South Dakota Tenant-Landlord Rental Laws & Rights for 2024

Overview of South Dakota Tenant-Landlord Laws

Navigating the rental landscape in South Dakota requires a clear understanding of the state's tenant-landlord laws and rights, especially as they evolve over time. The year 2024 brings some updates and clarifications to these laws, aiming to balance the interests of both tenants and landlords while ensuring fair and equitable treatment in rental agreements. Key aspects of South Dakota's tenant-landlord laws include security deposits, maintenance responsibilities, and rent regulations.

South Dakota law allows landlords to collect a security deposit, typically capped at one month’s rent unless special conditions, such as pets, apply. Landlords must return the security deposit within 14 days after the tenant vacates the property, along with an itemized list of any deductions. Landlords are also required to maintain rental properties in habitable conditions, ensuring essential services like heating, plumbing, and electrical systems are functional. Tenants are responsible for promptly reporting any needed repairs, and landlords must address these issues within a reasonable timeframe.

While South Dakota does not have statewide rent control, landlords must adhere to lease terms regarding rent increases. Proper notice, usually 30 days for month-to-month leases, is required for any rent changes. The 2024 updates emphasize the importance of timely communication between landlords and tenants, ensuring that both parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law. This approach aims to create a more harmonious and legally compliant rental environment in South Dakota.

Rental Agreements

A rental agreement, also known as a lease, is a legally binding contract between a landlord and a tenant that outlines the terms and conditions of the rental arrangement. In South Dakota, rental agreements can be written or verbal, but it is strongly recommended to have a written agreement to avoid misunderstandings and disputes.

A valid rental agreement in South Dakota should include the following essential elements:

1. Identification of Parties: 

The agreement should clearly identify the landlord (or property owner) and the tenant(s) who will be occupying the rental unit.

2. Description of the Rental Unit: 

The agreement should provide a detailed description of the rental unit, including the address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and any additional amenities or facilities that are included (e.g., parking space, storage unit, etc.).

3. Rental Term: 

The agreement should specify the duration of the rental period, whether it is a fixed-term lease (e.g., 12 months) or a month-to-month arrangement.

4. Rent Amount and Payment Terms: 

The agreement should clearly state the amount of rent to be paid, the due date, accepted payment methods, and any applicable late fees or penalties for late payment.

5. Security Deposit: 

The agreement should outline the amount of the security deposit required (if any), the conditions under which it may be withheld or refunded, and the timeline for returning the deposit after the tenant moves out.

6. Maintenance and Repair Responsibilities: 

The agreement should specify the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant regarding the maintenance and repair of the rental unit, including who is responsible for routine maintenance, major repairs, and any necessary replacements.

7. Rules and Regulations: 

The agreement should outline any rules and regulations that the tenant must follow, such as restrictions on pets, smoking, noise levels, or unauthorized occupants.

8. Termination and Renewal Clauses: 

The agreement should specify the conditions under which the lease can be terminated by either party, as well as the procedures for renewing or extending the lease term.

Both the landlord and the tenant should carefully review the rental agreement and ensure that they fully understand their respective rights and obligations before signing. It is advisable to consult with a legal professional if there are any ambiguities or concerns regarding the terms of the agreement.

Security Deposits

Landlords in South Dakota are permitted to charge a security deposit to cover any potential damages to the rental property beyond normal wear and tear. The maximum allowable security deposit in South Dakota is one month's rent for an unfurnished unit or one and a half month's rent for a furnished unit.

When a tenant moves out, the landlord must return the full security deposit within two weeks, minus any deductions for damages. Any deductions must be itemized in writing, with receipts or documentation provided to justify the amounts withheld. Normal wear and tear related to the length of tenancy is not considered damage and cannot be deducted.

Landlords are required to hold security deposits in a separate account and cannot commingle them with other funds. Interest earned on the deposit also belongs to the tenant. It's recommended for tenants to conduct a move-in and move-out inspection with the landlord and document the unit's condition to avoid disputes over deposit deductions.

If a tenant believes their security deposit was unfairly withheld or deducted, they can file a complaint with the South Dakota Attorney General's Consumer Protection office. Landlords found in violation can be liable for damages and penalties under South Dakota security deposit laws.

Rent Payments, Late Fees, and Rent Control

In South Dakota, rent payments are typically due on the date specified in the lease agreement, and tenants are obligated to pay their rent on time to avoid penalties. It's important for both tenants and landlords to clearly outline the payment schedule in the lease to prevent any misunderstandings. Most rental agreements specify a due date, and it is the tenant's responsibility to ensure the rent is paid by this date.

