Vermont landlord tenant law decrees state mandated landlord rights as well as tenant rights. Law supersedes real estate lease terms, including any provisions regarding rent payment and eviction. Real estate investors, landlords, renters, and tenants with questions regarding rental property should consult a real estate attorney.
Landlord Tenant Law
§ 4451. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) “Actual notice” means receipt of written notice hand-delivered or mailed to the last known address. A rebuttable presumption that the notice was received three days after mailing is created if the sending party proves that the notice was sent by first class or certified United States mail.
(2) “Building, housing and health regulations” means any law, ordinance or governmental regulation concerning health, safety, sanitation or fitness for habitation, or concerning the construction, maintenance, operation, occupancy, use or appearance of any premises or dwelling unit.
(3) “Dwelling unit” means a building or the part of a building that is used as a home, residence or sleeping place by one or more persons who maintain a household.
(4) “Landlord” means the owner, lessor, or where applicable, the sublessor of a residential dwelling unit or the building of which it is a part.
(5) “Normal wear and tear” means the deterioration which occurs, based upon the reasonable use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his or her household or their invitees or guests.
(6) “Premises” means a dwelling unit, its appurtenances and the building, and the grounds, areas and facilities held out for the use of tenants generally or whose use is promised to the tenant.
(7) “Rent” means all consideration to be made to or for the benefit of the landlord under the rental agreement, not including security deposits.
(8) “Rental agreement” means all agreements, written or oral, embodying terms and conditions concerning the use and occupancy of a dwelling unit and premises.
(9) “Tenant” means a person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a residential dwelling unit to the exclusion of others. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2007, No. 176 (Adj. Sess.), § 44.)
§ 4452. Exclusions
Unless created to avoid the application of this chapter, this chapter does not apply to any of the following:
(1) Occupancy at a public or private institution, operated for the purpose of providing medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious or similar service.
(2) Occupancy under a contract of sale of a dwelling unit or the property of which it is a part, if the occupant is the purchaser or a person who succeeds to the interest of the purchaser.
(3) Occupancy by a member of a fraternal, social or religious organization in the portion of a building operated for the benefit of the organization.
(4) Transient occupancy in a hotel, motel or lodgings during the time the occupancy is subject to a tax levied under chapter 225 of Title 32.
(5) Occupancy by the owner of a condominium unit or the holder of a proprietary lease in a cooperative.
(6) Rental of a mobile home lot governed by chapter 153 of Title 10.
(7) Transient residence in a campground, which for the purposes of this chapter means any property used for seasonal or short-term vacation or recreational purposes on which are located cabins, tents, or lean-tos, or campsites designed for temporary set-up of portable or mobile camping, recreational, or travel dwelling units, including tents, campers, and recreational vehicles such as motor homes, travel trailers, truck campers, and van campers. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1987, No. 116, § 1; 1987, No. 252 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2007, No. 196 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4453. Obligations implied
Obligations imposed on landlords and tenants under this chapter shall be implied in all rental agreements. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4454. Attempt to circumvent
No rental agreement shall contain any provision which attempts to circumvent or circumvents obligations and remedies established by this chapter and any such provision shall be unenforceable and void. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4455. Tenant obligations; payment of rent
(a) Rent is payable without demand or notice at the time and place agreed upon by the parties.
(b) An increase in rent shall take effect on the first day of the rental period following no less than 60 days’ actual notice to the tenant. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4456. Tenant obligations; use and maintenance of dwelling unit
(a) The tenant shall not create or contribute to the noncompliance of the dwelling unit with applicable provisions of building, housing and health regulations.
(b) The tenant shall conduct himself or herself and require other persons on the premises with the tenant’s consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb other tenants’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
(c) The tenant shall not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage or remove any part of the premises or its fixtures, mechanical systems or furnishings or deliberately or negligently permit any person to do so.
(d) Unless inconsistent with a written rental agreement or otherwise provided by law, a tenant may terminate a tenancy by actual notice given to the landlord at least one rental payment period prior to the termination date specified in the notice.
(e) If a tenant acts in violation of this section, the landlord is entitled to recover damages, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, and the violation shall be grounds for termination under subsection 4467(b) of this title. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4456a. Residential rental application fees; prohibited
A landlord or a landlord’s agent shall not charge an application fee to any individual in order to apply to enter into a rental agreement for a residential dwelling unit. This section shall not be construed to prohibit a person from charging a fee to a person in order to apply to rent commercial or nonresidential property. (Added 1999, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 5.)
