenants have resorted to holding back the rent money until the landlord has made the repair. This is generally a bad idea and could get you evicted, even though you may feel you are the victim. You cannot withhold your rent and your rent should never be used as a bargaining chip with your landlord to lure them into making repairs.

7. The Rental Housing Tribunal

In cases, where the landlord has failed to respond to numerous requests, the tenant then has the right to lodge a complaint at the Rental Housing Tribunal. This is an organization established by the Rental Housing Act and may be used by landlords, tenants or rental agents.

The Rental Housing Tribunal has the authority to make decisions and resolve issues between the tenant and landlord. During this time while a complaint has been lodged, the landlord may not evict the tenant and the tenant remains responsible for the continued payment of their rent to the landlord, until the complaint has been resolved or agreed upon by the two parties.

The Conclusion:

No tenant ever plans on getting into a dispute with their landlord; however this could easily occur when a landlord refuses, ignores requests or becomes neglectful in carrying out repairs and maintenance on the rented property. The tenant could also be unfairly accused of causing damages to the property that they were not responsible for.

It is strongly advised that all new tenants carefully document everything before or when they move into their new premises. Should you become aware of anything that is faulty or in need of repairs, try to take a photograph of it and then document it immediately.

Make sure to keep a record of all repair requests that you make to your landlord, including the date that the request was made. When you move out, you will have proof and more leverage over your landlord, should he decide to withhold the deposit refund from you.

Related Article: Landlords - Know Your Rights

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