9 Expensive Lies Your Landlord Might Tell You

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Before you sign a new rental contract, make sure your landlord hasn’t written any of these expensive lies into your agreement.
Updated April 3, 2023
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In the ideal renting situation, your landlord would be straightforward about the property’s condition, charge you a fair rent, and go out of their way to fix problems before they even happen.

If you’ve rented before, however, you know a good landlord can be hard to find. Fortunately, tenants have rights, and just because your landlord says something doesn’t make it true.

If you hear your landlord spinning any of the following lies, you’re well within your rights to push back. And if you haven’t signed a rental agreement yet, you can reduce your financial stress by just walking away.

I can let myself in whenever I like

JackF/Adobe  woman talking to debt collector

As a renter, you’re temporarily leasing someone else’s property. It makes sense that you’d believe a landlord who says they’re entitled to come by your apartment whenever they want to.

However, as soon as you sign the lease, the landlord’s property is considered legally yours until the lease is up. While your landlord still has legal obligations like ensuring your property is in good repair, they can’t barge into your home without warning.

Each state has different rules about when a landlord can enter a renter’s property, including how much notice the landlord must give before they come by for a quick repair.

No matter where in the U.S. you live, though, landlords can’t enter the property you’re leasing from them without warning, except in extremely specific situations.

I can evict you without notice

steheap/Adobe  man in suit handing an eviction notice to a defaulting renter

Landlords might tell you that because you’re occupying property they own, they can force you to move with no warning.

But in most situations and states, evicting a tenant without warning is illegal, even if the landlord provides a reason like “my relatives need somewhere to stay” or “I want to raise the rent and find tenants who can afford to pay me more.”

A landlord usually has to give you written notice you’re being evicted. They also have to follow the terms laid out in their lease before they can kick you out. For example, if your lease is up, a landlord can evict you instead of renewing.

But for the most part, they can’t evict you in the middle of a lease unless you’ve failed to pay rent or have substantially damaged the property.

I can keep your security deposit

bongkarn/Adobe businessman in the meeting with his lawyer to pay a legal consultation fee

In most states, landlords can require a security deposit to pay for any repairs that need to be made once you move out. Landlords can usually also take money out of your deposit if you fail to pay rent or violate another financial term of your lease agreement.

However, landlords can’t use your deposit to cover the costs of typical wear and tear that happens whenever a person occupies a property. Those costs are legally considered the landlord’s responsibility, not yours.

If your landlord tells you upfront that you probably won’t get any of your deposit back, that’s a huge warning sign.

And if you don’t receive any of your money back even though you were current on rent and didn’t damage the property, you might be able to sue the landlord to get your money back.

I can raise your rent anytime

JJ Gouin/Adobe rent increase notice

While landlords are allowed to raise their tenants’ rents, there are a lot of legal protections in place to prevent them from doing so at random and with no warning.

As with evicting tenants, landlords usually have to give written notice that they’re raising your rent; they can’t demand you pay more right away.

Landlords also can’t just charge you whatever they want. Along with federal regulations governing fair rent, most states have codes and guidelines that regulate how much landlords are allowed to charge.

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I can use your security deposit to pay for routine cleaning

Mediteraneo/Adobe pest control in the apartment

While your landlord can use money from your deposit to pay for any major damage you cause to their property, they can’t use your deposit (or charge you a fee) to pay for regular, expected cleanings, such as carpet cleaning or pest control.

They also can’t require you to pay for routine cleaning before you move in or out — even if they’ve written payment for cleaning into your contract.

I can charge you extra fees, including late payment fees

Paolese/Adobe woman calculating domestic expenses feeling depressed

It’s true that landlords can charge late payment fees in most states. However, landlords have to comply with state laws that list how much they can charge and what exactly “late” means when it comes to late payments.

Plus, if your landlord doesn’t list late payment fees in your lease, they almost certainly can’t retroactively add and collect a late fee.

I don't need to fix problems or pay for repairs

Andrey Popov/Adobe technician repairing air conditioner

Landlords are legally required to fix problems that make their property uninhabitable. “Uninhabitable” is a fairly broad term, but a residence is considered uninhabitable if it doesn’t meet your city, county, or state’s building codes.

For instance, landlords in Arizona have to include and repair air conditioning for their property to be considered habitable.

If your landlord tells you they won’t repair an issue that impacts your quality of life on their property, look up your state’s tenants' rights and building codes.

You might be legally allowed to refuse to pay rent until the issue is resolved or to take your landlord to court if they don’t fix the issue in a timely fashion.

Remember too that landlords must cover the costs of these repairs out of pocket — not by charging you extra rent or withholding your security deposit.

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I don’t have to deal with hazards on the property

Andrey Popov/Adobe shocked woman looking at mold on wall

A landlord doesn’t necessarily have to disclose every potential problem with their property, especially minor issues like a running toilet or leaky faucet.

But they have to disclose conditions that could be a huge risk to their tenants’ health, including mold, lead, or asbestos.

The landlord isn’t always required to fix these issues before you move in, but they have to make you aware of them so you decide whether or not to accept the conditions.

If you or the landlord detect any hazardous conditions in the middle of your lease, the landlord must fix them to ensure the property is habitable and up to code.

If you fall behind on rent, I can shut off your utilities or seize your property

Володимир Захаров/Adobe bearded man with soapy head standing in the bathroom

Landlords can take certain legal actions if you stop paying rent, like serving you with a notice of eviction or using money from your deposit to cover rent.

However, landlords can’t take your personal property to use as collateral if you don’t pay rent. They also can’t shut off utilities that render a property habitable, such as gas, water, or electricity.

Bottom line

GutesaMilos/Adobe young couple talking to their estate agent

Even if a landlord includes an expensive, illegal provision in a rental agreement that you signed, they can’t legally enforce that provision. If your landlord has said any of these lies to your face or written them into your contract, push back.

Renting someone else’s property doesn’t mean you have to turn over every nickel and dime they demand, especially if you’re already struggling to find ways to pay your rent every month.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.

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