If you rent a house or an apartment, itís important to know your rights and obligations as a tenant in order to protect yourself and your Family.† To find out what those rights and duties are, the first place to look is your lease.† Your written rental agreement is what primarily determines the respective rights of the landlord and tenant, since almost anything agreed to by both parties in a valid lease becomes a binding legal obligation.† However, there are also state and federal statutes that create additional duties.

Chapter 42 of the North Carolina General Statutes governs the relationship between landlords and tenants in North Carolina and imposes certain obligations on landlords.† For example, Article 6 of the statute governs what a landlord can and canít do with a tenantís security deposit.† Landlords must hold security deposits in trust accounts, and may not comingle the deposits with their personal funds.† Landlords may use the security deposits only to cover costs they incur due to the fault of the tenant ósuch as damage to the premises caused by the tenant ó or to recover unpaid rent, utility bills, and late fees.† Once the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the deposit, along with an itemized statement of any amounts withheld, within thirty days.† If the landlord is still assessing damages 30 days after the tenant moves out, he must send an interim accounting to the tenant by the 30-day mark, and must send a final accounting no later than 60 days after the tenant leaves.† Article 5 of the statute imposes additional duties on landlords, including the duty to make prompt repairs to the premises, to keep the premises in a ďfit and habitableĒ condition, and to ensure that the structure complies with applicable building codes.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a federal law that provides certain legal protections to active-duty Servicemembers and their dependents.† Included in its protections are provisions specifying that a tenant who enters military service, or a tenant who is already a servicemember and receives PCS orders or orders to deploy for at least 90 days, may break his lease without penalty.† The same protections also extend to the servicememberís dependents.† In order to break the lease, the tenant must give a written termination notice to the landlord, along with a copy of his orders.† Itís important to note, however, that the termination notice is not effective until 30 days after the next rental payment is due.† Generally, therefore, the tenant is still responsible for paying rent for the next month following the termination notice.† Note also that the SCRA can be modified by a written agreement.† Therefore, if a landlord asks you to sign an agreement waiving your rights under the SCRA, itís generally not a good idea to sign it, since that agreement will likely prevent you from terminating your lease if you receive PCS or deployment orders.

If you need to speak with an attorney, please call the XVIII Corps Legal Assistance Office at 396-0396, the 82nd Airborne Division Legal Assistance Office at 432-0195, or the 1st Sustainment Command Legal Assistance Office at 396-9800 to make an appointment.