Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in North Dakota

Find out key laws every North Dakota landlord and tenant needs to know.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

North Dakota laws govern much of the landlord-tenant relationship, including security deposits, late rent, and evictions. Here's a breakdown of key laws that affect nearly all North Dakota landlords and tenants.

North Dakota Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws

North Dakota law doesn't regulate many aspects of the tenant application and screening process. Unlike landlords in many other states, North Dakota landlords are free to charge an application fee to apply for a rental.

All landlords need to follow federal and state antidiscrimination laws when screening applicants for a rental. Federal fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating on the basis of:

  • race or color
  • religion
  • national origin
  • familial status or age (includes families with children under the age of 18 and pregnant women)
  • disability or handicap, and
  • sex (includes gender identity and sexual orientation).

North Dakota law also bars landlords from discriminating on the basis of marital status or because a person receives public assistance. (N.D. Cent. Code § 14-02.5-02 (2024).)

For more information about North Dakota's fair housing laws, check out the High Plains Fair Housing Center's website.

North Dakota Security Deposit Laws

North Dakota law dictates how much landlords can charge for a security deposit, how landlords must hold security deposits, and when they must return the security deposit.

North Dakota Maximum Security Deposit

For most tenants, North Dakota landlords can't charge more than one month's rent for a security deposit. However, landlords can charge two months' rent for tenants who have:

  • been convicted of a felony offense, if the extra amount is considered an incentive to rent to the person, and
  • had a judgment entered against them for violating the terms of a previous rental agreement.

(N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07.1(1) (2024).)

North Dakota landlords can also charge a pet security deposit of no more than the greater of $2,500 or two months' rent. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07.1 (2024).)

Interest on Security Deposits in North Dakota

Landlords must deposit security deposits in a federally insured interest-bearing savings or checking account for the benefit of the tenant. Landlords don't have to pay interest on security deposits if the period of occupancy was less than nine months. For tenancies that last longer than nine months, the landlord must give any interest accrued to the tenant when the lease ends, unless it's applied to cover damage or unpaid rent. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07.1 (2024).)

When and How Landlords Must Return Security Deposits in North Dakota

Within 30 days of when the tenancy ends, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant. If the landlord keeps any or all of the deposit to cover unpaid rent or damages, they must itemize the deductions and provide a written notice to the tenant of any amount still due or the refund due to the tenant.

If the landlord withholds security deposit funds without reasonable justification, they might be liable for treble damages. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07.1 (2024).)

Required Landlord Disclosures in North Dakota

In many states, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants and potential tenants. North Dakota law requires only one disclosure: Landlords must give tenants a statement describing the condition of the rental when the tenant signs the rental agreement. Both parties must sign the statement. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07.2 (2024).)

Landlords in all states, though, must follow federal lead-based paint disclosure rules.

North Dakota Late Fees and Other Rent Rules

Rent is due on whatever day the landlord and tenant agree to. Landlords can charge tenants a fee for paying rent late, but any late fee should be a reasonable estimate of the cost that the landlord incurs because the rent is late (for example, any interest or collection costs). Late fees should be disclosed in the lease or rental agreement—otherwise, a court might not enforce them.

Grace Periods

North Dakota landlords aren't required to give tenants a rent payment grace period—rent is due on the date specified in the lease or rental agreement, and a landlord can consider it late if it's not paid on that date. However, if the lease or rental agreement gives the tenant a grace period for paying rent, the landlord must honor it.

Rent Increases

North Dakota landlords can't raise the rent during the term of a lease unless the lease specifically allows them to do so.

For month-to-month tenancies, landlords can raise the rent if they give the tenant notice in writing at least 30 days before the expiration of the month. If the tenant stays past the end of the month, the terms, rent, and conditions specified in the notice become a part of the rental agreement. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07 (2024).) If the tenant doesn't want to continue renting after receiving a notice of a rent increase, the tenant can terminate the rental agreement at the end of the month by giving at least 25 days' notice. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-15(3) (2024).)

Landlords in North Dakota Must Provide Habitable Rentals

Landlords in North Dakota have a duty to:

  • comply with all building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety
  • make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the rental in a fit and habitable condition
  • keep all common areas in a clean and safe condition
  • maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord
  • provide and maintain receptacles for the removal of ashes, garbage, and other waste and arrange for their removal, and
  • supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat, unless not required by law or other circumstances.

