2 Basic Renters’ Rights Included in Every Lease

Written on October 7, 2015 by , updated on December 7, 2016

Basic Renters RightsIn every residential rental agreement, there are two unavoidable basic tenant rights.

No matter if the agreement is verbal or written, a resident has the right to “Habitability” and the implied warranty of “Quiet Enjoyment.”

“Habitability” & “Quiet Enjoyment”

These are implied warranties, or covenants, and ensure that the rental property is safe and secure, and that the resident is granted the undisturbed use and enjoyment of the unit.

These two entitlements are at the very core of the rental relationship, and are primarily what a resident is buying with his or her monthly rent.

Many Landlords Ignore These Rights

While there is nothing wrong with using a thorough and stern lease, it must be fair to both parties.

However, many landlords try to force a resident to live in a unit that is uninhabitable, citing the following excuses:

  • “You were aware of its condition before you signed the lease.”
  • “The lease says that all maintenance and repair issues are the resident’s responsibility.”
  • “The lease doesn’t specifically mention a working stove, so I don’t have to repair it.”

Landlords who try to refute these basic rights will likely find themselves with abandoned leases, multiple court dates, a pile of legal bills, or even potentially behind bars.

Related: 10 Best Practices to Prevent Tenant Lawsuits

1. Habitability

Any unit that is available for rent is assumed to have an implied warranty of habitability. Meaning, the landlord is guaranteeing that the unit will be in safe, good working order for the life of the tenancy.

For a unit to be habitable, it must:

  • have sufficient access to essential utilities, like water, sewer, electricity, and heat; and
  • not have any dangerous or life-threatening conditions, such as exposed electrical wires, a contaminated water supply,  or chipping lead paint, among other issues.

Though it’s a simple concept, habitability is defined more specifically at the state level, and can vary greatly between states.

For example, California’s state-specific requirements for habitability are easily understood and similar laws found in most states (§1941.1, §1941.3):

  1. Weatherproofing: Effective weather protection of roof, exterior walls, windows and doors.
  2. Plumbing: Working plumbing and sewer facilities, including hot and cold running water.
  3. Major Systems: Gas, heating and electrical systems in good working order.
  4. Sanitation: Clean and sanitary buildings and grounds, free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
  5. Trash: Adequate trash receptacles in good repair.
  6. Living Areas:  Floors, stairways, and railings in good repair.
  7. Locks: Deadbolt locks on exterior doors and security locks on some windows.
  8. Lead Paint: No lead paint hazards anywhere on the premises.
  9. Egress: Safe fire or emergency exits leading to a street or hallway.
  10. Alarms: Smoke and CO detectors in or around each unit.

2. Quiet Enjoyment

Quiet enjoyment is a resident’s right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of the rental unit.

In exchange for rent, a tenant gets the following rights:

  1. Privacy: A reasonable expectation of privacy;
  2. Peace & Quiet: Including the freedom from unreasonable and recurring disturbances from the landlord and/or other neighbors;
  3. Right of Use: Exclusive right of use, except for landlord’s reasonable right of access;
  4. Safety & Security: A premise & dwelling that provide adequate security and are free of bodily hazards;
  5. Basic Utilities: Access to basic services such as electricity, heat and hot water, which are also part of the implied warranty of habitability.

With that said, it doesn’t supersede a landlord’s right to enter the property with proper notice or in emergencies, conduct showings, or make repairs in a reasonable manner.

…it doesn’t supersede a landlord’s right to enter the property with proper notice…

A landlord or manager can be in violation of this covenant if he or she:

  • Enters the unit too frequently or without proper notice;
  • Snoops through personal property;
  • Fails to control disruptive nuisances, noises or behaviors, within reason;
  • Harasses a resident in person or over the phone;
  • Restricts or terminates essential services, such as water or electricity;
  • Fails to repair items that affect habitability; and/or
  • Prohibits reasonable enjoyment of the property, such as entertaining guests.

Related: What is the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?

Embrace These Rights, Don’t Avoid Them

By ensuring the resident’s right to habitability and quiet enjoyment, a landlord will have already solved the majority of landlord-tenant issues before they happen.

When these essential needs are met, residents feel safe, secure, and are generally happy with the unit. As a result, they pay their rent on time and typically keep the unit clean.

Ensuring habitability can be difficult and expensive at times, but it’s a legal obligation, and just part of being a landlord.

