The 10 Tenants’ Common Questions

A Comprehensive Guide to Tenants’ Common Questions: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Being a tenant can be both exciting and challenging. Finding a place to call home comes with a set of responsibilities and rights that every tenant should be aware of. Whether you’re a first-time renter or have experience renting properties, you might have questions about the rental process, lease agreements and your rights and obligations.

In this article, we’ll address some of the 10 most common questions tenants encounter. These answers will help you make the best decision as part of your rental journey.

1. What is a security deposit? What is its purpose?

What is a security deposit? What is its purpose?

A security deposit is a crucial element of the landlord-tenant relationship. It serves as a safety net for landlords against potential damages to the property or unpaid rent. Tenants are incentivized to keep the property in good condition in hopes that the deposit will be returned to them when they eventually move out.

In this section, we will delve into the concept of security deposits, their purpose, regulations and ways to ensure a smooth process for both landlords and tenants.

A. The Purpose of Security Deposits

The primary purpose of a security deposit is to provide financial protection for landlords in case a tenant causes damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. It also serves as a safeguard if the tenant fails to pay rent or violates other terms of the lease agreement. Security deposits act as a form of collateral, giving landlords peace of mind that they have funds to cover potential losses.

B. Regulations and Limits

Security deposit regulations vary from country to country and even from state to state within a country. Governments often set legal limits on the amount that landlords can charge for security deposits to prevent abuse and ensure affordability for tenants.

In the United States, for instance, many states have laws that limit the security deposit to a specific amount, typically one to two months’ rent. Landlords are required to follow strict guidelines when handling security deposits, including providing a written agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the deposit and the circumstances under which it may be withheld.

Other regulations might cover aspects such as the time frame within which the landlord must return the deposit after the tenant moves out or whether the deposit should be placed in a separate, interest-bearing account.

C. Common Issues Surrounding Security Deposits

Despite regulations in place, security deposit disputes are not uncommon. Common issues that arise include:

  • Deposit Deductions: Landlords may deduct amounts from the security deposit to cover repair costs for damages beyond normal wear and tear. However, defining what constitutes “normal wear and tear” can be subjective, leading to disputes between landlords and tenants.
  • Return Timeframe: Some landlords may delay returning the security deposit, while others may not provide a clear explanation for the deductions made, causing frustration for tenants.
  • Interest on Deposit: In some regions, landlords are required to pay interest on the security deposit amount. Failure to do so may result in further disagreements.
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D. Tips for Landlords and Tenants

Both landlords and tenants can take proactive measures to ensure a smooth security deposit process.


  • Thorough Documentation: Before a tenant moves in, conduct a detailed inspection of the property, documenting its condition with photos or videos. This provides evidence of the property’s state before the tenant’s occupancy. This is very important to a landlord’s real estate investment.
  • Transparent Communication: Clearly communicate the terms of the security deposit in the lease agreement. Discuss with the tenant the conditions under which deductions may occur and how the deposit will be handled.
  • Timely Return: When the tenant moves out, promptly inspect the property and assess any damage. If deductions are necessary, provide a detailed itemized list explaining each deduction and return the remaining deposit within the legally required timeframe.


  • Read the Lease Agreement: Carefully read and understand its terms before signing. If you have any questions or concerns about the security deposit terms, discuss them with the landlord.
  • Maintain the Property: Take care of the rental property and report any damages or maintenance issues to the landlord promptly. Keeping the property clean and well-maintained can prevent disputes over damage.
  • Document Condition: Upon moving in, document the property’s condition with photos or videos and share them with the landlord. This ensures a clear record of the property’s state at the beginning of the tenancy.

In conclusion, security deposits play a vital role in protecting the interests of landlords in a rental agreement. By adhering to local regulations and maintaining open communication, landlords and tenants can navigate security deposit issues and foster a positive rental experience for all parties involved.

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2. What happens when an owner decides to sell the property you are renting?

What happens when an owner decides to sell the property you are renting?

The process of selling a property can be a daunting and uncertain time for tenants. Renters often worry about how the sale will impact their living arrangements, lease agreements, and overall housing security.

Fortunately, in many jurisdictions, there are specific tenant rights in place to safeguard their interests during a property sale. Understanding these rights is crucial for tenants to navigate the situation with confidence and protect their housing situation. In this section, we will delve into the essential aspects of tenants’ rights when an owner decides to sell their rental property.

