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Illegal Actions Your Landlord Might be Taking

Every renter might face hairy situations with their landlord. Sometimes, it might happen due to some minor misunderstanding, while in other cases, the problem might be more serious. 

As a tenant, you should be aware of the basics of the landlord-tenant law to know if the actions your landlord is taking are simply annoying or actually illegal and what to do in these kinds of situations.

Here, we’ve collected the list of the most common illegal landlord actions, so you would know what to pay attention to and be aware of when you think your landlord’s actions might be doubtful.

Discrimination

Most renters suffer from discrimination on the stage of applying for the apartment or tenant screening. Many acknowledge that they were turned down after the first phone call or the apartment tour without any definite reason. Sometimes, you might even encounter an ad that would clearly state that families with kids or people of certain races will not be considered.

The landlord has a right to have certain preferences when it comes to renting their apartment — after all, that’s why tenant screening exists. But, what is the difference between not being willing to rent a property to smokers or tenants with pets and discrimination?

Under the Fair Housing Act, renters are protected against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status (including families with children under 18 years old and pregnant women), and disability. 

If you believe that you were discriminated against while searching for a rental or renting a property, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Refusing Repairs

Any landlord or property manager is obligated to keep the rental property in a safe and habitable condition, which also means addressing any necessary repairs. If you inform them about any issues that might affect your health or safety, they must deal with the problem in a timely and proper manner.

Each state has different laws as to how you can respond if the landlord ignores your request or simply refuses to proceed with repairs. Although, many states have some common remedies for tenants — the right to withhold the rent or pay for the maintenance yourself and deduct the cost from your rent. If you decide to resort to these options, make sure to carefully examine your state laws and contact a lawyer first.

More like this: The Difference Between the Lease and Rental Agreement, Explained

Unreasonable Rent Increases

When it comes to rent increases, the situation mostly depends on the state where you rent your house. There are certain states, or even cities, with strict rent control policies in place, and any violation of these laws is illegal.

For instance, in Oregon, landlords cannot raise the rent more often than once every 12 months. Additionally, the amount of increase cannot be more than 7% plus the inflation. Similarly, rent control laws are in effect in California, where a landlord cannot raise the rental amount higher than 10% or 5% plus an inflation rate, whichever is less, annually. You should be aware that there are certain exceptions to these policies, so you should carefully check your local laws or seek professional advice before accusing your landlord or property manager of the illegal rent increase.

And, of course, it is worth mentioning landlord-friendly states, in which there are no specific regulations in place regarding the amount your rent can be raised by. Still, there are laws about the proper and timely notice that landlord has to give to the renter before increasing the rent. 

For example, you cannot be asked on the 18th of July to pay $200 more starting next month if you have a 12-month lease expiring in December. That would be considered a breach of your lease agreement.

illegal actions landlord is taking

Entering Without Proper Notice

This is one of another popular illegal landlord actions that tenants might disregard if they are not well aware of the local and state laws. Your landlord might violate your right to privacy by simply stopping by every now and then to check if there is any mail for them or showing the rental to the new prospective tenants.

There are certain situations when a landlord or property manager can enter the rental without notice. For example, if there is an emergency, such as a fire or gas leak, or they believe you have abandoned the property. However, in any other cases, if they want to enter the apartment, they have to notify you first. The form and amount of notice differ in each state, and it’s usually from 24 to 48 hours.

Ensure there is a clause in your agreement that will specify the amount of notice your landlord must give before entering your apartment. This is especially important if you rent a place in one of the states where there are no specific statutes on entry notice, such as Arkansas, Texas, or North Carolina. 

More like this: Security Deposit 101: Definition and All Your Questions, Answered

Unreasonable Security Deposit Deductions

Security deposit issues are another stumbling block many renters and landlords encounter. There are specific grounds for the landlord to withhold a security deposit or some part of it. Usually, it is used to cover damages beyond normal wear and tear and unpaid rent. But, there are a few additional occasions when the landlord can withhold a security deposit, which vary by state. It can also include covering for utility bills, late fees, and cleaning services if the rental was left in an inappropriate condition. 

Also, each state dictates the time limit in which the security deposit has to be returned to the tenant. Note that usually, you can also expect an itemized list of charges in writing if the landlord decides to subtract some part of the deposit.


We believe that the landlord can make some of these mistakes by negligence or simply because they might be inexperienced in running a rental business. Also, sometimes it might happen as a way to get back for not paying rent or other wrongdoings of the tenant. 

That’s why it’s recommended to start with a polite conversation and try to see why this situation happened in the first place. And, if you cannot resolve the conflict in a peaceful manner, only then should you resort to legal action.

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