North Dakota Landlord Tenant Law - Click here to return to US LandlordThe purpose of this site is to provide landlords and tenants with information about their responsibilities and legal rights in North Dakota.
This publication will include a general overview of North Dakota Landlord/Tenant Law and other information on renting. This site is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Because factual circumstances vary in each case, detailed legal research or opinion may be necessary to resolve any problems.
INSPECTION OF THE UNIT BEFORE LEASING
Prospective tenants should visit the rental unit before they give the landlord any money. They should be allowed to inspect the rental unit (appliances, plumbing, light fixtures, carpeting, locks, linoleum, windows, etc.)
According to N.D.C.C. (ND Century Code) 47-16-07.2, a landlord shall provide the tenant with a statement (check-in sheet) describing the condition of the facilities in and about the premises to be rented at the time of entering a lease agreement. The statement shall be agreed to and signed by BOTH the landlord and the tenant. The statement shall provide proof as to the beginning of the rental agreement. Make sure all the conditions are as set out in the statement. An accurate statement at the time of moving in will lessen the chance of misunderstanding and future disagreements.
Landlords have the right to require tenants to make a security deposit (damage deposit). This money is paid by the tenant and held by the landlord. The security deposit required by the landlord cannot exceed the amount of one month's rent. The landlord is required to deposit the money in a federally insured interest-bearing savings or passbook account. The landlord may apply the security deposit money and accrued interest upon termination of the lease toward any damages suffered through the negligence of the tenant or his/her guest, any unpaid rent, or the cost of cleaning and repairs which were the tenant's responsibility. If the deposit is $100, but the tenant causes $300 of damages, the landlord can sue for the balance. The deposit should not be used by the tenant to pay rent without the landlord's consent.
Landlords can also require prospective tenants to pay an application fee (which can be non-refundable). The fee is customarily used to cover the cost of checking a tenant's references (past landlords, employment, credit bureau, etc.). Tenants should ask if such fees are refundable and can request a receipt for payment. These fees should not be mistaken for security deposits.
The word lease refers to an agreement between a landlord and tenant, whether it is verbal or written. There are two basic types of leases--periodic leases and term leases.
If the lease has no specific ending date, it is a periodic lease. Generally these leases are month-to-month. A periodic lease is automatically renewed each time the tenant pays rent to the landlord.
If the lease states how long the tenancy will last (i.e., six months or a year), it is a term lease. These leases are usually written. The tenant is generally liable for rent the entire term of the lease.
A lease is a legally binding contract which cannot be broken without the other person's consent. The best arrangement between a landlord and tenant is a written lease. A written lease outlines the conditions under which a person(s) may live in a rental unit, and can be referred to if a dispute arises. When entering into a lease agreement all verbal promises (repairs, number of parking spots, etc.) should be put in writing.
Landlord and tenants can negotiate the terms of the lease provided both parties agree to the changes. If the written lease form is changed, both landlord and tenant should mark their initials next to any changes, additions, or deletions made on the lease forms.
Before you sign a lease, you should CAREFULLY READ and UNDERSTAND the terms. If you have any questions, ask for an explanation. Most landlords are glad to help clarify points to avoid future misunderstandings. In addition, both parties should receive a copy of the lease and any other signed forms.
A court may refuse to enforce part or all of a lease. If the court finds the terms in the lease are so unfair and one-sided it may not enforce them. This does not happen very often because the lease term must be very offensive and against public policy. The tenant must demonstrate that he/she had no real choice but to accept the offending provision. Landlords should take care not to go overboard in drafting lease provisions in their favor.
Tenants must pay the rent on time, whether they have a verbal or written lease. Due dates and amounts are determined by the provisions of the lease. Failure to pay the rent on time is considered a breach of the lease and legal cause for eviction.
The rent must be paid on the date it is due. If a tenant misses the due date, landlords will often require the tenant to pay a late fee. But, in order for a landlord to charge a late fee, it must be a provision of the lease (verbal or written) or it is not legal. In addition, the lease must state how much the late fee will be and on what date it will be effective.
Periodic Lease--If you have a month-to-month periodic lease the landlord may raise your rent by providing a notice in writing AT LEAST 30 days before the end of the month.
If the landlord changes the terms of a periodic lease, and gives the required 30-days notice of change, the tenant has the option to terminate the lease at the end of the month by giving a 25-DAY NOTICE can only be given after the landlord has first given you a notice of intent to change any term of your lease. If the tenant does not give the 25-day termination notice to vacate, the changes specified in the landlord's 30-day notice become a part of the lease agreement.
Term Lease --Generally a term lease has a fixed rent for the entire lease term and cannot be changed during the lease term unless the landlord and tenant agree to do so. However, the landlord can increase the tenant's rent by any amount at the end of the lease period. Usually, any notice requirements will be outlined in the lease.
If the landlord does NOT ask for a rent increase after expiration of the lease and accepts rent, the lease is presumed to be renewed at the same rent for the same period of time as the original lease.
