Know Your Rights: Apartment Living

Courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee from
Courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee from

College is the time most people move into their first apartments, but not all these newly found apartment tenants know their rights.

To help with this issue, the MSU College of Law Housing Law Clinic has made a guide for tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities.

The guide is about 70 pages, but here are some of the highlights.

What can your landlord legally do? 

  • Landlords are allowed to add any provision to a lease that does not violate local, state or federal law. Legally, a landlord could make a provision such as “only red cars may be parked in the driveway.”
  • Therefore, it’s legal for landlords to prohibit smoking and pets.
  • If you are signing a lease with more one than person, the landlord can make their obligations joint and several. This means tenants are not only responsible for their individual obligations, but the rest of the tenants’ as well.
  • What does that mean for you? It could mean if your roommate decides to go home in the middle of the semester, you will not only have to pay your rent, but her rent as well.
  • Not all leases have this provision. Check your lease before you sign.

What’s Your Rights?

  • Landlords have 30 days after you move out to give your entire security deposit back or send you an itemized list of damages. The landlord could also use the security deposit for any outstanding rent.
  • Tenants can only be evicted for nine reasons including nonpayment of rent, extensive and continuing physical injury to
    property, serious and continuing health hazard, violation of a lease provision (and the lease allows for termination) and holding over after the natural end of lease term.
  • Landlords must give you an eviction notice. If your landlord is going to convict you, he or she must give written notification, which includes the tenant’s name, address or rental property description, reason for the eviction, time to take remedial action date and landlord’s signature.
  • If you are found to engage in any illegal drug activity on premises, and there is a formal police report, the landlord could give you a 24-hour notice to leave. However, there must be a provision in the lease that allows this action.
  • If the landlord is evicting the tenant for nonpayment of rent or extensive and continuing physical injury to property, they must give a seven-day notice.

If you believe your rights have violated, you can make a complaint. One of the easiest ways to make a complaint is submitting it online with the Rental Protection Agency.

Check out our other segments of  “Know Your Rights.”

“Know Your Rights: When Partying Goes Wrong”

Arielle Hines is the editor of CMU Insider. You can contact her at 

This is not intended to serve as official legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you need legal assistance. 

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