§ 4457. Landlord obligations; habitability
(a) Warranty of habitability. In any residential rental agreement, the landlord shall be deemed to covenant and warrant to deliver over and maintain, throughout the period of the tenancy, premises that are safe, clean and fit for human habitation and which comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing and health regulations.
(b) Waiver. No rental agreement shall contain any provision by which the tenant waives the protections of the implied warranty of habitability. Any such waiver shall be deemed contrary to public policy and shall be unenforceable and void.
(c) Heat and water. As part of the implied warranty of habitability, the landlord shall ensure that the dwelling unit has heating facilities which are capable of safely providing a reasonable amount of heat. Every landlord who provides heat as part of the rental agreement shall at all times supply a reasonable amount of heat to the dwelling unit. The landlord shall provide an adequate amount of water to each dwelling unit properly connected with hot and cold water lines. The hot water lines shall be connected with supplied water-heating facilities which are capable of heating sufficient water to permit an adequate amount to be drawn. This subsection shall not apply to a dwelling unit intended and rented for summer occupancy or as a hunting camp. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4458. Habitability; tenant remedies
(a) If the landlord fails to comply with the landlord’s obligations for habitability and, after receiving actual notice of the noncompliance from the tenant, a governmental entity or a qualified independent inspector, the landlord fails to make repairs within a reasonable time and the noncompliance materially affects health and safety, the tenant may:
(1) withhold the payment of rent for the period of the noncompliance;
(2) obtain injunctive relief;
(3) recover damages, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees; and
(4) terminate the rental agreement on reasonable notice.
(b) Tenant remedies under this section are not available if the noncompliance was caused by the negligent or deliberate act or omission of the tenant or a person on the premises with the tenant’s consent. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1999, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 6.)
§ 4459. Minor defects; repair and deduct
(a) If within 30 days of notice, the landlord fails to repair a minor defect in order to comply with this chapter or a material provision of the rental agreement, the tenant may repair the defect and deduct from the rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work, not to exceed one-half of one month’s rent. The tenant shall provide the landlord with actual notice of the cost of the repair, when the cost is deducted from the rent.
(b) The tenant remedies under this section are not available if the noncompliance was caused by the negligent or deliberate act or omission of the tenant or a person on the premises with the tenant’s consent. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4460. Access
(a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit with the tenant’s consent, which shall not be unreasonably withheld.
(b) A landlord may also enter the dwelling unit for the following purposes between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 9:00 P.M. on no less than 48 hours’ notice:
(1) when necessary to inspect the premises;
(2) to make necessary or agreed repairs, alterations or improvements;
(3) to supply agreed services; or
(4) to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers or contractors.
(c) A landlord may only enter the dwelling unit without consent or notice when the landlord has a reasonable belief that there is imminent danger to any person or to property. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4461. Security deposits
(a) A security deposit is any advance, deposit or prepaid rent, however named, which is refundable to the tenant at the termination or expiration of the tenancy. The function of a security deposit is to secure the performance of a tenant’s obligations to pay rent and to maintain a dwelling unit.
(b) The landlord may retain all or a portion of the security deposit for:
(1) nonpayment of rent;
(2) damage to property of the landlord, unless the damage is the result of normal wear and tear or the result of actions or events beyond the control of the tenant;
(3) nonpayment of utility or other charges which the tenant was required to pay directly to the landlord or to a utility; and
(4) expenses required to remove from the rental unit articles abandoned by the tenant.
(c) A landlord shall return the security deposit along with a written statement itemizing any deductions to a tenant within 14 days from the date on which the landlord discovers that the tenant vacated or abandoned the dwelling unit, or the date the tenant vacated the dwelling unit, provided the landlord received notice from the tenant of that date. In the case of the seasonal occupancy and rental of a dwelling unit not intended as a primary residence, the security deposit and written statement shall be returned within 60 days.
(d) The landlord shall comply with this section by hand-delivering or mailing the statement and any payment required to the last known address of the tenant.
(e) If a landlord fails to return the security deposit with a statement within 14 days, the landlord forfeits the right to withhold any portion of the security deposit. If the failure is wilful, the landlord shall be liable for double the amount wrongfully withheld, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
(f) Upon termination of the landlord’s interest in the dwelling unit, the security deposit shall be transferred to the new landlord. The new landlord shall give the tenant actual notice of the new landlord’s name and address with a statement that the security deposit has been transferred to the new landlord.
