Learn about your rights as a tenant
It is a common misconception that by renting an apartment, you don’t have deal with any of the routine maintenance, or repairs. If something breaks, you simply contact the landlord. This is not always true. You need to consult your state and local laws as they pertain to renters so you fully understand your rights and obligations.
All too often though, it seems landlords are rather lax in their addressing of problems and maintenance issues. We’ve all heard the horror stories of landlords who fail to keep their properties up to health and safety standards; oftentimes taking months to fix a leaky faucet or malfunctioning smoke detector.
While a renter’s insurance policy will protect you from losses due to things like theft or fire, you should also be proactive by learning about your rights as a tenant under state and local laws. Some of the more common of these rights includes:
- Residences should be habitable and in compliance with health and housing codes. A renter has the right to a dwelling with adequate running water, electricity and heat, not to mention the unit must be structurally sound. This means if your rented dwelling has mold, heavy rust, insects or vermin, and/or malfunctioning smoke detectors for example, you should contact your landlord. If the landlord has violated health or safety codes, you may be able to break your lease without legal or financial ramifications.
- Landlords are generally responsible for any necessary repairs and for performing routine maintenance in a timely fashion. Prior to signing your lease, you should discuss with the landlord the expected turnaround time for any repairs or maintenance tasks, whether pending or forthcoming. You may also want to get this in writing. Another question to ask is whether you can order repairs and deduct them from the rent.
- You cannot be locked out, have the utilities shut off, or be evicted by the landlord without proper notice. Everyone has no doubt heard stories or seen movies where an unsuspecting tenant comes home to find his couch and other belongings lined up along the curb. Most states have laws in place prohibiting the landlord from engaging in such practice.