A house and a blue sky with a for rent sign

5 Worst States for Renter's Rights

The classic American dream calls for homeownership, but many people are renting instead. Whether they can’t afford to buy a home or simply don’t want to, renters need to be aware of their state’s landlord-tenant laws. Some states are more lenient and hold landlords accountable for more responsibilities, but these five states have straight-up medieval laws on the books.

  1. Montana
    Montana’s laws are mindboggling. When most states outline the notice times for lease agreement violations, all offenses have a uniform period of time. On the other hand, Montana’s unclear schedule is all over the place. If you’ve been hiding a pet in the apartment, you have three days to resolve the issue. Did you change the locks? You only have 24 hours to revert everything. General lease breaches allow for 14 days, but if you’ve already broken the lease once, you only have five.
  2. Arkansas
    Arkansas holds the honor of being the only state without an “implied warranty of hospitality”. Hospitality, in this instance, doesn’t take the form of a new tenant welcome packet—Arkansan landlords are not required to repair rental properties. Since landlords aren’t required to fix anything in your home, be it rotted floors or black mold, you have the choice of reporting them to code; that doesn’t do some renters any good, as landlords have evicted residents in retaliation. In almost all Arkansas counties, landlords can also arrest tenants who owe late rent. Tenants can plead innocence…if they can afford to pay all of the rent due. Well, the amount that the landlord says is due.
  3. Georgia
    Montana landlords can evict you if you’re three days late on rent. Arkansas landlords can evict after ten. Georgia landlords can give you an eviction notice the following day. You’ll then be slammed with a court summons. At least you can pay your late rent before your court date, as long as this is your first incident. If you’ve been late on rent more than once in a 12 month period, your landlord can legally kick you to the curb. Whether you were laid off from work or had a medical emergency, in the eyes of Georgia law, there is no good reason for missing rent. At least there’s a loophole, albeit a tiny one: if you cover the costs of home repairs, you can deduct the costs from your rent. You just need to hope the landlord claims he was aware of the damage.
  4. South Dakota
    Compared to the other four wonderful states on our list, South Dakota is slightly less harsh. Landlords are required to provide maintenance on their properties, and they are forbidden from irrational fees or evictions. However, the regulations regarding lease violations are severely harsh: it doesn’t matter how you breached the terms of your lease agreement, any violation is considered a cancellation of the lease. You have three days to pack your bags and zero chances to fix the problem.
  5. West Virginia
    Think twice before renting a home in West Virginia. After your moment of contemplation, pore over the state’s landlord-tenant laws. In West Virginia, a landlord can essentially evict you at any time. She or he can break the news in any form or fashion; many states require written notice after a set amount of time. Presumably, a West Virginia landlord can call hours after rent is late and tell you that you’re evicted. The landlord can evict you via text message. The landlord can even holler at your window, if he’s so inclined. Or if he decides that talking to you is too much of a hassle, he can file an eviction lawsuit against you—without giving you any notice. 
Last Updated: August 30, 2015