Regarding late fees, South Dakota law permits landlords to charge a fee if the rent is not paid on time. However, any late fees must be specified in the lease agreement to be enforceable. The fee must be reasonable, though the state does not define a specific maximum amount. It is crucial for tenants to be aware of these terms to avoid additional charges.

South Dakota does not have statewide rent control laws, meaning landlords are free to set rental prices based on market conditions. This flexibility allows landlords to adjust rent according to demand and other economic factors. However, any rent increases must comply with the terms specified in the lease. For month-to-month leases, landlords are required to provide at least a 30-day notice before implementing a rent increase. Fixed-term leases typically do not allow rent increases during the lease period unless explicitly stated in the contract. This approach ensures tenants have sufficient notice and time to make decisions regarding their housing arrangements.

Tenant's Right to Privacy and Quiet Enjoyment

South Dakota law protects a tenant's right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of their rental unit. Landlords must give proper advance notice, typically 24 hours, before entering an occupied unit except in cases of emergency. Tenants have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy and to live without unreasonable disturbances.

Landlords cannot enter a rental unit without proper notice for inspections, repairs, or showings. The tenant must be given reasonable advance notification of the intent to enter and the approximate time, unless it is an emergency situation involving fire, flood, or other threat to life or property. Retaliatory conduct by the landlord, such as entering without notice after a tenant complaint, is illegal.

Tenants also have the right to quiet enjoyment, which means freedom from excessive noise, nuisances, or other actions that interfere with their use and peaceful living conditions. Landlords must address valid complaints from tenants about noise issues like loud neighbors, barking dogs, or other disturbances. Failure to respond appropriately can violate the tenant's right to habitable premises.

Quiet enjoyment laws protect against landlord harassment as well. Landlords cannot intentionally disturb tenants or interrupt essential services like utilities in an attempt to force them out. Tenants dealing with excessive noise, landlord intrusions, or other violations of their rights to privacy and peaceful occupancy should send the landlord a written notice. If the issues persist, the tenant may be able to terminate the lease or pursue other legal remedies.

Habitability and Right to Repair

Under South Dakota law, landlords have a duty to provide rental units that meet basic standards of habitability. This means the premises must be safe, sanitary, and fit for occupation. Specifically, landlords must ensure the rental unit:

  • Has reasonably good structural conditions without major defects
  • Is free from environmental hazards like lead paint, asbestos, mold, etc.  
  • Has proper sanitation, ventilation, and air conditioning/heating
  • Has functioning electrical, plumbing, and hot/cold water systems
  • Provides adequate trash/waste disposal and extermination services
  • Meets all applicable housing and building codes impacting health/safety

If the rental unit violates any of these habitability requirements, the tenant has the right to request repairs in writing from the landlord. The landlord must then make the necessary repairs to bring the unit into compliance within a reasonable timeframe.

If the landlord fails to address serious repair issues after proper written notice, the tenant may have grounds for rent withholding. However, the tenant must follow specific steps:

1. Send the landlord a written repair notice specifying the issues 

2. Allow a reasonable period for repairs (usually 14-30 days)

3. If no action, pay rent into an escrow account instead of the landlord

4. Notify the landlord rent is being withheld and provide proof of escrow

The escrowed rent can only be released with mutual agreement or court order. Tenants withholding rent improperly may be subject to eviction for nonpayment.

Overall, while landlords must provide habitable premises, tenants also have responsibilities to keep the unit clean, avoid damage beyond normal wear and tear, and properly request repairs. Open communication and following proper procedures is key.

Terminating the Lease

Proper notice is required by both landlords and tenants when terminating a lease agreement in South Dakota. The specific notice periods are typically outlined in the lease itself, but South Dakota law also provides some general guidelines.

For tenants ending a lease, the amount of notice depends on the lease term:

  • Month-to-month lease: At least one calendar month's notice
  • Less than 1 year lease: At least 30 days' notice  
  • 1 year or longer lease: At least 60 days' notice

Tenants should provide written notice and follow any specific instructions in the lease for properly terminating it. Failure to give adequate notice can result in penalties like forfeiting the security deposit or being held responsible for additional rent.