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20 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Vladimir

    Great article and right to the point! Fixes in a timely manner is the part of being a landlord. This “strategy” has helped me to build trust, reputation of a good landlord and respect, which goes both ways.

  • Dan Hunter

    Hi Lucas, I’ll bet you could do a future webinar on business forms.
    After a few years in the business, I visited local apt. complexes while posing as a potential tenant. After viewing a vacancy I told them I wanted to take the lease and application home to read them over before signing . After studying about six leases and applications I was able to come up with a good lease, one page and one side, and I had room at the bottom for co-signor agreement. The local judges loved my simple and straight forward leases.
    Also I had an “Inventory Checklist.” I would walk the unit with new tenant and before he/she took possession we would list all defects. If tenant made a hole in wall and if it was not listed on checklist, there was no argument

  • Billy

    My landlord should really read this article. It would save me a lot of grief.

  • Tricia

    What if the state took home from owner them took to court fought case and won. So the state actually served eviction notice to tenants they had not found place to move yet so we’re still living now owner has sold home does the new owner have to seerve eviction notice or at least give reasonable notice or can they make tenants move with 5 day notixe

  • Ann

    question–
    My fiance has inherited a home from his mother after her passing. He is the only dependent from his mother. Somebody is currently living in the home. Was given a year to purchase that home and has been unsuccessful. We gave her more than 30 days to vacate the home ( June 1, 2016 @ midnight) via text message in mid April. We then gave her written notice right at 30 days ( still knowing that she had til june 1st) We want o move back into the home clean up and set up up to put it on market. There was no lease signed or any other contract of any kind. What is our next step if she does not vacate the home? She is paying “rent” but its going to the mortgage that is left on the home. We want to sell it. Whats our next step? Thnks

  • Justin

    hello-
    My girlfriend’s apartment was broken into, then under a month later there was an attempted break in, but this time she was home and shouted at the man while calling the police. Reports were made each time, can the lease be legally terminated?

    Thank You,

  • Wayne

    My apartment was robbed and the door was kicked in…..upon closer examinations it appears that the door was not repaired correctly and that it may have been kicked in before on a anther robbery attempt( previous tenants perhaps) without me being made aware. Mgmt. took longer than 24hrs to replace the door and door jam, leaving my valuables unsecured.

    What recourse do I have if is what happened?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Wayne

      If you think there is negligence or fault here, on behalf of your landlord, then the recourse would be a lawsuit. You should talk to a lawyer about it.

  • DEB

    i live in a ranch duplex.
    our exterior back doors are separate.
    there is one exterior front door that enters into a shared hallway with separate interior doors. therefore there are legally two forms of egress.
    is it legal for a landlord to request that only the separate back doors be used for daily use due to the noise imposed on the other tenant in the front hallway.
    thank you.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Deb,

      If the noise from the door is causing major issues, why wouldn’t you want to play nice with your neighbors. Or, at the very least, can you just try to enter the door in a quieter fashion? If the other tenants just don’t like you using it, and the noise is minimal, then I don’t see why you would have to stop. But please talk to a lawyer if you’re looking for legal advice. I can’t tell you what is legal and what is not.

  • Linda D

    I previously owned the house for 7 yrs. Instead of foreclosing my neighbor bought it so I can stay in the house and we signed a one yr lease with a verbal agreement I would stay for 5 yrs so he can make his money back. We’ve been here for 3 yrs and do not have a new lease verbal or paper. Just continue to pay rent as usual. Then out of the blue he’s selling and I have 30 days to move. Is that legal

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Linda,

      Without a written fixed term agreement, you likely will be considered to have a month-to-month lease. As with any M2M leases, they can be terminated with very short notice, such as 30 days.

      You could try to argue with him, and even talk to a lawyer about it, but without proof of the verbal arrangement, I’m not sure how much luck you’d have.

      If you want to fight it, I suggest talking to a lawyer (which I’m not).

  • Thomasine Stoudemire

    My house was broken into. I am renting. I call the laid-lord. Willing to work with her. She told me no bars on her windows. I want out of my lease do mot feel save.

  • christine kastelnik

    My daughter is currently living in a rented property, the septic tank brick work is falling into the tank, this is only covered with a concrete slab which can be moved easily and is dangerous, she cannot use the back garden because the septic tank smells badly, she has been waiting the hear from the agent for over a year to get this sorted, she has two children, one is only 13 months old, is there a higher authority she can contact.

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