If more than one person rents a house or apartment, each person is responsible for paying the whole rent. If disagreements surface between persons sharing an apartment and one person moves out, the remaining tenants are responsible for paying the entire monthly rent amount. However, the remaining tenants can sue the vacating tenant if he/she left without paying his/her share of the rent, or failed to give proper notice.
Responsibility for paying the rent in a roommate situation may be altered by the terms of the lease.
The North Dakota Human Rights Act prevents discrimination in housing based upon an individual's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, the presence of any mental or physical disability, or status with regard to marriage or public assistance. It attempts to assure equality of opportunity in obtaining housing, and to prohibit discrimination in housing based upon the characteristics listed above. Federal law also prohibits discrimination because of the family status.
The responsibility of paying for the utility services such as electricity, natural or LP gas, fuel oil, water, wastewater and garbage is generally specified in the lease or rental agreement. If this responsibility is not addressed in the lease or rental agreement, there should be a separate agreement or understanding (preferably in writing) addressing this issue. The party (landlord or tenant) agreeing to pay for part or all of the utility services should advise the municipal, cooperative or investor utility who will be receiving the services and who will be paying the utility service charges.
The obligation of the landlord may be altered somewhat by a contractual agreement (generally a written lease) between the landlord and the tenant. However, the landlord must:
A.Comply with requirements of building and housing codes relating to health and safety.
B.Arrange for or make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises
C.Keep all common areas in a clean and safe condition.
D.Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning systems and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.
E.Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the dwelling unit and
F.Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat.
G.Provide smoke detectors in each unit.
The obligation of the tenant may be altered somewhat by a contractual agreement (generally a written lease) between the landlord and the tenant. However, the tenant must:
A.Comply with all duties imposed upon tenants by building and housing codes relating to
B.Keep the occupied unit as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit.
C.Periodically remove all ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste from th dwelling unit and dispose of them in a clean and safe manner.
D.Keep all plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.
E.Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating,
F.Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or knowingly permit
G.Conduct him/herself and require other persons on the premises with the tenant's consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb the tenant's neighbors peaceful
Tenants should promptly notify the landlord when repairs become necessary.
If the landlord does not respond to verbal notice of need for repairs, the tenant should send a written notice of necessary repairs by certified mail, return receipt requested. The tenant should keep a copy of this notice. The tenant must give the landlord reasonable notice and a reasonable amount of time in which to make repairs. What is reasonable very often depends on the needed repair. If repairs are still not made, the tenant has three options under the law.
A.Repair the defect and deduct the expense from the rent (N.D.C.C.47-16-13). It is always a good idea for the tenant to notify the landlord in writing that he/she intends to do this.
B. Sue the landlord in Small Claims Court for the costs of the repairs and other expenses
C.The tenant may also elect, after notice (preferably written), to vacate the premises which would terminate the lease. Vacating the premises should be considered a measure of last resort, and only if there is a serious repair problem or code violation. Tant should
LANDLORD RIGHT OF ENTRY
A landlord may enter a dwelling unit:
A. At any time in case of emergency or if the landlord reasonably believes the tenant has
B. During reasonable hours, and in a reasonable manner for the purpose oecting the
C.During reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner for the purpose of showing the rental
Unless it is impractical to do so, the landlord must attempt to get the tenant's consent for an agreed time of entry. The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass or intimidate the tenant.
Note: Consent may be presumed from the tenant's failure to object to access after reasonable notice is given. The tenant may not unreasonably deny access to the dwelling unit.
TERMINATING THE LEASE
If there is no provision in the month-to-month periodic lease stating how much advance notice must be given to end the lease (written or verbal), either party may terminate the lease by giving at least thirty (30) days written notice at any time. The rent is due and payable to and including the date of termination. However, many written periodic leases may require tenants to give notice on the first of the month, or a longer notice (60 days). Failure to give proper 30 day or agreed notice could result in loss of security deposit and liability for rent for that period.
A term lease terminates automatically at the end of the lease period without the need of any notice from either landlord or tenant. However, procedures for ending a written term lease are generally outlined in the lease. Typically, it will require a written notice prior to the lease expiring. Generally the notice has to be received by the first of the month. Tenants are well-advised to carefully read the termination and renewal provisions of their lease. Some leases automatically renew for another entire term if notice of termination is not properly given.
If a tenant moves out before the lease expires, he/she is still responsible for paying the rent for the remaining term of the lease. Another tenant may be found to fulfill the balance of the lease. A landlord's consent may be necessary if the lease agreement requires consent.
The lease may require a fee for the landlord renting the unit. If a fee is required it should be outlined in the lease agreement. The landlord may be entitled to recover actual costs to re-rent. In no event, may the landlord recover both a re-renting fee and the actual costs of re-renting.
