9 Ways To Advocate For Yourself As A Tenant

You may have considered moving out of your parent’s home as a milestone. However, when you begin to navigate the process, you will notice how difficult it actually is. There are plenty of policies to know and documents to sign. Once you settle in, you may have to face other home-related maintenance issues. 

Moreover, your landlord may not have kept their promises, and the home you rented isn’t as advertised. But there are ways to navigate this: Here are nine things you should remember as a tenant: 

1. Consult with the landlord about your lease. 

Before signing, read through your lease carefully and ask your landlord questions. If you agreed to a one-year lease, but the final date is in half a year, kindly remind your landlord about the discrepancy. 

2. Make sure you document everything. 

Document every interaction you have with your landlord. Whatever they say verbally, ensure they have it in text or writing. So, when misshapes do happen, you have proof. 

3. Keep proof of rent and deposits.

Create a physical or digital folder in which you can keep proof of payment. And make copies if you can. So if any allegations happen, you will have evidence to back your case. 

4. Read up on the Fair Housing Act. 

Note: Every country has its own housing policies, so please review the one specific to your country. 

In the US, the Fair Housing Act is a legislation that protects tenants from discrimination. By reading the policies and examples, you can identify when you’re being discriminated against and take action. You can then file a Housing Discrimination Complaint Form and contact your regional FHEO office.  

5. Understand when your landlord can increase the rent. 

If your landlord increases the rent after the lease is signed, contact them immediately. The rent can only be increased if there is a new tenant, a new pet, or if the property is being remodeled. However, in some states or provinces in Canada, landlords can only increase the rent once every year. But remember that this is the case for Ontario. So, anything out of the range is considered illegal unless it is approved by the government. 

6. Understand when a landlord can enter your home. 

This varies by state as well. But in many states, a landlord has to give a 24-hour notice prior to entering your home. As a tenant, you cannot deny the landlord access, but you can request the date to be changed. Moreover, a landlord can only enter your home on weekdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

7. Understand the consequences of illegal ‘self-help’ evictions.

If the landlord changes your locks or takes your belongings, those are examples of self-help evictions. When this does happen, and you decide to take legal action, learn how your state can support you. Your court and attorney fees can be covered. 

You also have a right to fight the eviction. You can stay in your home, but make sure to appear in scheduled court meetings. 

8. If anything illegal happens, know where to report it. 

Let’s say that your landlord didn’t follow the state laws. If you, as a tenant, feel that your rights were violated, you can report them to different agencies. For the US, the Rental Protection Agency is where you should report misconduct, such as deposit issues, violations, unlawful evictions, or billing issues. 

Moreover, if you have received threats or are facing timely situations, you can report these to the local police department. And, those living in federal-funded housing should report to the HUD. 

9. Continue to pay your rent and communicate with the landlord.

After all, you signed the lease. This means that you’re responsible to pay your rent on the specified deadline. If there are circumstances, make sure to communicate these with the landlord and see if there are accommodations, such as prorated rent. But remember that you have to make these accommodations according to the law. 

Renting is a challenge on its own. But if you’re facing issues with your housing and living conditions, make sure you document them and tell your landlord immediately. If your landlord does not respond, use your own rights as a tenant to advocate for yourself. After all, whatever you signed on paper is a legal promise. So it’s best to keep that in mind.

Featured image via SHVETS production on Pexels


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