Landlords must also provide proper notice to terminate or not renew a lease, with timing requirements varying:

  • Month-to-month lease: At least 30 days' notice
  • Less than 1 year lease: At least 30 days' notice
  • 1 year or longer lease: At least 60 days' notice 

There are limited legal reasons for a landlord to terminate during the lease term, such as:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violation of lease terms/rental agreement 
  • Significant damage to the property
  • Illegal activity by the tenant

A landlord cannot terminate simply to rent to someone else or increase rent during a fixed-term lease. Any termination in violation of the notice periods opens the landlord to penalties like monetary damages.

Both parties should carefully review notice requirements and acceptable reasons for early termination when entering into and terminating a South Dakota lease agreement.

Eviction Process

In South Dakota, there are specific legal requirements that landlords must follow when evicting a tenant. Failure to properly follow eviction laws in South Dakota can result in the landlord being held liable for damages.

Allowable reasons for eviction in South Dakota include:

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Violation of the rental agreement or rules  
  • Illegal activity on the premises
  • Excessive property damage by the tenant

The eviction process begins with the landlord providing proper written notice to the tenant. For nonpayment of rent, landlords must give a 3-day notice to quit. For lease violations, the notice period is typically 30 days.  

If the tenant remains after the notice period expires, the landlord must then file an official eviction lawsuit with the court. Tenants have the right to respond and dispute the eviction. An eviction cannot proceed without a court order.

It is illegal in South Dakota for landlords to attempt "self-help" evictions by changing the locks, removing the tenant's belongings, terminating utilities, or using intimidation tactics. Only a law enforcement officer can carry out a court-ordered eviction.

Tenants facing eviction have rights throughout the process. They cannot be evicted without proper notice and a court order. Landlords are prohibited from retaliating against tenants who exercise their legal rights. Tenants can only be evicted for valid, legal reasons specified in the original eviction notice.

Squatters' Rights in South Dakota

In South Dakota, squatters' rights are governed by the legal doctrine of adverse possession, which allows individuals to claim ownership of a property if they meet specific criteria over an extended period. Adverse possession laws are intended to encourage property owners to actively monitor and maintain their land, and if they fail to do so, someone who has been using the property productively for a long time may be able to claim legal ownership.

Criteria for Adverse Possession

To establish a claim of adverse possession in South Dakota, a squatter must meet the following criteria for a continuous period of 20 years:

  • Actual Possession: The squatter must physically occupy the property, using it in a manner that is consistent with ownership. This includes living on the property, making improvements, or maintaining it.
  • Open and Notorious: The squatter’s possession must be visible and obvious to anyone, including the property owner. The occupation should be apparent and not hidden, providing clear notice to the owner.
  • Exclusive Possession: The squatter must be the sole occupant of the property, not sharing possession with others, including the owner.
  • Hostile Possession: The occupation must be without the owner’s permission and against the owner’s rights. Hostility in this context does not imply aggression but rather a lack of legal authorization to use the property.
  • Continuous Possession: The squatter must occupy the property continuously for the entire statutory period without significant interruption.

Preventative Measures for Property Owners

Property owners in South Dakota can take several steps to prevent adverse possession claims:

  • Regular Inspections: Routinely inspecting and maintaining the property helps identify and address unauthorized occupancy promptly.
  • Clear Boundaries: Erecting fences or posting signs can help establish clear property boundaries and deter squatters.
  • Prompt Legal Action: Taking swift legal action to remove squatters can prevent them from meeting the continuous possession requirement.
  • Granting Permission: Providing explicit permission for someone to use the property can negate the hostility requirement, thereby preventing an adverse possession claim.

If a squatter believes they meet the criteria for adverse possession, they must file a lawsuit to obtain a court judgment recognizing them as the legal owner of the property. The burden of proof lies with the squatter to demonstrate that all conditions of adverse possession have been met. Property owners can challenge these claims by presenting evidence that the criteria were not fulfilled, such as showing that the squatter’s possession was not continuous or that they had permission to be on the property.

Fair Housing Laws and Discrimination

South Dakota's fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on certain protected characteristics. Under state law, it is illegal for landlords to refuse to rent, impose different terms or conditions, or otherwise discriminate against someone due to their race, color, creed, religion, sex, disability, ancestry, familial status, or national origin.

Some examples of illegal discriminatory actions include:

  • Refusing to rent to someone because they have children or are expecting a child
  • Advertising that certain racial groups are not welcome to apply
  • Quoting higher rent prices or requiring larger security deposits from tenants of a certain religion
  • Denying reasonable accommodation requests from tenants with disabilities, such as allowing a service animal
  • Sexually harassing tenants or making unwanted advances

If you believe you have experienced housing discrimination, you can file a complaint with the South Dakota Department of Human Rights. Potential remedies include monetary damages, policy changes, access to previously denied housing, and other forms of relief.

