Landlord / Tenant Rights - Frequently Asked Questions
Must a lease be in writing?
Any lease lasting longer than 1 year needs to be in writing in order to satisfy the Statute of Frauds rule. Although leases lasting less than one year (i.e. - month to month) do not need to be in writing to be enforceable, it is generally a good practice to have a written lease with all the stated terms of the agreement. A written document prevents any misunderstandings should a dispute arise and clarifies the responsibilities of each party under the lease. A written lease agreement should include the names of the tenant(s) and landlord(s), the address of the premises, term of occupancy, rent amount, security deposit amount, allowances and restrictions such as pets, utility stipulations, allowance for subletting, maximum occupancy, reasons landlord may enter the premises, and responsibilities for legal fees should a dispute arise.
Can a landlord enter the premises without the tenant’s permission?
A tenant has a right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the rented premises. Any willful violation by a landlord or their agent may give rise to collectible damages or abatement owed to the tenant. With that in mind, a landlord may enter the premises for various reasons, such as routine maintenance, repairs, necessary inspections, or for showing the apartment to prospective renters or buyers.
How can a tenant be legally evicted?
An eviction proceeding, also known as a summary proceeding, must be instituted through the district court of where the premise is located. To begin any summary proceeding, a landlord must first serve the tenant with two papers: (1) the “Notice of Petition” has the time, date, and place of the court hearing and (2) the “Petition” states the reasons which the tenant is being evicted.
The two most common reasons for eviction are known as “Holdover Proceedings” and “Non-payment Proceedings.” A holdover is when a tenant remains in the premises after the lease has expired. A non-payment proceeding results from unpaid rent. Other reasons for eviction include direct violations of the lease (such as pets), severe or continuous damage to property, or illegal use of the premises. However, in certain situations tenants may be entitled to a chance to cure the problem before they can be legally evicted. A detailed account of the reason for eviction must be stated on the Petition and evidence should be readily available.
Once the tenant has been put on notice, the next step would be attending court. Each side is expected to attend the court date and present their side of the case through testimony and/or evidence. The judge may then render a decision at that time or adjourn the case for a later date. In case the judge awards a Warrant of Eviction, then the Sheriff or other law officer will carry out the order. Under no circumstances should the landlord resort to “self-help” measures in removing the tenant forcibly or preventing entry by any means.
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