Renting an apartment is a fairly common practice. Whether it be your first apartment right out of college, downsizing to a smaller space or in preparation to purchase your first home, it's vital to know your rights as a new tenant. While there’s too many to list within this post alone, we picked out 4 essential things you should know before signing your first lease. Some may be common knowledge to you and you may be surprised by some, but knowing your rights as a tenant beforehand can help avoid many issues with your apartment and your landlord in the future.
The Right to Receive a Copy of Your Lease
This one may sound obvious and unnecessary but it’s quite important. Your landlord is required by law to provide you a complete copy of the lease before AND after you sign on the dotted line. It’s your responsibility to thoroughly review all the terms of your lease before you sign it but it's your landlord’s responsibility to provide a fully executed copy. Make sure that you understand exactly what type of rental agreement you’re getting into prior to signing. Are you renting the entire apartment or just a room? How long is your lease term and what constitutes breaking the lease? What is the policy on paying utilities and repairs? These are major factors that you need to be clear on to avoid a lot of hassle in the long run.
The Right to a Safe & Private Living Enviroment
This item can sometimes fall into a grey area as privacy and a safe living environment can be considered subjective. However, if you feel that your living environment is unsafe or that your privacy is being violated, you need to have a conversation with your landlord immediately. Situations such as not getting sufficient notice for maintenance, unplanned visits from your landlord or apartment issues that could be harmful or dangerous are all violations of your privacy and safety.
The Right to Timely Repairs
Provided that you didn’t cause the damage by being careless or on purpose, your landlord is responsible for all electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning related repairs. It’s best practice to be courteous and allow sufficient notice when requesting such repairs from your landlord but it’s also your landlord’s responsibility to complete them within a reasonable timeframe. Taking pictures of the apartment upon moving in can eliminate being blamed for future damage and losing out on a portion of your security deposit.
The Right to Your Security Deposit
This is a huge item that is subject to the most debate. However, unless your landlord has provided reasonable and documented evidence of damages to your apartment, they're required to return 100% of your security deposit upon moving out. The deadline for when you should receive it varies between approximately 30-45 days depending on the state. This is another crucial reason to document and photograph the apartment extremely well when moving in and moving out so that you don’t get charged for any damage that was already present. Some states even require the landlord to add interest! As you can see, there's many reasons why the rules around your security deposit is vital to know.
Tenant's Rights are a vast topic and most states have a government website to research more on the rules in your own state. However, this list highlighted the items that seem to come up the most between tenants and landlords. You pay for your living space, it should be stress-free and a safe place to rest your head. Fight for it.