Leasing or renting an apartment is essentially a legal transaction, but that doesn’t mean every property owner obeys every law. By familiarizing yourself with some common laws, you’ll be better prepared to protect your rights. This can make a big difference in the experience you have in dealing with your next landlord.

Be Wary of Discrimination

Most people know that the discrimination laws prevent property owners from refusing to rent to someone based on their gender or race. While this is true, discrimination also concerns age, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. Some states may extend rights to other groups, so be sure to check your local laws.

Read Your Lease Carefully

Your lease is a binding contract between you and the property owner. As such, it should contain all of the terms for the rental of the property, including required deposits, rules about pets and guests, and the financial obligations of each party. If something seems to be missing or seems suspicious, it’s up to you to investigate the matter before signing the lease agreement.

Your Landlord Must Provide a Safe Living Situation

There are certain obligations every property owner must meet to ensure you’re safe, while you occupy their property. This means ensuring the home is free of dangerous defects, such as broken steps and missing handrails. It also requires that the property have heat, hot and cold running water, and other basic amenities. Some states also stipulate that the landlord is responsible for keeping the unit pest free, so make sure you know the law in your state prior to reading and signing the lease.

Repairs Must Be Made in a Timely Manner

Once you make a complaint to your landlord about a need for repairs, the landlord has a certain amount of time to begin those repairs. If repairs aren’t completed within a reasonable timeframe, and the broken item affects your health or safety, you have the legal right to withhold the payment of rent.

There may be more laws that affect your rights as a tenant, so it can benefit you to become familiar with them. Local ordinances, as well as state and federal laws, can ensure you’re protected in the tenant-landlord relationship. Even if your landlord seems honest, he or she may not be familiar with all of the laws, so it’s in your best interests to learn them.