Ten Tips Every Tenant
- The best way to win over a prospective
landlord is to be prepared. Bringing the following information
when you meet prospective landlords will give you a competitive edge
over other applicants:
- a completed rental application;
- written references from
landlords, employers, friends, and colleagues,
- a current copy of your credit
- Carefully review all the important
conditions of the tenancy before you sign on the dotted line.
Your lease or rental agreement may contain a provision that you find
unacceptable - for example, restrictions on guests, pets, design
alternations, or running a home business.
- To avoid disputes or misunderstandings
with your landlord, get everything in writing. Keep copies of any
correspondence and follow up an oral agreement with a letter,
setting out your understanding. For example, if you ask your
landlord to make repairs, put your request in writing and keep a
copy for yourself. If the landlord agrees orally, send a
letter confirming this.
- Protect your privacy rights.
Next to disputes over rent or security deposits, one of the most
common and emotion-filled misunderstandings arise over the tension
between a landlord's right to enter a rental unit and a tenant's
right to be left alone. If you understand your privacy rights,
(for example, the amount of notice your landlord must provide before
entering) it will be easier to protect them.
- Know your rights to live in a
habitable rental unit - and don't give them up. The vast
majority of landlords are required to offer their tenants livable
premises, including adequate weatherproofing; heat, water and
electricity; and clean, sanitary and structurally safe
premises. If your rental unit is not kept in good repair, you
have a number of options, ranging from withholding a portion of the
rent, to paying for repairs and deducting the cost from your rent,
to calling the building inspector (who may order the landlord to
make repairs) to moving out without liability for your future rent.
- Keep communication open with your
landlord. If there is a problem - for example, if the landlord
is slow to make repairs - talk it over to see if the issue can be
resolved short of a nasty legal battle.
- Purchase renters' insurance to cover
your valuables. Your landlord's insurance policy will not
cover your losses. Renters' insurance typically costs $350 a
year for a $50,000 policy that covers loss due to theft or damage
caused by other people or by natural disasters. It also covers
you if you're sued by someone who claims to have been injured in
your rental due to your carelessness.
- Make sure the security deposit refund
procedures are spelled out in your lease or rental agreement.
To protect yourself and avoid any misunderstandings, make sure your
lease or rental agreement is clear on the use and refund of security
deposits, including allowable deductions.
- Learn whether your building and
neighborhood are safe, and what you can expect your landlord to do
about it if they aren't. Get copies of any state or local
laws that require safety devices such as deadbolts and window
locks. Check with the property's vulnerability to intrusion
by a criminal and learn whether criminal incidents have already
occurred on the property or nearby. If a crime is highly
likely, your landlord may be obligated to take some steps to protect
- Know when to fight an eviction notice
- and when to move. Unless you have the law and provable
facts on your side, fighting an eviction notice is usually
short-sighted. If you lose an eviction lawsuit, you may end up
hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in debt, which will damage your
credit rating and your ability to easily rent from future landlords.