Renter rights, do we have any?

I have rented a 4 bedroom house for a year and a half. About 6 months ago I got married and adopted 5 kids, and they all moved into my house.

A few weeks ago my landlord sent me a letter saying she wanted to do a routine safety inspection. She came, she pointed out a couple things she wanted us to do, fix a doorknob, have the carpets professionally cleaned, and put a plastic curtain over the windows in the showers. We have done all that, but since then she has sent a fixit guy to do some things in the house, and he has apparently complained to her about our house being messy.

She is now calling me at work saying she is up at night terrified we are destroying the house. She just inspected it and we have fixed everything she wanted us to. What more can we do? She is now saying to me she doesn’t feel comfortable with us being there, and doesn’t want to renew our lease when it expires.

This landlord runs the largest property managing company in this area. She is basically saying she doesn’t want us to live there because we have a large family. After inspecting she found no significant problems, and we continue to spend time and energy taking care of any problems she tells us about. We can’t do anything about the fact that she wakes up in the night with visions of 5 children tearing her property apart. It isn’t reality.

We have offered to let her come inspect the house every month if she wants. My wife is in school and we will be buying a house in 1 year. If she refuses to renew our lease, we are basically out of luck, because they are the biggest property management company in town. We pay on time, we don’t damage anything, she just doesn’t like the idea of a big family living in one of her houses?!

Do we have any recourse if she refuses to renew our lease? Can we say she is discriminating against us simply because we have children? BTW we live in Washington state. Thanks in advance for any advice.

According to the Attourney General of Washington State, and assuming you’re not on a month-to-month lease, the landlord cannot evict you without cause. What’s a cause?

  • not paying rent
  • not complying with the terms of the rental agreement
  • creating a “waste or nuisance”

The last one is probably what she’s worried about:

However, she presumably has to have evidence of such activity.

I have no coherent answer, but I do have some thoughts:

  1. Your lease is over; there is absolutely never any obligation to renew a lease.

  2. You had to clean carpets, install fixtures, and repair hardware? Was this part of your lease? That’s all landlord stuff, normally.

  3. Yes, it might be discrimination, but I don’t know enough about the situation to say.

  4. If she is only the property manager, she is not your landlord; landlord OWN property.

Try here: http://www.tenantsunion.org/fairhousing.html

Unfortunately, she didn’t threaten to evict us. She just said she may refuse to renew our lease when it expires.

Do we have any recourse to prevent her from doing this without any more reason than she feels like it.

It is her prerogative to refuse to renew the lease. It is not, however, legal for her to do so because your family has moved in. That would be discriminatory and you should complain to your local Fair Housing Authority.

Why in the world is the landlord having you do stuff like fix doorknobs? That’s their responsibility.

As a landlord I know that more people means more wear and tear on the property, so in my lease I specify that the occupants will include those I list “and no others”.

You might take a look at your lease and see if it allows for other parties to live there without written permission.

The stuff she did seems pretty picky picky & not even her job like cleaning the carpets…

Anyway, at your bookstore is a book, Tenants Right’s which is what you want to know right?
Also from Nolo.com they might have one for your state.

Housing ordinances are usually enforced by local authority. Check with you local ‘Tenant Union’ or something. The city you live in should have one, though how powerful it is varies widely.

They usually have the right to say how many people can live there though, to some degree anyway, i think.

What was the Landlord’s understanding of expected occupancy when you initially rented the house prior to your getting married and adopting the 5 children? Was she onboard with the 5 kids being in the house or not?

I have some experience with residential and commercial leasing and I can tell you that in most landlord’s real world experience 5 kids and two adults in a 4 bedroom house can, and will, beat the crap out of a house an order of magnitude faster than adult occupancy (assuming we’re not talking about college rentals) . This may not be the case in your circumstance but it’s probably what is setting her off.

Do not make the assumption she cannot terminate your lease just because you have children. In most states the non- discrimination laws do not cover scenarios where the property is being used beyond the maximum occupancy specified in the original lease agreement (assuming the lease occupancy restrictions comply with the housing code).

In the end it’s basically a risk/reward projection on her part. She’s freaking out because real world incipient risk the 5 kids represent. See if offering to double or triple the amount of the deposit if the lease is renewed changes her tune.

You should get an attorney who specializes in lanldord/tenant law or contact the local legal aid society (if one exists). They deal with these types of cases all the time and should be able to give you afforadable and cogent advice.

I like astro’s suggestion of offering to increase the deposit. The landlord has a legitimate concern with so many people living in a single unit, but a hefty deposit should allay(sp?) her fears. For the price of an attorney you could probably offer to quintuple the deposit and still come out ahead. The nice thing about the deposit approach is that if you don’t tear the place up you’ll get it back.

Ditto. The lease I have with my tenants even specifies the number of adults and children.

There may be other laws in your area that specify how many children may sleep in one bedroom–even what sex they can be after they’ve reached a certain age. I would think, though, that a four-bedroom house would be sufficient.

In any event, as others have said, the landlord (or his/her representative, the property manager) may decline to renew a lease for any legal reason. Proving they did so for any discriminatory reason would be your responsibility–and probably involve more lawyer’s fees, court costs, and time than you’d care to invest.

I feel pretty sure that a landlord/property manager wouldn’t mention not renewing the lease unless they’ve given it some serious thought since the property won’t be making money while it’s unoccupied–which it will be (most likely) for at least a month after you move out due to the repainting and general updating that usually occurs when someone moves out.

She has warned you. I’d be looking around.

yea, actually when i got married we signed a new lease. It specifies that my wife and 5 kids will be living there with us.

I would really hate to have to move, they are the major property management company in town, and our options would be sparse. I guess offering to raise the deposit is another option. thanks…

I don’t know, but where Ilive, it’s SOP to have a condition of the lease be that the tennants get the carpet professionally cleaned before they move out.

But then, I am a college kid.

When you move out, sure, but not just any old time the landlord wants you to.