Commercial tenant law and residential tenant law can differ dramatically.  In residential tenant law, there are statutes in place to protect certain rights of tenants who will be eating, sleeping, and raising their families on the property. Commercial tenants often have considerably less protections as the courts often assume that commercial tenants are in a stronger bargaining position with their landlords than residential tenants.

What are Landlords Forbidden from Doing?

Landlords must follow the correct procedures for starting an eviction action at the local court.  In most states, the landlord must provide the commercial tenant with 3 days’ notice of eviction.  Landlords may not evict tenants by changing locks on doors, turning off utilities, and removing personal property in order to force the occupant out. This is true for both residential and commercial tenants.

How Do Landlord Obligations Differ Between Tenants?

Private residents have the right of quiet enjoyment, which is the right to use the premises in any legal way they desire. Residents in states such as California are also guaranteed the right to privacy within their homes. Residential tenants also have the right to a safe, clean, and healthful space in which to live.  The landlord has a special duty to keep the property free of physical defects, as well as free from the dangers from outside crime.  The landlord may not evict a tenant because she has reported unsafe conditions to a government agency.  If the property is uninhabitable for these reasons, the tenant has the right to “abatement,” or the withholding of rent. 

On the other hand, a commercial tenant does not have the right to a habitable property if it is not explicitly stated in the contract.  Although some courts may recognize a right of sustainability for commercial tenants, this “right” is not as recognized as the right of habitable property for residential tenants. For example, if there is a crack in the wall, the tenant may need to fix it herself.  Also, a commercial tenant cannot just stop paying rent.  If a business wants to challenge the eviction in court for a breach of lease, the business must often pay current or past due rent into the court’s registrar. 

How Do Tenant Obligations Differ?

Residential tenants are ordinarily not liable for wear and tear to the property.  On the other hand, commercial tenants may be responsible for full maintenance of the property. With residential property, there is often a limit on the amount of rent increases, on the security deposit, late charges, and on the number of days required for a notice to quit. These safeguards may not be there for commercial tenants, and thus eviction proceedings are simplified.