Signing a rental lease is a big decision that requires careful thought and consideration. It’s a huge commitment financially-wise, and you want to make sure that the living conditions will be good enough to accommodate your day-to-day needs. The worst thing you can do is to rush into signing an agreement without understanding the terms of the contract.
Sadly, too many would-be tenants sign the dotted line without spending more than two minutes reading the contract of lease. One major reason is the common notion that it’s only for formality. This is a big mistake. Sadly, some opportunistic landlords have no qualms about taking advantage of a tenant’s ignorance of the law. Heck, even contracts that were made in good faith can still have unpleasant surprises for tenants who aren’t too familiar with the process.
As a tenant from Kansas, the best way to protect yourself is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible about landlord-tenant laws in Kansas.
Typically, landlords and tenants can resolve a dispute between them without seeking help from a lawyer, especially if both have some bit of understanding of state-specific landlord-tenant laws. If you have to settle a dispute with your landlord, you’d be doing yourself a favor by doing extensive research about landlord-tenant laws
Thankfully, we’ve got that part covered so you won’t have to spend too many hours reading up on the subject. With that said, it bears noting that this blog post is just a guide, and therefore should not be treated as an authoritative source from a legal standpoint. We, however, will provide you with an official source wherever it’s needed.
As is the case with any legal agreement, you should…
Keep a copy of the lease
A lease agreement is a legally binding contract that sets out the terms and conditions both the landlord and the tenant must adhere to upon the signing of an agreement to rent. Again, you, the tenant, should always read the entire contract before signing the dotted line to avoid misunderstandings and inconveniences in the future. In such cases where a dispute is inevitable, being aware of the terms set in the lease agreement will help you arrive at an informed decision and give you the foreknowledge to avoid legal missteps you might otherwise regret.
Last but not least, make sure to have your own copy of the lease agreement and store it in a secure location.
Kansas Tenant’s Responsibility and Rights
As a tenant residing in Kansas, you’re duty-bound to be aware of your rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the state, and more to the point, as a tenant. Here’s a list of all the responsibilities and rights due to a tenant living in Kansas. To get the full list, refer to the official Kansas Landlord-Tenant Law Book.
- Tenants are required by law to pay their rent on time.
- If the tenant has no choice but to pay late, the landlord must approve the late payment in writing before it becomes legally valid.
- Before renting, tenants have the responsibility to file their own rental applications and to do their own research.
- The tenant has the responsibility to keep the unit clean and free from damage.
- A tenant must inform the landlord ahead of time if he or she is leaving for an extended period. This prevents the unit from being rented to somebody else or from being abandoned.
- The tenant must comply with all policies explicitly stated in the lease agreement.
- Do not make renovations or changes to the property without the landlord’s consent.
- Tenants should not let other people live in the unit unless relevant terms are changed in the lease contract.
- Tenants can invite in guests but are responsible for their behavior.
- Tenants must report any damages to the landlord immediately.
Kansas Landlord’s Responsibility and Rights
Landlords, like tenants, have responsibilities and rights to maintain and uphold after signing an agreement to give tenancy to an individual. To get the full list, refer to the official Kansas Landlord-Tenant Law Book.
- Landlords should provide maintenance to all areas that are shared with tenants, including hallways, parking lots, yards, and facilities.
- Landlords should supply sufficient heating during winter and air conditioning during the summer months.
- Smoke detectors must be supplied to safeguard against fire hazards.
- Landlords must supply adequate amounts of hot and cold water.
- Trash bins and trash disposal must be provided, handled, and managed regularly.
- Regular maintenance should be carried out to all plumbing, heating, electrical, and refrigeration facilities.
- Any appliances must be regularly maintained and kept safe.
- Proper accommodations must be made for persons with disabilities.
Renting rules that must be outlined in the lease
Here are essential rent rules that must be outlined in the lease to ensure that rent payments will proceed as planned:
- How much is the rent? (under Kansas laws, there are no restrictions on how much landlords can charge)
- Where should the payment be made? (e.g. physical mail to the landlord’s address)
- How should the rent be paid? (e.g. snail mail, money order, online payment, cash, credit card, etc.)
- When is the rent due?
- How much notice should be given before a landlord can increase the rent?
- What are the consequences of late payments (late fees, interest amount, rules on lease termination, etc.)?
- How much time does a tenant need to pay rent before being evicted?
Termination and Eviction: Things to Consider
Tenants and landlords alike want to avoid terminating the lease contract if they can, but then again, we’re not living in a perfect world.
Evictions are stressful to both parties, and being familiar with Kansas laws on such matters will help you navigate the attendant complications that go with them.
