A bad landlord can make your life very difficult. Things used to be much harder for tenants with bad landlords, but state and federal "tenant's rights" laws increased protection for tenants and made dealing with a bad landlord much easier. Knowing your rights can help you deal with your bad landlord—and protect yourself—much more effectively.

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1. You Must Be Notified Before You Can Be Evicted

No matter what your bad landlord may say, you cannot be evicted unless you are properly notified, following the requirements of the state and county where you live. Laws vary; your landlord may be required to notify you anywhere from two weeks to a full rental term prior to evicting you. In most states, the sheriff must provide the final notice or the notice must be given by official mail. The landlord telling you to get out is not sufficient notice under any state law.

2. You Must Be Given the Opportunity to Hear the Charges Against You

If the landlord claims that you have damaged property or owe money, you must be given the opportunity to hear those charges and respond to them. In fact, in the majority of states, you must be given the opportunity to make repairs to the property before being sued. Once a suit is brought against you, you must be allowed to respond and challenge the allegations. In many states, the burden of proof in these suits is on the landlord, particularly if the dispute relates to something that is not normally the tenant's responsibility.

3. You Can Add Locks to the Doors

While changing the main door locks constitutes tampering with the structure of the house, and is therefore forbidden in some states, you can usually add locks to keep the landlord from entering the property without prior notice. You must still allow your landlord to visit the property at reasonable times, to make repairs or simply to inspect the property, but you don't have to worry about a bad landlord barging in on you.

If you’re having trouble with your landlord, a tenant’s rights lawyer can help. Get connected with a lawyer.

Get started Visit our Tenant Center Get tenant documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Get started Visit our Tenant Center Get tenant documents and ask a lawyer your questions.