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Your tenant and debt collection rights

As a renter, you have local, state and federal rights during the pandemic. These may help you stay in your home.

See if your state or local government is stopping evictions

Some state and local governments have protections in place to help you avoid being evicted.

You might qualify for free legal aid

Many landlords are represented by a lawyer in court. You can get legal help too, and you could qualify for free legal aid.

Find a lawyer through your local bar association or legal aid office.

Your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

When you owe money to your landlord or utility company and someone else is trying to collect the money, that person could be a debt collector. Maybe a lawyer or law firm is representing your landlord, or maybe a collection agency is trying to collect the back rent you owe. If so, the lawyer, law firm, or company may be a debt collector under federal law.

Federal law says that debt collectors can’t use unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices to try and collect a debt. This means if a debt collector harasses you or makes false or misleading statements to collect rental debt, they may be breaking federal law.

If you believe that a debt collector is using an unfair, deceptive, or abusive practice when collecting a debt, you can submit a complaint or call (855) 411-2372.

Notice about past pandemic eviction protections

A debt collector trying to evict you for unpaid rent might have been required to give you a notice about the CDC’s eviction moratorium while it applied. If you didn’t get this notice for a pandemic-related eviction when the moratorium applied, talk with a lawyer. Find a lawyer through your local bar association or legal aid office.

You can also submit a complaint or call (855) 411-2372.

Report a bad landlord

Your rights as a tenant are usually spelled out in your rental agreement and state or local laws.

In most cases, your landlord cannot:

  • Force you out by changing your locks without a court order
  • Demand fees, interest, or other charges that you did not agree to, or that are prohibited by state or local law
  • Refuse to make necessary repairs
  • Fail to pay for utilities under their control or
  • Endanger the health and safety of tenants

To talk with a lawyer, contact your local bar association or legal aid

If you live in subsidized housing, report a bad landlord to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Stay in your home as a survivor of domestic violence

Federal law may protect you from being evicted, losing your housing subsidy, or having your application for housing denied because of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against you. Despite the name of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), VAWA’s protections apply regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

If you have been assaulted or are the victim of a crime, state and local prosecutors may file charges if they find out. State and local courts may also provide specific injunctions and other protections in your favor to help keep you safe.

Find more on the tenant rights of domestic violence survivors

Report housing discrimination

Landlords generally cannot:

  • Harass you
  • Refuse to rent to you
  • Evict you, or
  • Change or set different rules for your rental agreement

because of your race, color, national origin (country of origin or ancestry), religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), familial status (pregnancy and families with children), or disability.

If you or your landlord receive federal financial assistance for housing, you are also protected from housing discrimination based on age.

Know your fair housing rights when you are facing eviction

Report housing discrimination by filing a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)