Each state has specific laws that govern landlord/tenant relationships. The laws are designed to resolve disputes in a standard way. In addition, the federal government has laws governing civil rights abuses and tenancies. Here, we will go over both federal and state laws affecting residential rental properties.
> Anti-Discrimination Laws
> Exemptions from Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Laws
> Avoiding Discrimination Claims
> New Mexico State Rules and Regulations Governing Rent Laws
> New Mexico Rules Regarding Security Deposits
> Deadlines and Withholdings for Security Deposits
> New Mexico Rent Laws
> The Implied Warranty of Habitability
> Lease Termination and Eviction
> Landlord / Tenant Lawsuits
> Notice of Entry
> Landlord Disclosures
> Domestic Violence Situations
> Business Licenses
> State Resources and Other Helpful Information
Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
In accord with the Fair Housing Act, which is also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, landlords and realtors are prohibited from artificially segregating their tenants. It is therefore unlawful to deny an individual housing on the basis of:
- Religion or creed,
- Nation of origin,
- Sex or gender,
- Familial status,
- Or disability.
Specific kinds of prohibited actions include (but are not limited to):
- Using discriminatory language in rental applications,
- Charging more rent or raising the security deposit based on a tenant’s children,
- Denying an individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation (including the presence of service animal),
- Denying residential privileges to a tenant based on a protected characteristic,
- Or segregating tenants based on race.
These regulations are laid out in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII, known as the Fair Housing Act, extends civil rights protections to housing. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits landlords from making reasonable accommodations to disabled tenants. This includes the mandatory waiving of a no-pets policy if a disabled tenant provides reasonable proof that he or she requires a service animal. Service animals are not considered pets by law.
However, “emotional support animals” are not considered service animals. Service animals perform a specific function for their owners. For instance, a seeing eye dog helps a blind person navigate. Emotional support animals provide companionship. They are considered pets.
Tenants who rely on such animals for emotional support are advised to find landlords that accept pets. Landlords need not make any accommodations for such animals.
These laws also prohibit landlords from punishing tenants by hiking the rent, evicting them, or taking any action against tenants who assert their legal rights in a residential property dispute (§ 47-8-39).
New Mexico Anti-Discrimination Laws
In addition to adopting federal standards regarding discrimination, many states opt to pass their own laws or extend civil rights protections to other classifications or characteristics in their state. New Mexico is one such state. In addition to the characteristics that are protected by the Fair Housing Act, New Mexico extends protections based on:
- Sexual orientation,
- Gender identity,
- Or spousal affiliation.
City Anti-Discrimination Laws
Cities may also pass anti-discrimination laws that affect properties rented out in the city. These generally include restrictions on discriminating against those with Section 8 vouchers or other kinds of payment methods. Landlords may be required to offer two different payment methods that do not involve a bank or cash. Check with your city’s housing webpage to ensure that you are in compliance.
There are a few instances in which anti-discrimination laws are waived. Those include
- Owner-occupied buildings that have four or fewer rental units,
- Single-family houses sold without the use of a broker,
- Housing limited to members of a club or interest group.
Landlords are advised to make their selection process as transparent as possible. The best way to do that is to select the first qualified applicant. On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons for disqualifying an applicant. Those may include: criminal record, former eviction, or poor credit.
Each state has specific rules regarding security deposits. In New Mexico, landlords must demand “reasonable” security deposits. For rental agreements that are for less than one year, the security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent (§ 47-8-18(A)). Any deposit that requires more than one month’s rent requires interest be paid to the tenant in the amount of the passbook interest that is permitted to lending institutions (§ 47-8-18(A)(1)). Current rates can be found here. The law, however, does not require the landlord to hold the security deposit in a separate savings account.
Landlords are required to return the security deposit in whole no later than one month after the termination of the tenancy or the day that the tenant has moved out. In this case, the clock begins on whichever date is later. So, if the tenant moves out before the end date on the lease, then the clock would begin on the end date of the lease (§ 47-8-18(D)).
Landlords may only use the security deposit for specific reasons (§ 47-8-18(C)). Those include:
- To pay unpaid rent,
- To recover damages to the property.
If the landlord seeks to withhold money from the security deposit, he or she must provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages (§ 47-8-18(D)). Failure to comply with this statute will result in the landlord forfeiting the right:
- To withhold any money from the deposit,
- To assert a counterclaim in an action to recover the deposit,
- To sue for damages to the rental property.