  1. A. Lease Agreement Protections: The foundation of tenant rights during a property sale lies in the lease agreement. In most cases, when a new owner takes over the property, they also assume the existing lease agreement. This means that the terms and conditions of the lease, such as the rental amount, lease duration and other provisions, remain intact until the lease’s expiration date.
  2. B. Notice Requirements: Landlords or property owners are generally required to provide tenants with sufficient notice before selling the property. The length of notice can vary depending on local and state laws, but it typically ranges from 30 to 90 days. This advance notice allows tenants to prepare for the transition and find alternative housing if necessary.
  3. C. Right to Continue Tenancy: In many jurisdictions, tenants have the right to continue their tenancy even after the property changes ownership. This means that the new owner must respect the existing lease and cannot force the tenants to leave simply because they bought the property. Exceptions to this right may exist in some situations, such as if the new owner intends to occupy the property themselves or in certain cases of eviction for legitimate reasons.
  4. D. Security Deposits: Security deposits are often a significant concern for tenants during a property sale. Generally, the new owner becomes responsible for handling the tenant’s security deposit and ensuring its safekeeping. When the tenancy ends, the new owner must either return the security deposit to the tenant or follow the legal procedures for deducting permissible expenses and returning the remaining balance.
  5. E. Relocation Assistance: In some locations, there are laws that require the new property owner to provide relocation assistance to tenants if they plan to convert the property to a different use or demolish it. This assistance is meant to help tenants cover moving costs and ease the burden of finding new accommodation.
  6. F. Rent Control Regulations: Certain cities and states have rent control regulations that limit the amount by which landlords can increase rents. Even when the property changes ownership, these rent control laws remain in effect, providing tenants with protection against exorbitant rent hikes.
  7. G. Tenant Buyout Agreements: During a property sale, tenants may be approached with buyout offers from the new owner or real estate developers. While accepting such offers is entirely voluntary, tenants should approach these agreements with caution. It is essential to fully understand the terms of the buyout and, if needed, consult with a legal professional to ensure their rights and interests are protected.

When a property owner decides to sell, it can create uncertainty and anxiety for tenants. However, understanding their rights can help alleviate some of these concerns and ensure that tenants are protected during the transition.

Lease agreement protections, notice requirements, the right to continue tenancy and other legal safeguards play a crucial role in preserving tenants’ housing security. As a tenant facing a property sale, it is essential to be well informed and, if needed, seek legal advice to ensure that your rights are upheld throughout the process.

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3. Do squatters have rights?  

Do squatters have rights?

“Squatters’ rights” refers to the legal principle known as adverse possession, which allows someone who occupies or uses another person’s property without permission to claim ownership of that property under certain circumstances. The specifics of squatters’ rights can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction, as laws and regulations differ between countries and even states or provinces within a country. We’ll provide a general overview of the concept, but it’s crucial to consult local laws for the most current information.

  1. A. Adverse Possession/Squatters’ Rights typically require the following elements: Open and Notorious Use: The squatter’s occupation of the property must be visible and known to others. They cannot hide their presence; it must be open and obvious.
  2. B. Actual and Exclusive Possession: The squatter must physically possess and control the property without sharing it with the true owner or the public.
  3. C. Continuous Use: The occupation must be continuous for a specified period, typically several years. The length of time required varies by jurisdiction.
  4. D. Hostile and Adverse Claim: The squatter’s possession must be against the rights of the true property owner. This means they are not there with the owner’s permission.
  5. E. Good Faith (in some jurisdictions): Some jurisdictions require the squatter to believe in good faith that they have a right to occupy the property.
  6. F. No Interruption (in some jurisdictions): In some places, the continuous possession must not have been interrupted by the true property owner during the required period.
  7. G. Purpose of Adverse Possession/Squatters’ Rights: The concept of adverse possession is intended to prevent land from lying abandoned and unused for extended periods. It encourages landowners to be diligent in protecting their property rights and maintaining control over their land.
  8. H. Limitations and Exceptions: It’s crucial to recognize that adverse possession laws can be complex, and their application can vary widely based on local regulations. Moreover, adverse possession claims are often subject to legal challenges, especially if the true property owner becomes aware of the squatter’s presence.Furthermore, squatters’ rights typically do not apply to public land, government-owned property, or property owned by religious institutions.
  9. I. Preventing Squatters: To prevent squatters from making adverse possession claims on your property, it’s important to remain vigilant about who has access to your land. Regularly inspect and secure your property, pay property taxes, and take appropriate legal action if you become aware of unauthorized occupants.

“Squatters’ rights” refer to adverse possession, a legal concept that allows individuals who openly and continuously occupy someone else’s property without permission to potentially claim ownership over time. However, the specific requirements and applicability of squatters’ rights vary considerably depending on the jurisdiction. Landowners must be aware of their local laws and take necessary steps to protect their property from unauthorized occupation.

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4. What are tenants’ rights in case of eviction?

What are tenants’ rights in case of eviction?

In certain circumstances, landlords have the right to evict their tenants, or force them to move out. Tenants typically have some rights to protect them in such situations. Here are some typical tenant rights, which may vary by jurisdiction.

