Tenant Rights & Responsibilities

If you rent or lease a house, apartment, mobile home or storage space, you are a tenant. In addition to paying rent, a tenant must repair all damage to the premises caused by his or her ordinary negligence. The tenant must use ordinary care to preserve the premises in a good and safe condition. The tenant generally is not responsible for ordinary wear and tear not caused by negligence on the tenant's part.

Quiet Enjoyment

A tenant has the right to possession and "quiet enjoyment" of the property he or she is renting; that is, to be free from interference by the landlord or other persons. A landlord may neither lock out a tenant nor interrupt the tenant's utility services, except by court order.

The landlord has the right to make a reasonable inspection, but only with prior notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time.

Habitability/Right To Repair

A landlord is required to keep rental premises in reasonable repair and fit for human habitation (except for damage caused by the tenant). This includes maintaining all electrical, plumbing and heating systems in good and safe working order. This warranty of habitability cannot be waived or modified by the parties to the rental agreement. The parties, however, can agree to hold the tenant responsible for certain repairs in lieu of rent.

When the landlord fails to repair the tenant's dwelling, the tenant may pursue either of two remedies. The first is to vacate the premises, in which case the tenant will be discharged from all further obligations under the lease. The second is to have the tenant make the repairs on his or her own, in which case the tenant may deduct the expense for the repairs from the rent. Before the tenant can take either of these measures, he or she must give the landlord notice of the repairs that are needed, wait a reasonable time and act only when the landlord neglects to do so. This notice to the landlord should always be in writing, should state the repairs that are needed, and should state a specific reasonable deadline for making the repairs.

South Dakota Office of Attorney General, 500 East Capitol Pierre, SD 57501-5070
Phone: (605) 773-3215, Fax: (605) 773-4106