In all 50 states, including Mississippi, tenants and landlords have certain duties and responsibilities which they owe to each other. Determining exactly what those rights and responsibilities are can sometimes become a difficult and confusing situation. Throughout history, legal disputes between tenants and landlords have been inevitable, and because of this the federal government, and many state and local governments, have enacted laws to help govern the landlord-tenant relationship. Although basically similar in scope, tenant-landlord laws can vary substantially depending on the type of rental property and the locality in which the rental property is located. The focus of this article is an overview of Mississippi tenant-landlord laws relating to residential rentals.
There are two main, legal documents which regulate residential tenant-landlord relationships, rights and responsibilities in Mississippi. The first of these is a federal act named the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act of 1972, which was drafted, approved and recommended for adoption by all states by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The second is specific to Mississippi, and therefore the primary focus of this overview, and is known as the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, which was codified into the Mississippi Code as Title 89, Chapter 8. This section of the Mississippi Code applies to, regulates and determines the rights, obligations and remedies available under any residential rental agreements entered into after July 1, 1991 within the state of Mississippi. (Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-3)
The Mississippi Code specifically lists the duties of both the landlord and the tenant, as well as expressly defining what is meant by the terms “landlord” and “tenant”. Specifically, the term “landlord means the owner, lessor or sublessor of the dwelling unit or the building of which it is a part, or the agent representing such owner, lessor or sublessor” (Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-7); and “tenant means a person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a dwelling unit to the exclusion of others”. (Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-7)
The landlord’s two main responsibilities are listed under Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-23 which states that at all times throughout the tenancy the landlord is responsible for complying with all applicable building or housing codes which materially affect the health and safety of the tenants; and for the maintenance of the rental unit including its plumbing, heating and cooling systems in similar conditions as at the beginning of the tenancy; excluding any reasonable wear and tear or repairs necessary due to damage or defect as a result of the deliberate or negligent acts of the tenant or their invited guests, in which case there is no duty of repair placed upon the landlord. In fact, the code expressly bars obligations arising on the part of the landlord because of damage or defects caused by the tenant’s affirmative act or failure to comply with their obligations under Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-25.
In addition to responsibilities, there are also rights given to each party of a rental agreement by the Mississippi Code. One of the rights of the landlord is the ability to determine rules and regulations concerning tenant use and occupancy of the rented property, with certain restrictions as listed in § 89-8-11 of the code. Another of the landlord’s rights is the authority to terminate the rental agreement for noncompliance by the tenant with either the rental agreement, for example through non-payment of rent, or with any of the obligations imposed on the tenant by the Mississippi Code. Additionally, a landlord may claim part or all of any deposits or pre-payments if it is necessary to remedy a default by the tenant such as for the non-payment of rent, the repair of damages caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear, cleaning fees if the property is not vacated in a reasonably clean condition, and the payment of any other expenses incurred because of the tenant’s default.
To avoid default, the tenant’s responsibilities are somewhat vast – at least in comparison to those of the landlord. Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-25 states that in addition to paying rent, the tenant shall maintain the leased part of the premises in a clean and safe manner, including keeping all plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits; dispose of any rubbish, garbage or other waste in a safe and clean manner which is in compliance with local, community waste disposal standards; use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner; not purposefully or negligently destroy, damage, deface or remove any part of the property or allow any other person to do so; conduct themselves and their guests in a way which maintains the peaceful enjoyment of neighboring property owners; inform the landlord of conditions which may cause damage to the premises; maintain the rental unit in a substantially similar condition as that at the beginning of the lease, excluding normal wear and; and not engage in any illegal activities, as documented by law enforcement agencies, upon the leased premises.
Tenants are entitled to similar protections as those of landlords under the Mississippi Code. For instance, like the landlord, the tenant also has the right to terminate their tenancy because of a material noncompliance on the part of the landlord regarding the rental agreement or any obligations imposed by Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-23. The tenant is entitled to the timely repairs by the landlord of any damage or defects, not caused by their own negligence or deliberate acts. In the event the landlord fails to make repairs within 30 days of receiving written notice by the tenant, the tenant has the further right to repair the defect themselves and to receive reimbursement from the landlord within 45 days for any expenses incurred because of such repairs. At the termination of a rental agreement, tenants have the right to a return of any remaining portions of pre-payments and deposits within 45 of the lease termination with delivery of possession back to the landlord. If the landlord wishes to claim all or part of the deposit, the tenant is entitled to a written notice containing an itemized list of the expenses for which the landlord is claiming any portion of the remaining pre-payments or deposits.
Throughout history, the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords have been very complex often causing disputes. Although briefly summarized in this article for informative purposes, interpretation of the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act within the Mississippi Code is best left to an experienced, qualified attorney. This article does not in any way replace the consultation of such an attorney. When facing a tenant-landlord dispute in Mississippi, or any other state, it is always prudent to seek out the representation of a local attorney. Doing so will not only save you a lot of time and aggravation, but likely some money as well.