Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Vermont

Key laws every Vermont landlord and tenant needs to know.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

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

Vermont Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws

Vermont landlords are not allowed to charge an application fee to apply for a rental. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4456a (2024).) Other than this prohibition, Vermont law doesn't regulate many aspects of the tenant application and screening process.

However, 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).

Vermont law also bars landlords from discriminating on the basis of:

  • marital status
  • intent to occupy the rental with one or more minor children
  • being a recipient of public assistance, and
  • being a victim of abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4503 (2024).) For more information about Vermont's fair housing laws, check out the State of Vermont Human Rights Commission's guide on fair housing laws.

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Vermont Security Deposit Laws

Unlike many other states, Vermont doesn't cap the amount of security deposit a landlord can collect. Vermont landlords can use the security deposit to cover:

  • nonpayment of rent
  • damage to the rental beyond normal wear and tear
  • nonpayment of utility or other charges that the tenant was required to pay directly to the landlord or a utility, and
  • expenses required to remove any property the tenant abandons.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4461(b) (2024).)

Landlords must return the security deposit along with a written statement itemizing any deductions within 14 days of when either the landlord discovers that the tenant has moved our or the date the tenant actually left (if the tenant provided notice). The remaining deposit and itemization must be delivered by hand or sent by mail to the tenant's last-known address.

If the landlord misses the 14-day deadline, the landlord can't keep any portion of the security deposit—and if the landlord intentionally fails to meet the deadline, they could be liable for twice the amount wrongfully withheld, plus attorneys' fees and costs. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4461(c)-(e) (2024).)

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Required Landlord Disclosures in Vermont

In many states, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants and potential tenants. Vermont, however, doesn't have any required disclosures.

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

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Vermont 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

Vermont 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

Vermont 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 at least 60 days' written notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4455 (2024).)

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Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in Vermont

When a tenant finds a minor defect that the landlord is required to fix by law or under the lease or rental agreement, they should notify the landlord of the problem and give them 30 days' notice to fix it. If the landlord doesn't make the repair within those 30 days, the tenant can repair the defect and deduct from the rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work. The amount deducted can't be more than half of the monthly rent. The tenant must provide the landlord with an accounting of the cost of the repairs. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4459 (2024).)

A Landlord's Duty to Provide a Habitable Rental

Vermont landlords are required to provide rentals that are habitable: safe, clean, and fit for human habitation and that comply with building, housing, and health regulations. This duty includes ensuring that the rental has working heat and hot and cold water. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4457 (2024).)

If something goes wrong with the rental—for example, if the furnace breaks—the tenant has a duty to let the landlord know as soon as possible and give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem. But, if the landlord doesn't fix the problem within a reasonable time, the tenant can:

  • withhold rent until the problem is fixed
  • go to court and have the court order the landlord to fix it
  • recover damages, costs, and attorneys' fees, and
  • terminate the tenancy by giving the landlord reasonable notice.

These remedies apply only if the problem affects health or safety, and if the problem wasn't caused by the tenant or a tenant's guest. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4458 (2024).)

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Small Claims Lawsuits in Vermont

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 court procedures tend to be simpler than those of regular courts, and although Vermont allows parties to have lawyers, many people represent themselves. Small claims courts in Vermont can hear cases in which the plaintiff—the person suing—isn't asking for more than $10,000, and is asking the court only for money damages. (Vt. Stat. tit. 12, § 5531 (2024).)

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Vermont Termination and Eviction Rules

Vermont 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 Vermont before the lease or rental agreement has expired must have cause—in other words, a legally valid reason to terminate the tenancy.