(g) A town or municipality may adopt an ordinance governing security deposits on dwellings. The ordinance shall be supplemental to and not inconsistent with the minimum protections of the provisions of this section. The ordinance may not limit how a security deposit is held. The ordinance may authorize the payment of interest on a security deposit. The ordinance may provide that a housing board of review constituted pursuant to section 5005 of Title 24 may hear and decide disputes related to security deposits upon request for a hearing by a landlord or tenant. The board’s actions shall be reviewable under section 5006 of Title 24. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1987, No. 116, § 2; 1991, No. 229 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2007, No. 176 (Adj. Sess.), § 45.)
§ 4462. Abandonment; unclaimed property
(a) A tenant has abandoned a dwelling unit if:
(1) there are circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the dwelling unit is no longer occupied as a full-time residence;
(2) rent is not current; and
(3) the landlord has made reasonable efforts to ascertain the tenant’s intentions.
(b) If the tenant abandons the dwelling unit the tenant shall remain liable for rent until the expiration of the rental agreement. However, if the landlord rents the dwelling unit before the expiration of the rental agreement, the agreement terminates on the date of the new tenancy.
(c) If any property, except trash, garbage or refuse, is unclaimed by a tenant who has abandoned a dwelling unit, the landlord shall give written notice to the tenant mailed to the tenant’s last known address that the landlord intends to dispose of the property after 60 days if the tenant has not claimed the property and paid any reasonable storage and other fees incurred by the landlord. The landlord shall place the property in a safe, dry, secured location, but may dispose of any trash, garbage or refuse left by the tenant. The tenant may claim the property by providing the landlord with the following within 60 days after the date of the notice:
(1) A reasonable written description of the property; and
(2) Payment of the fair and reasonable cost of storage and any related reasonable expenses incurred by the landlord.
If the tenant does not claim the property within the required time, the property shall become the property of the landlord. If the tenant claims the property within the required time, the landlord shall immediately make the property available to the tenant at a reasonable place and the tenant shall take possession of the property at that time and place.
(d) Any personal property remaining in the dwelling unit or leased premises after the tenant has vacated may be disposed of by the landlord without notice or liability to the tenant or owner of the personal property, provided that one of the following has occurred:
(1) The tenant provided actual notice to the landlord that the tenant has vacated the dwelling unit or leased premises.
(2) The tenant has vacated the dwelling unit or leased premises at the end of the rental agreement. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1999, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2007, No. 176 (Adj. Sess.), § 46.)
§ 4463. Illegal evictions
(a) No landlord may willfully cause, directly or indirectly, the interruption or termination of any utility service being supplied to the tenant, except for temporary interruptions for emergency repairs.
(b) No landlord may directly or indirectly deny a tenant access to and possession of the tenant’s rented or leased premises, except through proper judicial process.
(c) No landlord may directly or indirectly deny a tenant access to and possession of the tenant’s property, except through proper judicial process. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4464. Remedies for illegal evictions
(a) Any tenant who sustains damage or injury as a result of an illegal eviction may bring an action for injunctive relief, damages, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
(b) A court may award reasonable attorney’s fees to the landlord if, upon motion and hearing, it is determined that the action was not brought in good faith and was frivolous or intended for harassment only. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4465. Retaliatory conduct prohibited
(a) A landlord of a residential dwelling unit may not retaliate by establishing or changing terms of a rental agreement or by bringing or threatening to bring an action against a tenant who:
(1) has complained to a governmental agency charged with responsibility for enforcement of a building, housing or health regulation of a violation applicable to the premises materially affecting health and safety;
(2) has complained to the landlord of a violation of this chapter; or
(3) has organized or become a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization.
(b) If the landlord acts in violation of this section, the tenant is entitled to recover damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and has a defense in any retaliatory action for possession.
(c) If a landlord serves notice of termination of tenancy on any grounds other than for nonpayment of rent within 90 days after notice by any municipal or state governmental entity that the premises are not in compliance with applicable health or safety regulations, there is a rebuttable presumption that any termination by the landlord is in retaliation for the tenant having reported the noncompliance. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2007, No. 176 (Adj. Sess.), § 47.)