Landlords should be extremely cautious about making any housing decisions based on a prospective tenant's protected characteristics. Having clear, objective rental criteria and treating all applicants equally is important to avoid discrimination claims. Violating fair housing laws can result in costly lawsuits and penalties.

Landlord Entry into Rental Unit

Landlords in South Dakota have certain rights to enter a tenant's rental unit, but these rights are limited by law to protect a tenant's privacy and right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Here are the key rules around when a landlord can enter:

Legal Reasons for Entry

A landlord may enter a rental unit for legitimate business purposes such as:

  • Making necessary or requested repairs/maintenance
  • Performing routine inspections (as allowed by the lease)
  • Showing the unit to prospective buyers, renters, contractors, etc. 
  • Addressing an emergency that threatens property/personal safety
  • If the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises

Required Notice

Except in emergencies, a landlord must provide the tenant with reasonable advance notice, typically 24-48 hours, before entering the rental unit. This notice should state the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry.

If proper notice is given, the tenant cannot unreasonably withhold consent for the landlord to enter. However, the tenant has the right to be present during the entry, if desired.

Emergency Entry

A landlord may enter without consent or notice in case of a real emergency that threatens life or property, such as a fire or burst pipe. The landlord should request to make any non-emergency repairs at a reasonable later time.

Showing Property

If the tenant is moving out, the landlord has the right to show the rental unit to prospective new tenants at reasonable times and with proper notice. This allows for a smooth transition between tenancies.

Abuse of Entry Rights 

Landlords cannot abuse their limited right of access or use it to harass or intimidate tenants. Improper entry or excessive disturbance could be grounds for the tenant to potentially terminate the lease agreement.

Resolving Landlord-Tenant Disputes in South Dakota

If a dispute arises between a tenant and landlord in South Dakota, there are several options available for resolution:

First, open communication between both parties is key. Tenants should document all communication and issues in writing. Many disputes can be resolved through respectful negotiation if both sides make a reasonable effort.

If negotiation fails, tenants can file an official complaint with the South Dakota Attorney General's Consumer Protection Office. This state agency mediates landlord-tenant disputes and investigates potential violations of housing laws. Their services are free for tenants.

Legal aid organizations like East River Legal Services and Dakota Plains Legal Services provide free legal counsel and representation for qualifying low-income tenants involved in housing disputes like eviction cases.

For disputes involving monetary damages under $12,000, tenants can take their landlord to small claims court without an attorney. The process is relatively simple, though specific procedures vary by county. Tenants must have documentation like a copy of the lease, repair requests, photo/video evidence, and records of all communication.

As a last resort, tenants can hire a private attorney and pursue legal action against the landlord in civil court for violations of South Dakota's landlord-tenant laws. However, this option can be costly and time-consuming.

The key for tenants is to understand their rights under South Dakota law, maintain thorough documentation, give landlords proper notice to cure violations, act promptly on disputes, and utilize free legal resources when possible before escalating to court action.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are tenant rights in South Dakota?

Tenants in South Dakota have the right to a habitable rental unit, proper notice before a landlord enters, and protection from retaliation. They also have the right to pursue repairs if the landlord fails to maintain the property.

What are South Dakota landlord tenant laws?

South Dakota landlord tenant laws cover topics like the obligations of landlords and tenants, termination procedures, security deposits, access to property, repairs, and anti-discrimination policies. These laws aim to protect the rights of both parties.

How long can a lease be in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, leases for a term of one year or less can be oral or written. Any lease longer than one year must be in writing to be enforceable.

Does a landlord have to give notice before entering in South Dakota?

Yes, in South Dakota landlords must provide reasonable advance notice, typically 24 hours, before entering a rental unit except in emergencies. The notice must state the intended entry time and purpose.

What are renters rights in South Dakota?

Key renters rights in South Dakota include the right to habitable premises, proper notice from the landlord, protection against retaliation, the return of a security deposit, and the ability to pursue repairs.

How long can you leave property after moving out of a rental in South Dakota?

South Dakota has procedures for dealing with abandoned property left behind after a tenant moves out. Landlords must provide proper notice before disposing of or selling abandoned belongings.

Does a landlord have to make repairs in South Dakota?

Yes, landlords in South Dakota are required to make repairs to keep rental units habitable and maintain facilities like electricity, heat, and hot/cold water. Tenants can pursue remedies if repairs are neglected.

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