Which States Have the Best and Worst Laws for Renters?
From RentCafe, March 6, 2018
The air conditioning system in your rental apartment broke 3 days ago, it’s 100F degrees outside and more humid than the Amazonian rainforest. Your landlord has promised to repair it soon, but three days later he’s not even returning your phone calls. As much as you love the sauna, living in one day and night is not your idea of “home spa”. What can you do?
The answer depends on where you live. Your legal options can be very different from state to state. To find out exactly how different, we compared and contrasted landlord-tenant laws in 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. We focused on 10 common aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, which include security deposits, rent increases, the warranty of habitability and eviction notices. We then created a ranking system based on the best and worst scenarios for renters and landlords (more on how we ranked the states in the Methodology section).
Which states have the best and worst laws for renters? Here they are on a map:
Vermont ranked first among the renter-friendly states, followed closely by Delaware and Hawaii who were tied for second place. Rhode Island, Arizona, D.C., Maine and Alaska Statutes also seem to take good care of their renters according to our analysis. On the other end of the spectrum, the laws in Arkansas and West Virginia were the least friendly to their renters, with Louisiana, Georgia, Wyoming, North Carolina, Idaho, Ohio, Mississippi and Colorado following in their footsteps. Arkansas and West Virginia registered the same score on our scale, but since Arkansas is the only state where tenants can face criminal charges for failure to vacate, it earned the last place on our renter-friendly scale.
How rental laws were shaped by regional culture
The U.S. is in some ways a nation of nations, with each state having the right to create their own constitution and government. In time, this facilitated the creation of very different laws and regulations with local culture and sensibilities playing a huge role in shaping the state’s legislation.
Southern states, which used to rely mostly on agriculture during the first days of our nation, valued land ownership above all else and subsequently shaped their laws to protect landlords and their properties. Northern states, on the other hand, focused more on manufacturing and trade, encouraging constant immigration from Europe. Since most of the population worked in factories and lived in crowded cities, it only makes sense that eventually they developed more and more laws that regulated renting.
Legislation in Mountain states also seems to mostly favor landlords, but probably because renting was less common and there wasn’t much opposition from renters. Reversely, in areas where renters outnumber owners, the laws lean towards protecting renters.
States Ranked by Best Legislation for Renters
Hawaii -- Rank #2
- 1 Month of Rent -- Maximum security deposit for an unfurnished apartment on a one year lease
- 14 Days -- Deadline for returning security deposit when no deductions are imposed by landlord
- 45 Days -- Rent increase notice for month-to-month contracts
- Yes -- Tenant has the option to withhold rent for failure to provide essential services
- Yes -- Tenant is allowed to repair and deduct costs from rent
- 48 Hours -- Required notice needed from landlord before entry
- 5 Days -- Termination notice required for nonpayment of rent
- 45 Days -- Regular termination notice for month-to-month lease
- 10 Days -- Termination notice required for lease violation
- 15 Days -- How much time the tenant has to recover abandoned property after receiving notice
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