§ 4467. Termination of tenancy; notice
(a) Termination for nonpayment of rent. The landlord may terminate a tenancy for nonpayment of rent by providing actual notice to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 14 days after the date of the actual notice. The rental agreement shall not terminate if the tenant pays or tenders rent due through the end of the rental period in which payment is made or tendered. Acceptance of partial payment of rent shall not constitute a waiver of the landlord’s remedies for nonpayment of rent or an accord and satisfaction for nonpayment of rent.
(b) Termination for breach of rental agreement.
(1) The landlord may terminate a tenancy for failure of the tenant to comply with a material term of the rental agreement or with obligations imposed under this chapter, by actual notice given to the tenant at least 30 days prior to the termination date specified in the notice.
(2) When termination is based on criminal activity, illegal drug activity, or acts of violence any of which threaten the health or safety of other residents, the landlord may terminate the tenancy by providing actual notice to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 14 days from the date of the actual notice.
(c) Termination for no cause. In the absence of a written rental agreement, the landlord may terminate a tenancy for no cause as follows:
(1) If rent is payable on a monthly basis, by providing actual notice to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be:
(A) For tenants who have resided continuously in the same premises for two years or less, at least 60 days after the date of the actual notice.
(B) For tenants who have resided continuously in the same premises for more than two years, at least 90 days after the date of the actual notice.
(2) If rent is payable on a weekly basis, by providing actual notice to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 21 days after the date of the actual notice.
(d) Termination of rental agreement when property is sold. In the absence of a written rental agreement a landlord who has contracted to sell the building may terminate a tenancy by providing actual notice to the tenant of the date on which the tenancy will terminate which shall be at least 30 days after the date of the actual notice.
(e) Termination for no cause under terms of written rental agreement.
cause shall be at least 30 days before the end or expiration of the stated term of the rental agreement, if the tenancy has continued for two years or less. The notice to terminate for no cause shall be at least 60 days before the end or expiration of the term of the rental agreement if the tenancy has continued for more than two years. If there is a written week-to-week rental agreement, the notice to terminate for no cause shall be at least seven days; however, a notice to terminate for nonpayment of rent shall be as provided in subsection (a) of this section.
(f) In all cases the termination date shall be specifically stated in the notice.
(g) If the building is being converted to condominiums, notice shall be given in accordance with subchapter 2 of chapter 15 of Title 27.
(h) A rental arrangement whereby a person rents to another individual one or more rooms in his or her personal residence that includes the shared use of any of the common living spaces, such as the living room, kitchen or bathroom, may be terminated by either party by providing actual notice to the other of the date the rental agreement shall terminate, which shall be at least 15 days after the date of actual notice if the rent is payable monthly and at least seven days after the date of actual notice if the rent is payable weekly.
(i) Multiple notices. All actual notices that are in compliance with this section shall not invalidate any other actual notice and shall be a valid basis for commencing and maintaining an action for possession pursuant to this chapter, chapter 153 of Title 10, chapter 14 of Title 11, or chapter 169 of Title 12, notwithstanding that the notices may be based on different or unrelated grounds, dates of termination, or that the notices are sent at different times prior to or during an ejectment action. A landlord may maintain an ejectment action and rely on as many grounds for ejectment as are allowed by law at any time during the eviction process.
(j)(1) A landlord’s acceptance of full or partial rent payment by or on behalf of a tenant after the termination of the tenancy for reasons other than nonpayment of rent or at any time during the ejectment action shall not result in the dismissal of an ejectment action or constitute a waiver of the landlord’s remedies to proceed with an eviction action based on any of the following:
(A) The tenant’s breach of the terms of a rental agreement pursuant to subsection (b) of this section.
(B) The tenant’s breach of the tenant’s obligations pursuant to subsections 4456(a), (b), and (c) of this title.
(C) For no cause pursuant to subsections (c), (d), (e), and (h) of this section.
(2) This subsection shall apply to chapter 153 of Title 10, chapter 14 of Title 11, and chapter 169 of Title 12.
(k) A notice to terminate a tenancy shall be insufficient to support a judgment of eviction unless the proceeding is commenced no later than 60 days from the termination date set forth in the notice. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1999, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 2, 2a; 2007, No. 176 (Adj. Sess.), § 48; 2009, No. 129 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)
§ 4468. Termination of tenancy; action for possession
If the tenant remains in possession after termination of the rental agreement, without the express consent of the landlord, the landlord may bring an action for possession, damages and costs under subchapter 3 of chapter 169 of Title 12. (Added 1985, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)
§ 4469a. Termination of occupancy of farm employee housing
(a) For the purposes of this section:
(1) “Farm employee” means an individual employed by a farm employer for farming operations.
