As a tenant, you have certain legal rights that may not be spelled out in your lease. You can’t depend on your landlord to tell you about these rights or even to be aware of them. By taking the time to learn more about the laws that affect you as a tenant, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself when adverse situations arise.

Check Your Local Laws

While some rights, such as the anti-discrimination laws, are established under federal jurisdiction, many of your tenant rights will be established through state and local laws. It’s up to you to find out how local laws affect housing situations because laws will vary from city to city. For instance, while some states have enacted rent control laws, many haven’t. Even in those states, city or county governments may have enacted their own rent control laws.

Your Landlord Must Maintain Livable Conditions

There are certain things, such as hot and cold running water, which are your right to expect. Access to utilities, for instance, is essential to maintaining good and proper living conditions. Each state establishes laws pertaining to what constitutes livable conditions, so checking those laws in your area may help you better understand your landlord’s responsibilities. Typically, the laws should also tell you how you may respond if your landlord isn’t making necessary repairs.

Rent is Not Usually a Bargaining Chip

There aren’t any circumstances in which you may withhold the payment of rent. This includes a situation in which the landlord isn’t making necessary repairs. You must still pay your rent, regardless of any other issues that may arise, and this fact is often spelled out in your lease. However, if you have made repeated requests for repairs and your landlord has not complied, you can deduct the cost of having the item repaired. Just be sure to provide a copy of the receipt along with your rent payment.

In the end, the law overrides any other considerations, even when it contradicts your lease. For this reason, it’s important to understand the laws in your area, read your lease carefully, and document everything pertaining to the living conditions of your unit. Your ability to prove your side of a dispute is often the only way you can protect your rights as a tenant.