(N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-13.1(1) (2024).)

This duty can't be waived, but the landlord and tenant can agree to have the tenant perform specified repairs in some situations, such as when they enter into a written agreement and the work isn't necessary to cure noncompliance with building and housing codes. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-13.1 (2024).)

Tenants have a similar duty to maintain their rental. For example, they must keep the rental as clean and safe as possible, not deliberately damage any systems or appliances, and must remove trash and waste. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-13.2 (2024).)

Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in North Dakota

If the landlord fails to keep the rental repaired and fit for human habitation, the tenant must notify the landlord and give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs. If the landlord doesn't make the repairs, the tenant can:

  • make the repairs and deduct the expense from the rent
  • recover the cost of repairs from the landlord in another lawful manner (such as a lawsuit), or
  • move out of the rental and not have to pay further rent.

(N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-13 (2024).)

Simply withholding the rent (without making the repairs) is not an option in North Dakota.

Small Claims Lawsuits in North Dakota

If you find yourself in a battle over a security deposit or repairs, small claims court is a good place to bring your grievance. Small claims courts in North Dakota can hear cases in which the plaintiff—the person suing—isn't asking for more than $15,000. (N.D. Cent. Code § 27-08.1-01 (2024).) Small claims court procedures tend to be simpler than those of regular courts, and although North Dakota allows parties to have lawyers, many people represent themselves.

North Dakota Termination and Eviction Rules

North Dakota landlords must follow very specific rules and procedures in order to terminate a tenancy and then, if necessary, file an eviction lawsuit.

Notice of Termination for Cause

A landlord who wants to evict a tenant in North Dakota before the lease or rental agreement has expired must have cause—in other words, a legally valid reason to terminate the tenancy.

In North Dakota, reasons to terminate the tenancy before the lease expires include:

  • failing to pay rent for three days after the due date
  • disturbing other tenants' peaceful enjoyment of the premises, or
  • violating a material term of the lease or rental agreement.

(N.D. Cent. Code § 47-32-01 (2024).)

When a landlord wants a tenant to leave for one of these reasons, the landlord must first terminate the tenancy. This is done by giving the tenant notice—the type of notice depends on the situation.

  • Termination for nonpayment of rent. If the tenant fails to pay rent when it's due, the landlord must wait until the rent has been late for three days, then give the tenant a three-day notice to quit. The notice must state that because the tenant failed to pay rent for three days after it was due, the landlord is terminating the tenancy. If the tenant doesn't move out by the end of the three-day notice period, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (D. Cent. Code § 47-32-02 (2024).)
  • Termination for disturbing peaceful enjoyment or violating the lease or rental agreement. If the tenant disturbs the peaceful enjoyment of other tenants or violates a material term of the lease or rental agreement, the landlord can send a three-day notice to terminate the tenancy. The landlord isn't required to give the tenant a chance to fix the problem. Rather, the landlord can go straight to court and file an eviction lawsuit if the tenant hasn't moved out by the end of the three-day period. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-32-02 (2024).)

Notice of Termination Without Cause

The process for ending a tenancy without cause depends on the type of tenancy. Here's what needs to happen to end a month-to-month tenancies or a tenancy with a long-term lease.

Ending a Month-to-Month Tenancy Without Cause

If the tenant has a written month-to-month rental agreement, and the landlord wants the tenant to move out but doesn't have cause to end the tenancy, the landlord must give the tenant notice in writing at least one calendar month's notice that the tenancy is ending. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-15(2) (2024).)

If the tenant doesn't move out at the end of the month, the landlord can treat the tenant as a holdover tenant—a tenant who remains living at the rental even after the tenancy has ended. The landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to quit (move out). If the tenant doesn't move out by the end of the three-day period, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (N.D. Cent. Code §§ 47-32-01, 47-32-02 (2024).)

Ending a Tenancy With a Long-Term Lease Without Cause

If a landlord wants a tenant with a long-term lease (a lease with a definite end date) to move but doesn't have legal cause to end the tenancy, the landlord has to wait until the lease ends. The landlord isn't required to give the tenant any notice to move unless the terms of the lease require the landlord to do so.

If the tenant doesn't move out when the lease ends, the landlord should stop accepting rent payments and file an eviction lawsuit.

What Landlords Must Do With Tenants' Abandoned Property

After an eviction (or even after a tenant simply moves out), the landlord might find that the tenant has left behind personal property at the rental unit. If the property clearly is garbage, the landlord can throw it away.

