Renting a home in an important decision. To help you gain a clear understanding of the relationship between a tenant and a landlord, refer to information below. This information comes directly from the NC Real Estate Commission’s Brochure on Renting Residential Real Estate. Please contact one of our leasing agents if you have further questions on any of these issues.
Q. My landlord gave me a written lease but it does not include his earlier oral promise to replace worn carpet. Can I rely on his oral promise?
A. No. Do not rely on a prior oral agreement with the landlord. To make it “legal,” have it written into the lease and initialed by both of you.
Q. Does the landlord have to re-paint the property before I move in?
A. No. The landlord has no obligation to paint a unit each time it is rented.
Q. Can the landlord charge me more because I have a pet?
A. Yes. The landlord may charge extra rent and/or a non-refundable pet fee in exchange for allowing you to keep a pet in the property. Furthermore, the landlord may charge more for some breeds or sizes of pets, or may prohibit pets completely.
Q. Can my landlord come into my property periodically just to check its condition?
A. Yes. Many leases give the landlord the right to enter the property to inspect it to see if the tenant is complying with his obligations, to make necessary repairs, to place “for rent” or “for sale” signs on it, or to show it to prospective purchasers or tenants. Entry should be at reasonable times and with reasonable notice.
Q. Can’t I always terminate my lease with 30 days’ notice to the landlord?
A. No. If your lease provides for a definite termination date, you are obligated for the entire lease term, even if you have a good reason for leaving, such as illness or job transfer. Only termination due to certain military transfers is excused. If you leave early, and the landlord is unable to re-rent your property, he may sue you for the unpaid rent and damages, and/or file a negative credit report against you.
Q. Does the landlord have to repair anything in my property that breaks down? What if I signed a lease accepting the unit “as is”?
A. The landlord is responsible for some repairs, and the tenant for others.
The landlord must:
1. Comply with local building and housing codes
2. Do whatever is necessary to keep the unit in fit and habitable condition
3. Maintain in good, safe working order all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC, and other facilities or appliances he has provided, and promptly repair them when you notify him in writing (except in case of emergencies)
4. Keep all common areas in safe condition
5. Provide smoke detectors
The tenant must:
1. Keep the rental unit clean and safe
2. Dispose of trash and garbage in a clean and safe manner
3. Pay rent as promised and otherwise comply with the lease
4. Not damage or let anyone else damage the property
5. Comply with any duties imposed by local building and housing codes
6. Replace batteries in smoke detectors as needed
7. Leave the unit clean at the end of the lease and in as good condition as when you moved in, except for normal wear-and-tear
Q. If my personal property is damaged by fire or theft while I am a tenant, will the landlord compensate me for my loss?
A. Not necessarily. Many tenants assume that their belongings are protected under the landlord’s insurance. But unless the fire or theft was the result of a negligent act by the landlord, he is not responsible for your loss. Therefore, it is generally a good idea for you to purchase renter’s insurance for your protection.
Q. Can I withhold my rent if the landlord does not do the repairs?
A. No, not without a court order or the permission of the landlord. Give the landlord a written request for repairs, and keep a copy. If a reasonable time passes and the repairs are not properly done, you may seek a rent reduction in small claims court for the decreased value of your property. If the landlord ignores your request to fix the problem and your property is uninhabitable, you may be able to vacate the unit and end the landlord-tenant relationship under a legal theory called “constructive eviction.” Consult an attorney for advice.
Q. I’m renting on a month-to-month basis. What notice must I give to terminate my lease?
A. Month-to-month tenancies have no specified termination date and may be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant giving a 30-day notice to the other, as specified in the lease from the anniversary date.
Q. My landlord just sold the property I’m renting to someone else. Can the new owner evict me?
A. Probably not. If you are a tenant in possession of the property, the law presumes that the purchaser is aware of your tenancy, and requires that purchaser to honor your lease. However, you could be evicted if you agreed in your lease that you would vacate the premises upon the sale of the property.
Q. Am I responsible for paying my roommate’s share of the rent if my name is on the lease?
A. Yes. If your name is on the lease, you are legally responsible for the performance of the lease – even if your roommate’s name is also on it. Many leases require each tenant to be responsible for all rent that is due, and landlords will usually take legal action against the remaining tenant if his roommate(s) move out and the full rent is not paid.
Q. What must a landlord do to evict me?
A. A landlord may evict you for violating a provision of your lease, but must do so according to lawful procedures. Unless your lease states otherwise, when you do not pay your full rent, the landlord must first make a clear demand for payment of past due rent. If you do not pay the rent within 10 days of receiving your statement (or if you have violated your lease in another way), the landlord may file a formal “summary ejectment” complaint against you in court. Many leases permit the landlord to shorten the 10-day notice period or avoid it altogether by including a forfeiture clause. Such clauses provide that the lease terminates if you do not pay your rent within a specified number of days after it is due and may require no notice before the landlord is permitted to begin the eviction proceeding in court.