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

  • failure to pay rent
  • violation of a material term of the lease, and
  • criminal activity, illegal drug activity, or acts of violence that threaten the health or safety of other residents.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467 (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 on the due date, the landlord can give the tenant a 14-day notice to pay rent. If the tenant doesn't pay the rent within those 14 days, the tenancy will end and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(a) (2024).) This type of notice might also be called a "notice to pay rent or quit."
  • Termination for breach of rental agreement. If the tenant breaches a material term of the rental agreement—such as having a pet in violation of a no-pets policy—the landlord can give the tenant a 30-day termination notice. This means that if the tenant doesn't move out before the deadline in the notice, the tenancy will end and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(b)(1) (2024).) This type of notice might also be called an "unconditional quit notice."
  • Termination based on criminal activity, illegal drug activity, or acts of violence. When a tenant engages in these types of behavior, the landlord can give the tenant a 14-day termination notice. This means that if the tenant doesn't move out before the deadline in the notice, the tenancy will end and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(b)(2) (2024).) This type of notice might also be called an "unconditional quit notice."

All notices must note the specific termination date.

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 for month-to-month tenancies, tenancies with a long-term lease, and tenancies without a written lease or rental agreement.

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 one of the following notices. The type of notice depends on how long the tenant has lived at the rental.

  • 30-day notice of termination. If the tenant has been living in the rental for two years or less, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice of termination. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy is ending and the tenant must move out before the deadline in the notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(e) (2024).)
  • 60-day notice of termination. If the tenant has been living in the rental for more than two years, the landlord must give the tenant a 60-day notice of termination. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy is ending and the tenant must move out before the deadline in the notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(e) (2024).)

If the tenant doesn't move out by the deadline in the notice, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit.

Ending a Tenancy With a Long-Term Lease Without Cause

When the end of a long-term tenancy is approaching and the landlord doesn't want to renew the lease, the landlord must give the tenant one of the following notices. The type of notice depends on how long the tenant has lived at the rental.

  • 30-day notice of termination. If the tenant has been living in the rental for two years or less, the landlord must give the tenant a termination notice at least 30 days before the end or expiration of the term. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy is ending and the tenant must move out before the deadline in the notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(e) (2024).)
  • 60-day notice of termination. If the tenant has been living in the rental for more than two years, the landlord must give the tenant a termination notice at least 60 days before the end or expiration of the term. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy is ending and the tenant must move out before the deadline in the notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(e) (2024).)

If the tenant doesn't move out by the deadline in the notice, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit.

Ending a Tenancy That Doesn't Have a Written Lease or Rental Agreement Without Cause

When a tenant doesn't have a written lease or rental agreement, the landlord must give one of the following notices:

  • 60-day notice of termination. If the tenant has been living in the rental for two years or less, the landlord must give the tenant a 60-day notice of termination. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy is ending and the tenant must move out before the deadline in the notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(c)(1)(A) (2024).)
  • 90-day notice of termination. If the tenant has been living in the rental for more than two years, the landlord must give the tenant a 90-day notice of termination. The notice must inform the tenant that the tenancy is ending and the tenant must move out before the deadline in the notice. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4467(c)(1)(B) (2024).)

If the tenant doesn't move out by the deadline in the notice, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit.

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.

Vermont law also allows special protections for tenants who have experienced abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. Some of these protections might provide a tenant with a defense against eviction. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, §§ 4471-4475 (2024).)

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

Under Vermont law, landlords can't take self-help measures to evict a tenant. For example, a landlord can't cut utilities to a rental, lock out a tenant, or remove a tenant's property from the rental without going through proper judicial process. (Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4463 (2024).)

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Vermont Rules About Landlords' Access to Property

Landlords can always enter a rental with the tenant's consent or when there's a reasonable belief that there's imminent danger to lives or property. Otherwise, under Vermont law, landlords can enter a rental for the following purposes between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. after giving at least 40 hours' notice:

  • when necessary to inspect the rental
  • to make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, alterations, or improvements
  • to supply agreed-upon services, or
  • to show the property to potential buyers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 9, § 4460 (2024).)

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Where to Find Vermont 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 Vermont landlord-tenant statutes. To access the statutes themselves, see the state section of the Library of Congress's legal research site or the Vermont General Assembly's website. 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."

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Local Ordinances Affecting Vermont 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 Vermont and then do a search when you're on the site.

Municode is a good source 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.

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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 Vermont. 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.

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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 (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.

For landlords:

For tenants:

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