As a tenant, you’re protected against overbearing or unlawful landlord practices under federal, state, and local laws. You don’t need a lease to rent a property or retain basic tenant rights in the United States.
You are considered a tenant-at-will if you rent an apartment, home, or condo without a written lease. The laws governing the relationship between property owners and tenants apply even when no written lease exists.
In other words, you have the same rights as a tenant with a written lease. In this article, we’ll walk you through your rights as a tenant without a lease. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions on this topic. Here are your rights as a tenant.
Right to Fair Housing
The Fair Housing Act is a U.S. federal legislation designed to protect individuals and families from discrimination when engaging in housing-related activities, including renting.
For instance, the Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords or property managers from discriminating against tenants or potential renters based on the following:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
If you’re a tenant without a lease, the property owner can’t evict you, limit your privileges, or set different terms and conditions for your tenancy based on the above. Your state and local laws may include more tenant rights.
Right to a Habitable Home
State and local laws entitle every tenant to a safe and liveable residence, whether you have a written lease or not. Your right to habitable premises means the rental unit must meet the basic requirements. It should have:
- Sturdy floors and walls that aren’t in danger of impending collapse
- A roof that keeps out rain and snow
- Reliable heat
- Sufficient hot water
- Sufficient protection from criminal intrusion
- Safe from environmental hazards, such as mold, asbestos, and lead
All states — except Arkansas — have laws requiring property owners to provide habitable rentals. This provision is referred to as the ‘implied warranty of habitability.’ Implied warranty of habitability applies even without a written lease or formal agreement.
Right to Advance Notice of Eviction
When you rent an apartment, condominium, or home without a lease or written agreement, you become a tenant-at-will. Your status as a month-to-month tenant gives the landlord the right to terminate your tenancy at the end of any month.
Your landlord doesn’t have to give a reason for not renewing your tenancy. However, they must give you proper notice. In most cases, the property owner must issue a written eviction notice at least 30 days in advance.
Right to Privacy
The right to privacy is a basic provision that applies to all tenants. Your landlord cannot enter your home at any time, even if they own it. If your landlord wants to access your rental for any reason, they must seek your permission as the tenant.
However, there are a few circumstances under which your landlord can enter your home:
- To make repairs: Your landlord is allowed to access your property to make repairs
- During emergencies. Your landlord can enter your rental during an emergency, such as a water pipe burst or fire.
- To show prospective buyers/renters. Your landlord reserves the right to enter the premises to show the unit to a prospective buyer or renter.
The landlord must give you a 24-hour notice before entering your rental unit to make repairs or show a potential buyer. If an emergency poses a risk of injury or property damage, your landlord can access the unit without prior notice or permission.
Right to Your Security Deposit
When you move into a new property, your landlord can demand a security deposit. The security deposit covers the cost of any damages to the property during your occupancy. The landlord is required to give back the security deposit — minus certain deductions — after you move out.
In most states, there’s a statute specifying how much time a landlord may take to give back the security deposit after you move out and return the keys. Landlords typically have 14–30 days to return the security deposit. This period may be shorter for a tenant without a lease.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Landlord Kick You Out Without a Lease?
With no written lease in place, the tenant and landlord can end the tenancy at any time. However, the landlord must give you an advance notice before asking you to move out. Typically, landlords need to provide a 30-day notice.
What Rights Do Tenants Have Without a Lease?
The laws governing landlord-tenant relationships in the United States apply even when there is no written agreement or lease. Therefore, you have the same rights as a tenant with a lease even if you don’t have a written agreement.
- Right to fair housing
- Right to a liveable home
- Right to privacy
- Right to advanced notice of eviction
- Right to your security deposit
How Much Time Does a Landlord Have to Give a Tenant to Move Out?
As a tenant without a lease, your landlord must give you an advance notice in writing. In most areas, it’s 30 days after your next rent due date. In this case, you have at least a month to look for a new place and move out.
Can a Landlord Kick You Out for No Reason?
Your landlord doesn’t have to specify the reasons for ending your tenancy as long as they give you proper notice. However, a property owner can’t kick you out for no reason if you live in an area with strong renters’ protections.
In most states, tenants-at-will have the same rights as renters with a written agreement. Because there’s no shortage of unscrupulous landlords looking to take advantage of tenants without a lease, you must know your rights as a tenant without a lease. This will allow you to stand up for yourself.