Landlord/tenant laws are in place to protect the rights of tenants in New Mexico and every other state. These rights cover discrimination, security deposits, rent disclosure, and notice before landlord entry.
Some minor variances can exist between states, however. New Mexico's laws are somewhat comprehensive and extensive, ranging from eviction processes to entry into the dwelling.
Laws for Security Deposits
New Mexico’s landlord/tenant laws include certain rules for security deposits that can help both the landlord and the tenant understand what's expected of them.
The most a landlord can collect is one month’s rent on leases of less than one year. The landlord has the option of collecting more if the lease is for one year or more, but the deposit must be placed in an account that earns interest in this case.
A landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the termination of the lease. The landlord must also include a written statement if any of the money will not be returned. The statement must itemize what deductions have been taken and the amount of each deduction.
New Mexico landlords are not required to do a walk-through inspection of the unit before the tenant moves out. The landlord and tenant can do such an inspection, however, if both sides agree to it.
Laws Regarding Rent
The amount of rent that's due each week, month, or year should be clearly written in the lease agreement. It's assumed that the tenant will pay fair market rent to live in the unit if an amount isn't stated.
The location where rent should be paid should also be written in the lease agreement. Otherwise, it's assumed that the rent will be collected at the tenant’s unit on the due date.
The due date should be listed in the lease agreement as well, or it's assumed that the beginning of each month.
Fees for Late Payment
Late fees are allowed they're included as a clause in the lease agreement. Landlords are permitted to charge a maximum of 10% of the periodic rent as a late fee. For example, the fee could be as much as $100 if the monthly rent is $1,000.
The landlord has until the next rental period after the late rent was collected to notify the tenant that they owe a late fee.
Tenants have three days from the rent due date to make payment under New Mexico law. A landlord can't file an eviction action with the court until this much time has passed.
Fees for Guests
New Mexico landlords can't charge their tenants for having guests at the property, as long as it's a reasonable number of guests and the guests only stay for a reasonable period of time.
Otherwise, the landlord might be allowed to charge the tenant if the tenant’s guests use any facilities at the rental property other than those in the tenant’s own unit.
A landlord must provide a tenant with at least 30 days’ notice of a rent increase before the end of the lease term. This drops to just one week in advance of the rent due date for weekly tenants.
Notice of increases must be made be in writing.
Rent as Security
Rent can't be used as a security deposit or to pay for damages or other deductions from the security deposit unless the landlord and the tenant agree in writing that this is acceptable.
Landlord Entry of Premises
Landlords are permitted to enter the rental unit under several circumstances:
- 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 tenants at least 24 hours’ notice before entering. This notice must be written and it must include the purpose for entering the unit, the date of requested entry, and a reasonable timeframe for when entry will occur.
A tenant has the right to request that the landlord enter on a different date or at a different time than requested. The landlord must make an effort to accommodate such a request as long as it's not impractical and the change doesn't harm the landlord financially.
A landlord can obtain an injunctive order from the court—one that requires the tenant to do something or to cease doing something—if a tenant refuses to allow access to their unit. Landlords can terminate the lease agreement in this case and might also be entitled to damages.
Exceptions to the Notice Requirement
The 24-hour notice requirement is not required within seven days of the tenant requesting that the landlord perform a repair or provide a service. It's also waived 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 New Mexico landlord can also enter a tenant’s unit at reasonable times without giving 24 hours’ notice if the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit, or if they've been away from the property for more than seven days.
A landlord can enter a tenant’s apartment during emergency situations without providing the normal 24 hours’ notice as well. This might happen if a carbon monoxide detector is going off and the tenant isn't responding to the landlord’s requests to investigate the situation.
Unlawful Landlord Entry
A tenant can ask for injunctive relief from the court if a landlord unlawfully enters a rental unit, attempts to enter at unreasonable times, or makes repeated demands for entry which interrupts the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the premises.
The court can order 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 cannot increase a tenant's rent, decrease services, or attempt to evict a tenant as a form of retaliation. The landlord's action must have occurred within six months of the tenant exercising a lawful right.
Tenant actions that could potentially lead a landlord to retaliate include:
- Filing a complaint with a local government agency about a health or safety violation at the property
- Organizing or joining a tenant’s union or a similar group
- Complaining directly to the landlord about the landlord’s failure to follow maintenance responsibilities under New Mexico’s landlord/tenant law after the tenant has requested that the landlord make repairs at the property
- Filing a complaint against the landlord for housing discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development or with a local fair housing agency
- Winning a lawsuit against the landlord
- Filing a lawsuit against the landlord
- Testifying on behalf of another tenant
- Withholding rent until a major health or safety violation at the property is fixed
The tenant will be entitled to remain in the unit and could be awarded reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees if a landlord is found to have acted in retaliation. The landlord could also be forced to pay a civil penalty of up to two times the monthly rent.
New Mexico landlords are legally allowed to perform some action without being accused of retaliation, at least with proper notice. These include increasing the rent at the end of the lease term or changing services at the end of the lease term.
The landlord might have to show that these changes or increases were applied to all tenants equally in multi-unit properties and that they were not just directed at a single tenant.
Legal Eviction Processes
New Mexico landlords must have "good cause" to evict tenants, and they must go through the court system to do so. This requires first giving the tenant notice that the lease is being terminated.
Good cause factors include nonpayment of rent, committing illegal activities on the premises, or engaging in conduct that threatens the safety of others. They can also include damaging the property, unauthorized pets, or other violations of the lease agreement.
A landlord must wait seven days to evict based on most lease agreement violations.
Month-to-month and week-to-week rental agreements can be terminated for "no cause." The landlord doesn't have to have any particular reason, but they can't break the lease agreement for an illegal reason, such as discrimination or retaliation. Month-to-month agreements can be terminated upon 30 days' notice, and week-to-week agreements can be terminated on seven days' notice.
New Mexico Tenant’s Right to Fair Housing
New Mexico tenants 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:
- Familial status
- National origin
New Mexico also has its own Human Rights Act as well, and this act protects four additional classes of people based on:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Spousal affiliation
A landlord is not permitted to evict a tenant based solely on the fact that they've been a victim of domestic violence. In fact, a tenant can use a domestic violence incident as a defense if a landlord attempts to evict a tenant because they violated the lease.
The tenant must have filed for and received a temporary restraining order because of the incident that caused the lease violation, or for a prior incident.
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 tenant to remain in the unit and live out the rest of their lease.