Both landlords and tenants should be able to deal with many legal questions and problems without a lawyer, once they understand the basics of state law. This overview of key landlord-tenant laws in Vermont will get you started.
Vermont state law does not limit how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. However, it does limit when it must be returned (within 14 days after a tenant moves) and sets other restrictions on deposits.
Tenants can sue landlords in small claims court for the return of their deposit, up to a dollar amount of $5,000.
State law regulates several rent-related issues in Vermont, including the amount of notice (at least 30 days in Vermont) landlords must give tenants to raise the rent, and how much time (14 days in Vermont) a tenant has to pay rent or move before a landlord can file for eviction.
Tenants may withhold rent or exercise the right to "repair and deduct" if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater.
State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. For example, a landlord may give a Vermont tenant who has received three notices for nonpayment or late rent within a 12-month period an unconditional quit notice that gives the tenant 30 days to move out before the landlord can file for eviction.
Several other landlord-tenant laws in Vermont affect both property owners and renters, including:
If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, you'll find citations in many of the articles and charts included on the Nolo site. If you just want to browse through the Vermont landlord-tenant law, you can find state statutes at Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § § 4451 to 4469a. You can search the table of contents for the landlord-tenant statutes. Or, if you don't know the exact statute number, you can enter a keyword that is likely to be in it, such as "nonpayment of rent." To access your state law, check out the state section of the Library of Congress's legal research site.
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and antidiscrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites —just search for the name of a particular city or town in Vermont 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 Vermont.
While most landlords and tenants will primarily be concerned with state law in Vermont, several federal laws come into play. Congress has enacted laws, and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have adopted regulations, covering 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 50 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"), also organized by subject into 50 separate titles.
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.. Finally, check USA.gov, the official U.S. website for government information.
Nolo's Laws and Legal Research page explains how to research and understand statutes, and provides advice on finding local ordinances and court cases, including Supreme Court cases. To go further, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias and the Editors of Nolo (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 books, such as Every Landlord's Legal Guide and Every Tenant's Legal Guide.