Last time, we looked briefly at some of the troubles student-tenants can face with rental housing. As we noted, these problems are often made worse because of opportunistic landlords who take advantage of their young tenants’ ignorance. The reality is that tenants, whether they are students or not, need to understand their rights as renters, or their landlords will have an easier time taking advantage of them.
North Carolina law is fairly specific about the duties landlords owe their tenants, as we as the legal remedies available to tenants when landlords fail to comply with the law. These include the duty to: keep common areas and facilities in safe condition; to comply with local building and housing code regulations; and to keep property in a fit and habitable condition.
Landlords are also responsible for providing working smoke detectors which meet established specifications and for maintaining in safe and working order electrical, plumbing, sanitary, ventilating, heating and air conditioning units, and other facilities and appliances. The latter obligation applies not only to facilities and appliances that must be provided by law, but also to those which the landlord voluntarily provides.
When it comes to the repair of facilities and appliances, landlords must be provided written notification of certain repairs, though not for others. This can be an important issue in some cases. Importantly, landlords are not able to waive any of their legal duties, though some attempt to do so by taking advantage of tenants’ ignorance. It is possible, though, for landlords and tenants to strike an agreement separate from the lease in which the tenant will fulfill the landlord’s maintenance obligations for reasonable compensation.
Whenever a tenant has good reason to believe that his or her legal rights have been breached, it is important to take action to remedy the situation. Working with an experienced attorney ensures that a tenant’s rights will be protected.