In addition, the landlord becomes liable for the renter’s legal fees and any other costs relating to the recovery of the deposit (§ 47-8-18(D)).
In New Mexico, the landlord can set the terms as far as when rent is due and the tenant is free to accept or reject those terms (§ 47-8-15(B)). However, there are restrictions regarding late fees for unpaid rent. The landlord can charge a late fee if the tenant is made aware of the fee in the lease agreement, but the fee cannot exceed 10% of the payment period (§ 47-8-15(D)). The landlord is also required to give the tenant notice that the late fee has been charged.
In addition, a landlord is allowed to charge the tenant a $25 fee for a bounced check.
Landlords can ask tenants for prepaid rent (§ 47-8-18(B)).
Residential rental units are rented under the implied warranty of habitability. This means that the landlord has an obligation to provide the tenant with the basic requirements necessary for habitability. This includes:
- A functioning roof and protection from the weather,
- Functioning heat, electricity, water, and plumbing,
- Garbage disposal receptacles,
- And a safe, sanitary environment.
A tenant can withhold rent (§ 47-8-27.1, § 47-8-27.2) if a landlord neglects to address habitability problems with the property. The tenant must have written proof that they made the landlord aware of the problem seven days prior. If the unit is uninhabitable, the tenant is allowed to hold 100% of the daily prorated amount of rent. If one or more issues exist with the property that impacts its habitability, the tenant can withhold one-third of the daily prorated cost of rent.
In addition, a landlord is also expected to:
- Comply with: building, fire, and safety codes,
- Keep common areas clean and safe.
This includes providing locks to common exits in apartment buildings or complexes.
When the lease specifies a fixed end date, neither the landlord nor the tenant need give any notice to terminate the lease. A month-to-month lease, however, requires 30-days notice in writing before termination (§ 47-8-37(B)) and a week-to-week lease requires a seven-day written notice (§ 47-8-37(B)).
If a tenant is delinquent in rent, a landlord may issue a three-day notice to remedy or quit (§ 47-8-33). In other words, the tenant may pay the outstanding balance in full, or the lease will be terminated.
If a tenant violates any term of the lease, the landlord may issue a seven-day notice to remedy or quit (§ 47-8-33A). However, if this is the second time within the last six months that the tenant has violated the terms of the lease, the landlord is allowed to issue a seven-day notice to quit. In other words, the tenant has violated the lease and now has no other option than to move (§ 47-8-33B). The landlord is required to supply the tenant with a note specifying which lease terms the tenant violated and the dates of those violations. In order to trigger this action, the landlord must warn the tenant that a second breach will result in a termination of the lease.
All of the tenant’s duties as specified under the law can be found here.
If a lawsuit ensues over a rental dispute, the prevailing party is entitled to collect legal and court fees (§ 47-8-48). The prevailing party must, however, attempt to mitigate damages to the other party. For instance, if a landlord charges a tenant after an eviction, they must make a reasonable attempt to re-rent the property (§ 47-8-6(A)).
Tenants do have a right to their privacy. If a landlord seeks to enter the rental unit, they must give the tenants 24 hours before doing unless they are making repairs after a seven-day notice has been issued by the tenant (§ 47-8-24(A)(1) and (2)). The 24-hour rule also applies to all other repairs and showing the rental unit. In a justified emergency, the landlord may enter the property without notice.
At the beginning of any tenancy, a landlord must disclose specific information about themselves, the property manager, or another who is authorized to receive legal notices on behalf of the property owner (§ 47-8-19). This information includes their name, address, and telephone number.
The landlord is also required to give each tenant a copy of the rental agreement prior to the date that they move in (§ 47-8-20(G)).
In addition, the landlord must disclose the presence of lead on the property. This requires the landlord to append this lead disclosure pamphlet to the lease.
A landlord cannot evict a tenant who has proof that he or she was the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking on the basis of that event. The tenant must show that he or she has a restraining order against the assailant. The tenant can use this is a defense to stop an eviction (§ 47-8-33(J)).
- New Mexico Courts, Magistrate Courts
- Attorney General of New Mexico
- New Mexico Bar Association – Find a Lawyer
- New Mexico Legal Aid
- Law Help New Mexico
- New Mexico Renter’s Guide (English/Spanish)
- Landlord/Tenant Relations Tutorial
- New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department
- New Mexico HUD
- Apartment Association of New Mexico
- New Mexico REALTORS Association