Special Situations in Renting and Renters' Rights

lease agreement

In renting, as in everything else, there may be special situations. Rent agreements may be very specific, but there are certain laws that make allowances for special circumstances. They apply if you are disabled, have mitigating circumstances, or need temporary housing. Since the law is very specific on renters and renter's rights, these situations are clearly spelled out. This article discusses special situations and how they may apply to you.

The Grandfather Clause

A grandfather clause is a clause creating an exemption, such as a law or regulation, based on circumstances that previously existed. The grandfather clause protects renters who have been living in an apartment for a long period of time. Often, when new people buy the property, the grandfather clause protects previous tenants if the new owners try to make a large number of changes. As the law varies from state to state, it is advisable to check with local authorities to know your rights under the grandfather clause.

Hotels, Motels, and Mobile Homes

Each of these housing options has a different set of rules. They are considered separate from apartments and condos. A hotel or motel that allows for permanent residency gives you the same rights as an apartment tenant would have. These hotels are common in large cities, especially in areas of economic depression. Under the law, they are defined buildings that contain six or more guest rooms or efficiency units which are designed, used, rented, or occupied for sleeping purposes by guests, and which are the primary residence of these guests. If you live in a residential hotel or motel, the landlord cannot require you to move or check out before you have been there at least 30 days. That is to protect the tenant from being classified as in transitional occupancy, in which case he or she would have no tenant rights.

If you live in a mobile home park and lease the mobile home, you are subject to the eviction laws of the state in which you live. These are not the same kind of provisions as stated under the Mobile Home Residency Law. In this situation, a homeowner must be offered a written rental agreement for a term of 12 months. Although this is generally not required, it is in the best interest of the lessee. A copy of the park rules, the written disclosure regarding park conditions and a copy of the Mobile Home Residency Law must be given when the lease is signed.

Failure to comply with applicable ordinances or state regulations is generally cause for eviction.

Disabled Persons

Under the law, people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against if they are trying to rent an apartment. A disability is any condition that prevents a person from performing 1 or more major life activities. It can include such things as walking, seeing, working, or learning. A good example of this is a blind person who uses a guide dog. Even though an apartment dwelling has a strict no pets rule, it is illegal to discriminate against a blind person who uses a guide dog. Other disabilities may include mental retardation, major depression, paraplegia, and HIV/AIDS. Alcoholism and former drug addiction are also considered disabilities. A very good resource for people concerned about discrimination can be found at Project Sentinel, at www.housing.org.

Federally Protected Situations

Not only are people with disabilities protected under the law, but other groups are also protected. These laws specifically prohibit discrimination based on :

Race or Ethnicity




Age (Except senior citizen communities do not accept non-senior citizens)

Source of income, i.e. disability or social security

Additionally, it is against the law for a rental agent to only show you rental units in specific parts of a community because of race, color, or ethnicity. For persons receiving disability or social security, their landlords are not allowed to charge them higher deposits than they charge other residents.

All situations, regardless of the circumstances, may have special considerations. This article has been based on California law, as it is the best resource for information. Know your rights as outlined in this article, and do not allow yourself to be discriminated against.