Here are specific laws to pay attention to when facing the possibility of eviction or lease termination:
- The landlord is required to issue the tenant a formal eviction notice of up to 3 days, along with the required formal documentation stating the reason for the eviction.
- If the reason for the eviction is non-payment, a written eviction notice of up to 10-14 days must be issued to the tenant.
- The reason for the eviction must be valid.
- If a forced eviction is required, the landlord must first issue a written warning and must escalate the issue to the court if needed. Before forced eviction can occur, a judgment must be carried out against the tenant first.
- Forced evictions can only be carried out by police officers.
- Landlords won’t throw out the tenant’s personal belongings, cut off utilities, or lock them out during a forced eviction.
- While a tenant and a landlord can work out their issues on private, the tenant can still lose their security deposit return once the termination is final.
One important thing to keep in mind before signing a rental lease agreement is to check on the disclosures the landlord has specified in the legal document. Doing this can save you a lot of time when figuring out when or whether you should make a dispute.
Such disclosures include:
- Security deposits. Most landlords will require a security deposit from a potential tenant before they allow you to move in. Before you agree to pay a security deposit, make sure that you check on the terms and conditions, such as how long the landlord can hold it, whether the landlord will pay interest on the deposit, and which circumstances will require them to return the deposit when a tenant vacates the property.
- Move-in checklist of existing damages to the property. A move-in checklist is a list that records the condition of your property. By providing such a list, a landlord can make the tenant accountable for damages while residing in the property.
- A clause on whether there will be nonrefundable fees
- Installation details
- Presence of potential health hazards, including lead-based paint, mold, asbestos, insects, and others.
- Smoking policy
- A recent occurrence of flooding inside and outside the property.
- Whether lead-based paint was used on the property. If the property was built before 1978, you can confirm the presence of lead by using lead paint test kits. Landlords can purchase lead paint testing kits in bulk to confirm the presence of lead-based paint in the entire property to protect themselves and their tenants.
- A recent presence of a methamphetamine lab at the property
For a complete list of landlord disclosures required by Kansas Law, see Kansas Required Landlord Disclosures
Most landlords require a tenant to pay a security deposit before allowing him to occupy a designated space in the property. Which is fair, right? After all, the landlord needs to be compensated if a tenant causes any damage to the property.
While paying a security deposit is considered good practice, tenants also need to protect their assets from unscrupulous tenants. As such, Kansas law has put limitations on the amount landlords can charge for security deposits. For instance, Kansas law dictates that landlords can only charge a maximum of one month’s rent if the property is unfurnished while one and one-half month’s worth of charge is made if the residence is furnished. If the tenant is moving in with pets, the tenant will require an additional deposit. Kansas law also requires the landlord to return the deposit not more than 30 days after the tenant has moved in.
To learn more about Kansas’s landlord-tenant laws on security deposit limits, click here.
What to do when you’re moving out of the property
Deciding to move out of your apartment requires the same amount of diligence as the day you first moved in. You want to make sure that everything’s in proper order so that you can move out without a hitch, and that there will be no legal loopholes that could cause you problems down the line.
The first order of business is to send a 30-day notice to your landlord, informing him or her that you’ve decided to end the lease. In other words, you need to send a notice to vacate.
What is a notice to vacate?
Simply put, a notice to vacate is a written notice to your landlord informing him or her of your intent to terminate your lease and move out of your apartment. Whether the lease has an official termination date or not, an official notice to vacate is most often required.
On the other side of the spectrum, a landlord can also issue a notice to vacate to a tenant. This written notice is also called an eviction notice. An eviction notice explicitly states that a tenant must vacate the property within a specific timeframe.
Things to consider when issuing a notice to vacate
- Make sure to review the lease agreement before writing the notice. You want to make sure you’re not breaking any laws or terms before vacating the property.
- Don’t forget to include your new forwarding address in the letter. Remember, if you vacate the place in good condition, you will be eligible to receive a security deposit.
- Add the termination date to make it clear to the landlord or any legal representative that you delivered the notice within the agreed time frame as stated in the lease agreement.
Bear in mind that failure to issue a notice to vacate will cause inconveniences to the landlord. A landlord is a business owner, and it’s in his or her best interests to have a new tenant move in as soon as you move out of the property. To top it off, issuing a notice to vacate ensures that your rental history is in good standing.
Illegal landlord actions to watch for
If you’re going to sign a lease agreement, you might as well familiarize yourself with the things landlords are not allowed to do based on Kansas law. As a tenant who has made a formal agreement, you need to know your rights and make sure they are not being violated.
