Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.
Breaches of Lease
While ideally every landlord-tenant relationship goes smoothly, the reality is that sometimes either or both parties create a problem. A breach of lease is when the landlord or tenant breaks one of the provisions set out in the lease document. However, even when one person breaches the lease the other party still has a number of rights.
Although rights don't guarantee anyone's actions, they are recognized in court. The court will most likely side with the party whose rights are being violated. Let's take a look at the rights of the tenant when a landlord breaches the lease and landlord rights when the tenant breaches the lease.
Terry the tenant rents a house from Larry the landlord. If Larry were to break a provision of the lease, such as not keeping the furnace in working condition or entering the property without notice, Terry should be aware of his tenant rights. Tenants enjoy a number of rights. They have the right to legal enjoyment of the premises. This means that the tenant can enjoy peace, quiet, and be free of unnecessary disturbances in exchange for rent payments.
The right to a safe premises means that the landlord must comply with local codes and ordinances that affect safety. This includes maintaining equipment that could pose a safety hazard like heating, plumbing, or a leaky roof. Terry has the right to insist on Larry immediately making these repairs at Larry's expense.
The right to privacy is articulated in the lease with reasonable circumstances on which the landlord may enter the home. Usually at least 24 hours notice is required, or the situation must be an actual emergency. It is illegal for a landlord to lock a tenant out or remove their personal property from the building.
Tenant Rights for Extreme Cases
In extreme cases, tenants have two other rights that may be useful in fixing a lease dispute. Tenants maintain the right to binding terms. The lease document serves as a written agreement of the rent situation and presents rules for each party. This document can be used in court to prove the tenant's point if the landlord has been negligent in his duties.
In some localities, Terry may have the right to withhold rent. Terry should check with local housing authorities to be sure of the rules, but he may be able to not pay a certain amount of the rent if a problem isn't fixed or is delayed. For example, if Terry has to pay for repairs in an emergency he could subtract that amount from the next month's rent payment.
The right to enter allows Larry entry to the property with adequate notice for other matters such as required maintenance and property improvements. The landlord could of course enter without notice in a genuine emergency that threatens life or the property.
What if Terry were the one to breach the lease? Let's say Terry painted a room an awful color without permission. Larry maintains the right to control the property. Larry could, with proper notice, enter the building to repaint the room. If Terry gives notice that he intends to break the lease and leave early, Larry could show the property to prospective new tenants while Terry still lives there. Larry could also conduct any repairs or maintenance necessary for turning over the property when Terry moves out.
A breach of lease occurs when one of the party breaks one of the agreements in the lease document. A breach of lease does not mean that the tenant and landlord waive their respective rights. Tenants enjoy the rights of safety, privacy, binding terms, and in some cases the right to withhold rent. Landlords maintain the rights to enter and control the property for the purposes of maintaining the property in rental condition.
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