Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 12, 2020

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A tenant is a person who has the right to use and occupy rental property in accordance with a rental agreement or lease. The tenant is also referred to as the “lessee” of rental property. The tenant may use and occupy the rental property as long as s/he complies with the terms and conditions of the rental agreement, including, but not limited to, the payment of rent.

Rules Governing Landlords and Tenants

In every state, tenants are afforded certain protections under the law. While much of the agreement and rules governing the landlord-tenant relationship is set by the negotiated contract the two parties make (called the lease), these state rules may also apply to provide a tenant with various protections. 

Some examples of rules in place to protect tenants include:

  • Rules preventing a tenant from being evicted from a property if the landlord goes into foreclosure (In the event of a foreclosure, under federal tenant acts passed in 2009, generally, the tenant will have until the end of his lease or 90 days before he is evicted if his lease is month to month)
  • Rules like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act that preclude a tenant from being discriminated against when renting an apartment on the basis of his protected status (i.e. being an older person, disabled, or of a particular race, nationality, gender, etc.)
  • State laws mandating that proper eviction procedures are followed, that security deposits are returned within a set time with only reasonable deductions taken, and that a landlord maintain a premises that is safe for the tenant to live in. 

If you are entering into a landlord-tenant relationship, you should have an attorney look over your lease to ensure it is fair. If you are already bound by a rental agreement and you feel your rights are being infringed in any way, you should consult a lawyer for help.