Here are illegal landlord behaviors you need to watch out for:
- Charging more than what’s indicated in the contract
A long-term lease is a legally binding contract, and therefore should not be subject to any changes without the express written consent of the tenant. A landlord may provide written notice before the increase, but a tenant has the right to refuse the increase if he deems it necessary. Some terms can only be changed if the increase is accounted for by predefined criteria stated in the contract.
- Entering your place without permission
While your “space” is yours to occupy as stated in the lease contract, the property still belongs to the landlord, at least technically-speaking. With that said, Kansas landlord-tenant laws mandate that landlords can’t barge into a rented-space without notice. Also, landlords must issue a 24 to 48 hours notice before paying a visit to the occupied space. There are exceptions, of course, such as when a landlord needs to carry out repairs, address emergencies, or when they need to show the space to prospective tenants.
- Refusing to rent due to discrimination
Discrimination against potential tenants based on race, gender, religious affiliation, color, and many others won’t be tolerated, as mandated in the Fair Housing Act, and rightly so.
For instance, a landlord cannot refuse rent to anyone just because the concerned individual is an Asian or a Muslim. In the same vein, landlords can’t change or adjust the terms of the agreement based on the tenant’s minority status.
- Locking a tenant out without due process
A landlord cannot lock out or evict a tenant without going through the proper legal procedures. While a landlord reserves the right to evict a tenant, the eviction has to be carried out through the proper channels and should require at least issue a 30-day notice. If not, it falls under retaliatory eviction and is considered illegal. Landlords who lock out tenants without going through the proper legal procedures can be charged with trespassing charges.
What if a landlord does not step up to fix or address a problem?
Almost a week has passed but the landlord hasn’t lifted a finger? Are there dishes that need washing? Are you having trouble going through the day without using an electrical washer? What now? How long does a landlord have to fix something?
If your apartment has a leak, a clogged sink, or a busted electrical fuse, it falls under the landlord’s responsibility to carry out the necessary repairs.
Unfortunately, your duty to pay the rent can’t be deemed null if your landlord fails on his or her duty to make the necessary repairs. Refuse to pay the rent on such grounds and the landlord will have a legal basis to evict you from the apartment.
Thankfully, there are alternative options you can take that will make your errant landlord step up, according to Kansas law:
- Issue a written request to the landlord to make the necessary repairs (reminder: always have an extra copy of this letter). As stated in the K.S.A. 58-2553, the lease agreement can be terminated if repairs specified in the written request are not carried out within 30 days after the request has been issued. You won’t be liable to pay the rest of the lease if you follow the terms in the stated law.
- Ask for a written agreement from the landlord to carry out the repairs or buy the items needed to make repairs yourself. The amount must be deducted from fires rent payments.
- Vacate the renting space and terminate the lease agreement by following the procedures at KSA 58-2560.
- Seek an injunction from the court by filing a document requesting an order to make repairs. Include a request to pay the rent to court until repairs are carried out. Also, the Judge can make a decision on whether the rent amount is fair considering the repair costs, in which case some of the amounts will be paid back to you once you’ve settled the payment to the Court (KSA 58- 2559).
How to kick someone out who is not on the lease
The space you’re renting is fine. Unfortunately, no room can be pleasant if the person you’re sharing it with is driving you batty. By this point, you’re probably wondering if there’s something you can do to kick that person out of the house. What are the legal grounds for evicting a bad roommate out of the house? Should you talk to the landlord about it? What are the steps you need to take to evict a roommate?
As to whether it’s possible to have a bad roommate be evicted from the house, that depends on the circumstances of the lease.
Let’s go over each circumstance one by one.
If you and the bad roommate are both on the lease, you can only move forward if you and the other person aren’t under joint and several liability. If you are, chances are you’ll be evicted with him or her. Worse, your prospects for future rentals will be severely compromised. If the landlord also shares your wish to kick out the roommate, you need to co-sign an agreement with him or her disclaiming joint and several liability.
If the bad roommate is not on the lease, you’re considered a master tenant. As such, you hold the right to evict the errant roommate as long as there’s just cause. You must provide proper documentation explaining how your roommate is negatively impacting your living conditions in the rented home.
If your roommate is the master tenant and you’re subletting from him or her, the only option you have is to provide the landlord a documentation explaining the just cause for eviction.
Here are the common grounds for a just cause for eviction:
- Rent is not being paid
- Involvement in criminal activity
- Property damage
- Compromising the well-being of other tenants
It bears noting that in the eviction process, the burden of proof is on the person who asked for the eviction (you). Also, including photos showing proof that the roommate is doing something that’s compromising the safety of other tenants will help.
If you and the other roommate haven’t signed a written lease agreement, you must make a request to the landlord and make your case in your capacity as the master tenant (if you’re paying the rent yourself).