Even though the tenant remains liable for the rent until the expiration of the lease or a new tenant is found, landlord have a legal obligation to try to find a new tenant and may only collect rent from a single tenant. Thus, if the new tenant moves in and pays rent for a period for which the departing tenant has already paid, the landlord must refund the appropriate portion of the pre-paid rent to the departing tenant.
Tenant's property with a total estimated value of $500 or less, which has been left for at least 30 days in the vacated premises, becomes the property of the landlord to dispose of or sell, without notice, in whatever manner the landlord chooses. The landlord can keep the money from the sale. Expenses for storing or moving the property which exceed proceeds from the sale of it can be deducted from the security deposit.
SECURITY DEPOSIT REFUND
At the and of the lease, a landlord must return a tenant's security deposit plus interest (if the unit was occupied nine months or longer), or give the tenant a written explanation as to why the deposit (or any part of the deposit) will not returned. The landlord must mail or deliver the deposit within 30 days after the day the tenant vacated and the lease expired. As a practical matter, actual receipt of the security deposit may be delayed by several days if the tenant fails to provide landlord with accurate forwarding address information. The landlord may deduct, from the security deposit, amounts to cover damage from tenants or their guests, unpaid rent, and/or costs of cleaning or other repairs, with the exception of reasonable wear and tear. The landlord must provide an itemized list of any deductions.
If a landlord sells a rental property, the new owner has the same rights and obligations. The security deposits and interest must be transferred to the new owner or the seller remains liable. The new owner is bound by the provisions of N.D.C.C. 47-16-07.1.4 even though he/she did not receive the original security deposit.
If a tenant does not receive the security deposit back or is not satisfied with the landlord's explanation, the tenant can take the matter to Small Claims Court. There, it is up to the landlord to justify the amounts withheld. This is an easy, inexpensive procedure. The court can award damages to the tenant up to three times the amount wrongfully withheld from the tenant's security deposit. This is called treble damages. If a tenant feels the security deposit has been wrongfully withheld by the landlord, the tenant may sue the landlord in Small Claims Court and request treble damages. Treble damages need to be requested when completing court papers.
According to state law, landlords can evict tenants for non-payment of rent, breach of lease, or in cases where the tenant refused to leave after Notice to Vacate has been properly served and the tenant's last day has passed. In order to evict, a landlord must:
A. Have a disinterested party serve the resident
with a Notice of Intention to Evict (often
called a Notice to Quit) ordering the resident to vacate the premises within 3 days. The
Notice of Intention to Evict does not require the resident to vacate. It ifirst step
required by law for a owner to proceed with the eviction, and proof of service must be
presented to the court.
B.If the resident has not vacated after the 3-day
period, a Summons and Complaint (begins legal action) may be served on the
resident. The Summons and Complaint will give notice
to the resident as to the date and time he/she will need to appear in County Court. A court hearing must take place within 3-15 days after service of the Summons and Complaint on
the tenant. At the hearing, both landlord and tenant will be asked to give their respective
sides of the story.
C.The judge will then deliver his/her decision.
If the judge decides the tenant has no legal
reason for refusing to leave, the judge will order the tenant to vacate. If the tenant fails
to vacate, after being court ordered to do so, the judge will order the sheriff to force
the tenant out. The tenant's property will be placed in storage. To get the property back,
the tenant mast pay the sheriff's fee, moving, and storage costs. The judge can also find the
landlord has no legal reason to evict the tenant.
It should be understood that ONLY the sheriff and his staff can legally remove a tenant's belongings from a rental unit during the process of eviction. The landlord cannot do this on his own.
Contrary to popular belief, tenants may be evicted during the winter months.
LOCKOUTS & PROPERTY CONFISCATION
It is illegal for a landlord to physically lock a tenant out of his/her unit. If a landlord locks a tenant out or confiscates a tenant's belongings, the tenant should notify the sheriff's department, a private attorney, or legal assistance (income eligibility required). North Dakota law makes no provision for landlords to place a lien on personal property of the tenant. It is also illegal for a landlord to cut off the utilities in an attempt to get the tenant to move. Tenants should call the building inspector if this happens.
SMALL CLAIMS COURT
Small Claims Court provides landlords and tenants with an easy, inexpensive (approximately $14) and informal way to resolve disputes. It is not necessary to hire an attorney, as an individual can present his/her own case.
The claims must be filed in the county where the person to be sued resides (check with county court if you are not sure which county to file in). Small Claims Court hears only money damage cases in the amount of $2000 or less.
It is very important to be PREPARED. Bring all necessary documents (agreements, receipts, bills, pictures, etc.) to present to the judge. Additionally, remember to bring any witnesses needed to the hearing.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION,
ND Toll Free------------------------------------------------1-800-742-7702
Community Action Program Region VII
Legal Assistance of North Dakota
North Dakota Apartment Association
** To register complaints relating to the Federal Fair Housing Law contact: **
Director, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity,
Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
1045 Curtis Street, Suite 2700
Denver, CO 80202-2349
Fair Housing Complaint
Hearing Impaired Persons--------------------------800-543-8294