(2) “Farm employer” means a person earning at least one-half of his or her annual gross income from the business of farming as that term is defined in Section 1.175-3 of the regulations issued by the United States Department of the Treasury under the Internal Revenue Code of the United States, as amended.
(3) “Housing provided as a benefit of farm employment” means housing owned or controlled by the farm employer, whether located on or off the farm premises, and provided for the occupancy of the farm employee and the farm employee’s family or household members for no payment other than the farm employee’s labor. Payment of utility and fuel charges paid by the farm employee does not affect the designation of housing provided as a benefit of farm employment.
(b) Unless otherwise provided in a written employment contract, a farm employer who provides housing to a farm employee and the farm employee’s family or household members as a benefit of the employment may terminate that benefit and all rights of the employee and the employee’s family or household members to occupy the housing when the employee’s employment is terminated.
(c) The termination of the housing benefit shall be by written notice served upon the former farm employee by a law enforcement officer in accordance with Rule 4 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure. The notice shall be served together with a summons and complaint seeking a writ of possession under this section to remove the former farm employee from occupancy of the farm housing. The notice shall include the following statements, in boldface print:
“Your employment and housing benefit have been terminated.
“Your employer has filed a legal proceeding in ______ County superior court to obtain a court order directing you and any family or household member cohabitating in the dwelling to vacate and leave the dwelling and remove all of your possessions. The address and telephone number of the court are as follows:.
“The court will hold a hearing on your former employer’s request for a court order directing you to leave and vacate the dwelling. The hearing will be held on ______ at ______ in the ____ am/pm at the courthouse at the address listed above. You have the right to be served with notice of the hearing at least ten days prior to the hearing date. You have the right to appear at this hearing. At the hearing, your former employer must prove that the dwelling is needed for housing a replacement employee, and that your failure to vacate is causing actual hardship.
“If you believe that your employment was terminated wrongfully, that your dwelling house was not habitable, or if you have any other claim against your former employer, you may file a counterclaim against your former employer as explained in the summons and complaint that are being served upon you with this notice.
“Filing a counterclaim against your former employer will not delay or stop the court from ordering you to leave and vacate the dwelling.
“You may wish to seek legal advice from a licensed attorney. If you believe you cannot afford an attorney, you may contact the clerk of the court listed above for information about the availability of an attorney at public expense, although you may not be entitled to an attorney at public expense.”
(d) A farm employer shall be entitled to a show cause hearing on an expedited basis for the purpose of demonstrating that the failure of the former farm employee to vacate the farm housing is causing an actual hardship to the farm employer. The show cause hearing shall be held not less than 10 calendar days after service on the former employee of the notice described in subsection (c) of this section. The issue before the court at the hearing shall be whether the farm employer has suffered actual hardship because of the unavailability of the farm housing for a replacement employee.
(e) If the court finds that the farm employer has suffered actual hardship because of the unavailability of the farm housing for a replacement employee, the court shall enter an order approving a writ of possession, which shall be executed no sooner than five days nor later than 30 days after the writ is served, to put the plaintiff into possession.
(f) If the court does not make a finding on behalf of the farm employer, the farm employer may seek an eviction pursuant to sections 4467 and 4468 of this chapter and subchapter 3 of chapter 169 of Title 12. In any action pursuant to this section, the farm employer may file a motion for payment of the reasonable rental value of the premises into court pursuant to 12 V.S.A. § 4853a.
(g) The right of a former farm employee to pursue any claim that he or she may have against the former farm employer by way of a counterclaim in a civil action brought pursuant to this section is expressly preserved. The assertion of a counterclaim shall not have the effect of delaying or preventing the removal of the employee from the housing, nor shall the employee be entitled to obtain injunctive relief in the form of repossession of farm housing. A former employee who prevails on a counterclaim shall be entitled to relief as provided by applicable law.
(h) Sections 4455, 4461, and 4467 of this chapter shall not apply to housing provided to a farm employee as a benefit of the employment. (Added 2009, No. 89 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. April 28, 2010.)
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