What Rights Do You Have As A Tenant?

By: 
Contributor

In today's economy, it's becoming more common for families to rent their homes rather than own their homes themselves. In 2016, 65% of households headed by people younger than 35 were renting, up from 57% in 2006. However, as more people move towards renting, the question of renters' and tenants' rights is becoming more pressing. What rights do tenants have in their own homes, and what can tenants in Michigan do about landlords operating unlawfully?

Tenants' Vs. Property Owner's Rights

Every state has slightly different laws regarding tenant's rights when renting their home, meaning information on your rights will vary depending on where you live. However, all tenants have the right to livable conditions. This definition will sometimes vary, but almost always includes the basics of reliable electricity, plumbing, and heat. Likewise, a lease written by a property owner can't override the law; your landlord cannot require you to make major repairs to the home in order for it to be livable, for example. More specific definitions of "livable" conditions will vary depending on location, so check with local guidelines for an exact definition if you're concerned about your rights as a renter.

What To Do About Problematic Landlords

Unfortunately, not all landlords are perfect, and some are outright breaking the law in how they manage their property or treat their tenants. In these cases, legal action could be necessary and helpful. Be careful about who is coming and going onto the property with ongoing disputes between a tenant and a landlord. In Michigan, the crime of home invasion carries a potential maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Most communities will have local resources to turn to for affordable legal help, and these can be incredibly useful when dealing with a difficult landlord. Ensure you document everything that could be helpful, including your landlord's behavior. This is especially true if your landlord has been harassing you. Victims of sexual harassment can file a civil claim or lawsuit against the person who made sexual advances. In the meantime, while you work through your case, you may still, unfortunately, have to live on the property. If this is the case for you and your family, make sure you take steps to protect yourselves.

Protecting Yourself And Your Family

During your difficulties with your landlord, do what you can to avoid other sorts of legal trouble. Be careful when driving; on average, a driver will have an auto accident claim once every 17.9 years, and you don't want one to happen to you while you're already facing legal negotiations. Likewise, do what you can to protect your family and belongings while on the property. If possible, a fence can keep unwanted guests away and provide security, but not every situation will be able to be solved this way. Ideally, search for a friend or family member who can provide support while you look for a new place to live.

Protecting your rights as a tenant can be complicated, especially when you're still living with the consequences of a neglectful landlord's actions. Seeking legal counsel and understanding your rights as a renter can help you be prepared. Keep an eye as well on legal news regarding tenant's rights; the more informed you are now, the better prepared you'll be in the future.

For full story, pick up a copy of the MONTH XX issue of The Allegan County News/The Union Enterprise/The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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The Union Enterprise
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