What Should I Consider When Renting?

Before looking at apartments or rental houses, evaluate your living needs: Number of rooms, location, distance from shopping and public transportation, price and facilities.

Friends and newspapers provide inexpensive advice. Real estate agencies can help, but may charge a fee for their services. Avoid apartment finders who charge merely for lists of vacancies that are simply taken from newspaper classified ads.

Consider the following before renting:

 

  • Check the furnace, plumbing and all appliances. Are there enough electrical outlets and lights? Is the wiring adequate to handle several appliances?
  • Are storm windows, screens and shades provided?
  • Are the floors solid, without holes or splinters? Are the walls and ceilings painted, papered and without cracks?
  • Are the doors, windows and entrances to the building secured? Are the stairs safe and well lit? Are the fire escapes easily accessible?
  • Is the apartment quiet? Can you hear those next to, above or below you?
  • Is there evidence of rodents or insects? Who pays for an exterminator?
  • Ask others in the apartment complex about any negative aspects of living there.
  • If the apartment is furnished, check for, record and save a list of all defects in the furniture.
  • Make and keep a list of all existing damages and repairs that need to be made. Keep a copy of the list, give one to your landlord and attach a copy to the lease. When you move out, such records will assure that your security deposit will only be applied to damages for which you are responsible.

The Rental Application:

Your new landlord may ask you to provide credit references and a list of past landlords, addresses and your employment history, including salary.

An application fee may be charged and may be non refundable if you are not approved. At the landlords option, he may apply the application fee to your first months rent or security deposit, but it is not required by law.

Signing a Lease:

A lease between a landlord and a tenant is an oral or written contract. Your best protection is a written lease signed by both parties.

Make sure your lease contains:

 

  • The specific address, including apartment number of the property.
  • The length of the lease.
  • An explanation of the rent payment procedure, including late penalties and rent increases. Which utilities you are responsible for paying.
  • Termination or renewal terms.
  • The amount of security deposit.
  • Be sure to keep a copy of the lease for yourself. Make a second copy and keep it in a bank deposit box or give it to a friend or family member for safekeeping. Do not sign a lease until all blanks are filled in.

Security Deposit:

A security deposit is money which actually belongs to the tenant, but is held by the landlord for protection against damages or unpaid rent.

During the first year of a lease, the amount of a security deposit cannot exceed two months rent.

At the beginning of the second year of a lease, a landlord cannot retain a security deposit of more than one month`s rent.

At the beginning of the third year of a lease, the landlord must put any security deposit over $100.00 in an interest bearing bank account.

A tenant who occupies a unit or dwelling for two or more years is entitled to interest on his security deposit, beginning with the 25th month of occupancy. The landlord must give you the interest earned by the account (minus a one percent fee which the landlord may retain for his costs) at the end of the third and each subsequent year of tenancy.

Before moving in, make a list of any existing damages and repairs that need to be made. Keep a copy of the list, give one to the landlord and attach a copy to the lease. Such records will assure that the security deposit will only be applied to damages for which you are responsible.

To have your security deposit refunded, give the landlord a forwarding address and return the keys to the property. Within 30 days after you move out the landlord must either return the security deposit or send you a list of damages, the cost of repairs and any money remaining from the security deposit.

If the landlord does not provide a written list of damages within 30 days, he may not keep any part of the security deposit. You may then:

 

  1. Sue to recover the deposit without the landlord being able to raise any defense, or
  2. Sue for double the amount of the security deposit. In this case, the landlord can counterclaim for damages to his property.

If you are experiencing any landlord­tenant problems, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Condominiums:

If your apartment building is being converted to condominiums, the new owner/developer must give you one years written notice before you are required to move and he can not raise your rent or change the terms of your lease. If your lease is for more than one year, you may remain in your unit until the termination of your lease.

You have the first chance and exclusive rights to buy your rental unit within the first six months after your receive the conversion notice.

You can give 90 days notice and terminate your lease without penalty after receiving a conversion notice.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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