Tenants' Rights in New Mexico
Landlord-tenant law in New Mexico protects the rights of its tenants. These rights include the right to the security deposit, the right to rent disclosure and the right to notice before landlord entry. Learn six rights of tenants in New Mexico.
New Mexico Tenant’s Right to the Security Deposit
New Mexico’s landlord-tenant law includes certain rules for the security deposit. These rules help both the landlord and the tenant understand what is expected of them.
Security Deposit Amount
For leases that are less than a year, the most a landlord can collect is one month’s rent. If the lease is one year or more, the landlord has the option of collecting more than one month’s rent, but if he or she does, the deposit must be placed in an account that earns interest.
Landlords can make deductions from the security deposit for damages above normal wear and tear, unpaid utilities, unpaid rent and other breaches of the lease.
A landlord must return a tenant’s deposit within 30 days of the termination of the lease. If the landlord is keeping any money, the landlord must also include a written statement which itemizes what deductions have been taken and the amount of each deduction.
New Mexico landlords are not lawfully required to do a walk-through inspection of the unit with their tenant before the tenant moves out. The landlord and tenant are allowed to do this inspection, however, if both sides want and agree to it.
See Also: New Mexico's Security Deposit Law
New Mexico Tenant’s Right to Fair Housing
Tenants in New Mexico are protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act. This act protects seven classes of people from being discriminated against in any activity related to housing. These seven classes are:
- Familial Status
- National Origin
New Mexico also has its own Human Rights Act. This act protects four additional classes of people. These classes are:
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
- Spousal Affiliation
Landlord-tenant law in New Mexico requires that landlords inform their tenants about certain rules and procedures regarding their rent. This includes:
Amount of Rent
Where to Pay Rent
The location where rent should be paid should be written in the lease agreement. If it is not, it is assumed that the rent will be collected at the tenant’s unit.
When the rent is due should also be listed in the lease agreement. If it is not, it is assumed that rent is due at the beginning of each month.
Unless the lease agreement states otherwise, any tenant who pays rent weekly is considered a week to week tenant. Any tenant who pays rent monthly is considered a month to month tenant.
Late fees are allowed if it is an included clause in the lease agreement. Landlords are allowed to charge a maximum of ten percent of the periodic rent as a late fee. So, if the monthly rent is $1,000, then the landlord can charge a late fee of $100. The landlord has until the next rental period after the late rent was collected to notify the tenant that they owe a late fee.
Fee for Guests
New Mexico landlords cannot try to charge their tenants for having guests at the property. They cannot charge a fee if there are a reasonable number of guests or if these guests stay for a reasonable amount of time.
However, the landlord may be allowed to charge the tenant if the tenant’s guests use any other facilities at the rental property other than those in the tenant’s own unit.
For month to month tenants a landlord must provide the tenant with at least 30 days’ notice before the end of the lease term that the landlord intends to increase the tenant’s rent. For weekly tenants, the landlord must provide the tenant with written notice of a planned rent increase at least one week in advance of the rent due date.
Rent as Security
Rent cannot be used as a security deposit or to pay for damages or other deductions from the security deposit unless the landlord and tenant agree in writing that this is acceptable.
Reasons a Landlord Can Enter a Tenant’s Unit in New Mexico
- To Inspect the Unit
- To Make Necessary or Requested Repairs
- To Make Necessary or Requested Improvements
- To Make Necessary or Requested Alterations
- To Supply Necessary or Requested Services
- To Show the Unit to Prospective Tenants
- To Show the Unit to Prospective or Actual Buyers, Contractors or Mortgagees.
New Mexico landlords must give a tenant at least 24 hours’ notice before the landlord can enter the tenant’s apartment. This notice must
- Be a Written Notice
- Include the Purpose of Entering the Unit
- Include the Date of Requested Entry
- Include a Reasonable Time Frame of Requested Entry
Tenant’s Right to Request Alternate Time
A New Mexico tenant has the right to request that the landlord enters at a different date or time than the landlord requested. If this request is not impractical and does not harm the landlord financially, then the landlord shall make an effort to accommodate this request.
Exceptions to Notice
The 24-hour notice requirement is not required in the two following situations
1. Within seven days of the tenant requesting that the landlord perform a repair or provide a service.
2. When the landlord is accompanied by a public worker conducting an inspection or by a representative of a cable, gas, electric or telephone company.
A landlord is allowed to enter a tenant’s apartment during emergency situations without having to provide the normal 24 hours’ notice. An example of an emergency situation could be a carbon monoxide detector going off and the tenant not responding to the landlord’s requests to investigate the situation.
Additional Exceptions to Notice
A New Mexico landlord can enter a tenant’s unit at reasonable times, without having to give 24 hours’ notice in the following two situations:
- If the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit
- If the tenant has been away from the property for more than seven days.
Tenant Refuses Access
If the tenant refuses to allow the landlord lawful access to their unit, the landlord may obtain an injunctive order from the court in order to gain access or can terminate the lease agreement. The landlord may also be entitled to damages.
Landlord Unlawful Entry
If the landlord unlawfully enters a tenant’s apartment, attempts to enter at unreasonable times or makes repeated demands for entry which causes the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the unit to be interrupted, the tenant can obtain injunctive relief from the court for the landlord to stop the behavior or the tenant can terminate the lease agreement. The tenant could also be awarded damages.
Retaliatory Actions Prohibited
A landlord is prohibited from performing any of the following actions as a form of retaliation against a tenant:
- Increasing a Tenant’s Rent.
- Decreasing Services to the Tenant.
- Filing to Evict the Tenant — A Retaliatory Eviction
Timeline for a Landlord’s Actions to Be Considered Retaliation
In order for any of the above actions by a landlord to be considered retaliation, the action must have occurred within six months of a tenant exercising a lawful right.
Tenant Actions That Could Trigger Landlord Retaliation
The following actions are commonly considered tenant actions that could lead a landlord to retaliate against the tenant. They include:
- A tenant filing a complaint with a local government agency about a health or safety violation at the property.
- A tenant organizing or joining a tenant’s union or a similar group.
- A tenant has complained directly to the landlord about the landlord’s failure to follow the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities under New Mexico’s landlord-tenant law. The tenant has requested that the landlord make repairs at the property.
- Filing a complaint with HUD or other local Fair Housing Agency against the landlord for housing discrimination.
- Won a lawsuit against the landlord.
- Has a lawsuit pending against the landlord.
- Testified on behalf of another tenant.
- Withheld rent until a major health or safety violation at the property was fixed.
Tenant’s Rights After Landlord Retaliation
If a landlord is found to have acted in retaliation, the tenant will be entitled to remain in the unit and could be awarded reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees. The landlord could also be forced to pay a civil penalty of two times the monthly rent.
Landlord Actions Which Are Not Considered Retaliation
New Mexico landlords are legally allowed to perform the following actions with proper notice without being accused of retaliation.
- Increase rent at the end of the term of a lease agreement.
- Change services at the end of the term of a lease agreement.
The landlord must be able to show that these changes or increases are done to all tenants equally and are not just directed at a single tenant.
Freedom From Eviction
A landlord is not allowed to evict a tenant based solely on the fact that he or she is a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence as Defense for Lease Violation
If a landlord attempts to evict a tenant because he or she substantially violated the lease, the tenant can use a domestic violence incident as a defense. The tenant must have filed for and received a temporary restraining order because of the incident that caused the substantial lease violation or for a prior incident. In this case, the eviction will not hold up. In any other situation, where a tenant tries to claim domestic violence as a defense, the court can decide to evict the tenant who is directly responsible for the lease violation and allow the other tenants to remain in the unit and live out the rest of their lease.