  1. A. Notice: A landlord must provide the tenant with a written notice of eviction. The notice must state the reason for eviction and the date by which the tenant must vacate the premises. The length of notice required varies depending on local laws and the reason for eviction.
  2. B. Right to Contest: Tenants have the right to contest an eviction in court. They can present evidence and arguments to the judge in order to try to prevent the eviction or delay it.
  3. C. Right to Remain on the Premises: In some cases, tenants may have the right to remain on the premises until a court order for eviction is issued. This is known as a stay of execution and can provide tenants with extra time to find alternative housing.
  4. D. Right to Proper Eviction Procedures: Landlords must follow proper eviction procedures, including obtaining a court order for eviction. They cannot use self-help measures, such as changing the locks or removing the tenant’s belongings, to force the tenant to leave.
  5. E. Protection from Retaliation: Landlords are prohibited from retaliating against tenants for asserting their rights. This means that they cannot evict a tenant in retaliation for reporting code violations, requesting repairs or engaging in other protected activities.
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5. Can tenants make changes to the rental property?

Can tenants make changes to the rental property?

Tenants generally do not have the authority to make changes to the rental property without the consent of the landlord. Any modifications or alterations to the property should be discussed and agreed upon between the tenant and the landlord in writing.

If a tenant wants to make changes to the rental property, they should communicate their request to the landlord and explain the reason for the requested changes. The landlord can then evaluate the request and decide whether to allow the tenant to make the desired changes.

It is important for tenants to remember that they are responsible for maintaining the property in its original condition unless otherwise specified in the rental agreement. Making unauthorized changes or alterations to the property could result in the tenant being held responsible for any damages or loss of value caused by the changes.

6. Can a tenant break a lease?

Can a tenant break a lease?

A tenant can break a lease agreement, but there may be consequences and financial obligations involved. Breaking a lease agreement typically occurs when a tenant vacates the rental property before the lease term is over without fulfilling the obligations stated in the lease agreement.

Depending on the terms of the lease agreement and local laws, a tenant may be required to pay early termination fees, continue paying rent until a new tenant is found or be held responsible for the remaining rent for the duration of the lease term. Landlords may also have the right to take legal action to recover any financial losses incurred due to the tenant breaking the lease.

However, there may be situations where a tenant is allowed to break a lease agreement without penalty, such as if there are health or safety concerns with the rental property, if the landlord fails to uphold their responsibilities or if the tenant is a victim of domestic violence. It is important to review the lease agreement and local laws and, if necessary, consult with a legal professional to understand the specific rights and obligations in a given situation.

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7. Other Common Questions Tenants May Ask

Other Common Questions Tenants May Ask

A. Can the landlord increase the rent during the lease term?

Rent increases during an active lease term can be a concern for many tenants. For a renter paying $750 per month, an increase to $850 may seem unreasonable, but is it legal? Can landlords really do that? Generally, landlords are not allowed to raise the rent until the lease agreement expires, unless there’s a clause in the contract that permits them to do so. Local rent control laws may also apply in certain areas, which can limit how much and how often landlords can increase rent.

B. Can a tenant make changes to the rental property?

Again, moving into your own place may have you hoping to change the colors, knock down a wall or make some other cosmetic change, but this is typically not okay. Tenants often wonder if they can make alterations or improvements to the rental property. In general, major alterations require the landlord’s approval in writing. Minor changes like adding curtains or painting, with the landlord’s consent, may be acceptable, but it’s essential to get any agreements in writing to avoid misunderstandings later.

C. What are the landlord’s responsibilities for repairs and maintenance?

Maintaining a habitable living space is the landlord’s responsibility. This includes ensuring basic utilities, such as heating, plumbing and electricity, are in proper working order. Tenants should promptly report any issues to the landlord in writing, giving them a reasonable amount of time to address the problem. Keep a log of when issues are reported. This could be important if repairs and maintenance are not completed in a timely manner.

D. Can a tenant break the lease agreement?

Life circumstances can change unexpectedly, and tenants might need to break their lease before its natural expiration. Most leases have an early termination clause that outlines the process and potential penalties for breaking the lease. In some cases, tenants may be able to negotiate with the landlord to find a mutually acceptable solution.

E. Are there restrictions on the number of occupants in a rental unit?

Landlords may impose occupancy limits based on local laws and safety regulations. These limits are typically in place to prevent overcrowding and ensure that the property can accommodate its residents safely.


Renting a property is a significant decision, and tenants should be informed about their rights and responsibilities to ensure a positive and smooth rental experience. By understanding common questions and seeking clarification, when necessary, tenants can protect their interests and foster a respectful and transparent relationship with their landlords.

From knowing all about security deposits to how to break a lease, information is power. When renters are informed, they are better able to navigate the real estate rental market.

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