When the landlord has received notice that the tenant has moved out or it reasonably appears that the tenant has moved out, the landlord can dispose of property with an estimated value of no more than $2,500 without further notice after 28 days. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-30.1 (2024).)

If the property is worth more than $2,500, the process for handling a tenant's abandoned property is more difficult. The landlord has a lien on the abandoned property, but can't sell it or take personal possession of it without a legal process called a "special execution" in North Dakota. The landlord must file a lawsuit asking a judge for an order allowing them to sell or keep the property, and must notify the tenant of the lawsuit. (Poppe v. Stockert, 870 N.W.2d 187 (N.D. 2015).)

Tenant Defenses to Eviction

Even though a landlord might have a valid reason to evict a tenant, the tenant can still choose to fight the eviction. For example, the tenant could claim that the eviction is the result of the landlord illegally discriminating, or is in retaliation for the tenant exercising a legal right.

North Dakota law also allows special protections for tenants who have experienced domestic abuse. (See the section "Rights of Victims of Crime to End Lease Early," below.) Some of these protections might provide a tenant with a defense against eviction.

A tenant's decision to fight the eviction could increase the costs of the eviction, and it could result in the tenant having more time to remain in the rental. For these reasons, it's often in the best interests of both the tenant and the landlord to try to negotiate a compromise rather than head to court. Mediation is a common way for landlords and tenants to work issues out—check to see if your community has a low-cost or free housing mediation program.

Illegal Evictions

Landlords can't take self-help measures to evict a tenant. For example, North Dakota landlords can't force the tenant out physically or through use of threats, exclude the tenant from the rental by changing the locks, or cut off services such as electricity, gas, water, or other essential services.

When a landlord performs an illegal eviction in this manner, the tenant can sue the landlord to either have the landlord stop their actions or to regain access to the rental. The tenant is also entitled to damages equivalent to three times whatever the amount is that would compensate the tenant for the detriment caused by the landlord's behavior. (N.D. Cent. Code § 32-03-29 (2024).)

Rights of Victims of Crime to End Lease Early

When a tenant is a victim of domestic violence or fears imminent domestic violence against themselves or their minor children who live in the rental, the tenant can end the lease early and leave without penalty. The tenant must provide written notice to the landlord before moving out that states that:

  • the tenant fears imminent domestic violence from a person named in a court order, protection order, or similar order
  • the tenant needs to terminate the tenancy, and
  • the specific date the tenancy will terminate.

A tenant who gives notice in this manner must pay rent for the full month in which the tenancy terminates and an additional amount equal to one month's rent (but if the landlord finds a replacement tenant during the month, the tenant is off the hook). (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-17.1 (2024).)

North Dakota Rules About Landlords' Access to Property

North Dakota landlords may enter the rental at any time:

  • in case of an emergency (such as imminent danger to lives or property)
  • if the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned the rental, or
  • if the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant is substantially violating the lease or rental agreement.

Landlords can enter during reasonable hours for:

  • inspecting the rental
  • making necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements
  • supplying necessary or agreed-upon services, or
  • for showing the rental to actual or potential buyers, insurers, mortgagees, real estate agents, tenants, workmen, or contractors.

Unless it's impractical to do so, landlords must first notify the tenant and receive consent to enter at a certain time. Landlords can't use these rights of entry to harass or intimidate the tenant. (N.D. Cent. Code § 47-16-07.3 (2024).)

Landlords can always enter a rental with the tenant's consent.

Where to Find North Dakota Landlord-Tenant Laws

If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, start by checking citations for North Dakota landlord-tenant statutes. To access the statutes themselves, visit the North Dakota Legislature's website.

Local Ordinances Affecting North Dakota Landlords and Tenants

Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as rent control rules, health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and anti-discrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites—just search for the name of a particular city in North Dakota and then do a search when you're on the site.

State and Local Government on the Net and Municode are good sources for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in North Dakota.

Federal Landlord-Tenant Laws and Regulations

Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have enacted laws and regulations that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in North Dakota. These laws and regulations address topics such as discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.

The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 53 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). To access the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations online, see the federal section of the Library of Congress's legal research site.

Nolo Resources on Legal Research and Landlord-Tenant Law

For more information on legal research, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.

You'll also find a wealth of information in Nolo's landlord-tenant books.

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