As a renter, many laws affect you and your landlord, too. Even though some of these laws may come from the state you live in, the rest are federal laws that apply to renters in all states. Knowing these federal laws can help you see what to expect as a renter and your rights (and what your landlord can and cannot legally do). This piece will examine the top federal rental laws you should know about as a tenant.
The first thing that most people think of when it comes to federal laws that affect all renters is the Fair Housing Act. This law, enacted in 1968, states that your landlord cannot discriminate against you because of your race, skin color, sex, religion, national origin, age, familial status, or mental or physical disability. From time to time, discrimination can be subtle or take on several forms. But anyone who suspects their rental application was denied due to these reasons can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The same thing is true if your landlord refuses to make reasonable accommodations for you if you have a disability.
Fair Credit Reporting
An additional key federal law that affects renters is the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This federal law defines how a landlord can use your credit history to decide whether to rent to you or not. It states that the landlord must have your permission to run a credit check on you and that the landlord must tell you if your application was denied because of something in your credit report. You can also ask for a free copy of your credit report, a good thing to do before you apply for a rental home. That way, you can know what your potential landlord will see when they run your credit and be ready to explain anything that might raise some red flags.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because you have a service animal. They also cannot charge you additional “pet fees” or increase the amount of rent because of your service animal. If you have a service animal, you may be asked to provide proof that it is licensed and registered according to all state and local laws. A legitimate service animal is considered a reasonable accommodation that a landlord cannot legally deny.
HUD Equal Access Rule
A more recent federal law that affects renters is the HUD Equal Access Rule. This rule states that landlords and other housing providers may not refuse to rent a property because the applicant identifies as LGBTQ+. As with other forms of discrimination, turning down an application as a result of a tenant’s sexual orientation or gender identity violates federal law and can be reported to HUD.
In the end, federal law requires that anyone renting a property built before 1978 must provide tenants with information and disclosure about the potential for lead exposure. Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint, which typically flakes or chips off over time. Exposure to lead can cause serious health hazards, which is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires landlords to disclose whether the property has lead paint or not. You can also ask your landlord to send you evidence of a certified lead hazard inspection.
As a renter, knowing the federal laws that apply to you and your landlord can help you avoid falling victim to unscrupulous property owners. But if you want to ensure that you will be treated legally and with respect, contact Real Property Management Principles. Our Smithville property management professionals understand and comply with federal, state, and local laws. Contact us today to learn more or view our listings online.
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.