5 BIG Mistakes Renters Commonly Make

puzzle of rental house with 'home sweet home'Renting a house or apartment can feel like the story of Goldilocks: the search for not too big, not too small.  While it makes absolute sense to get caught up in important details like amount of bedrooms, location, size, garage (or absence of one), renting a house or rental unit is a legal agreement signed by both the landlord and tenant.  If you want to make sure that legal agreement goes smoothly before and after you rent, avoiding these top tenant mistakes saves you time and headaches throughout the rental process.

Not reading the fine print

A rental agreement is a legal agreement, so don’t just blindly sign the piece of paper without reviewing the document.  Particular items to look for is the length of the lease, any penalties spelled out, responsibilities you need to fulfill, and the terms of breaking the lease.  Don’t take everything your landlord says for granted; make sure it is spelled out in the agreement in case the landlord forgets or gives you incorrect information.

Not getting it all in writing

If you and your landlord make any verbal agreements, make sure those terms are written out in the rental agreement—and don’t sign it until you’ve seen the additions added on to the form.  For example, if your landlord has agreed to repair the water damage in a corner of your bedroom, have them write that out (in full detail, including repair and location of repair) on the rental agreement.  This is going to be helpful later if the repair isn’t made.  If you have it writing, it’s going to be a lot easier to hold the landlord or landlord company to their promise.

Not getting a signed copy of the rental agreement

A signed lease is like gold when any disagreements arise, and when getting your security deposit back.  Unfortunately, some landlords promise to send the copy and don’t follow through.  Don’t just ask for a signed copy—insist on it.   This is important when consulting an attorney about any problems with your landlord, and one of the first things an experienced lawyer requests.

Not taking pictures

Before you move in, or shortly after, take pictures of the property—especially any areas that are in disrepair.  Some examples of items to look for are scratches or damage to drywall, caulking that is pulling off, chips to the counters, sinks or flooring, and any other issues you find.  Keep these pictures for when you move out; this simple action can help you keep from paying for damage that was already there.

Not knowing your rights—especially concerning the security deposit

Don’t step into a rental agreement without knowing your rights as a tenant.  What actions can you take if the landlord doesn’t make repairs?  When do you get your security deposit back (more about that in our article about rental security deposits here)?  What can you do if the condition of your unit or rented house becomes unsafe?  Remember that regulations vary based on the locality of your rental.

Once you have a signed agreement, make sure you contact your insurance agent about renter’s insurance.  It’s inexpensive and incredibly valuable should anything happen to your items in your apartment or rented house (i.e. via fire, flooding, etc.); most renter’s insurance policies ensure that your items are replaced when you need them the most.

If you have any issues with your landlord, such as having him fulfill a promise made in the fine print or getting your security deposit back, consult an experienced local attorney. Take note of the ‘local’ part because a lawyer that does business in your area is going to have a thorough knowledge of local rental regulations which do vary from state to state.

 

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

5 Steps for Getting Your Security Deposit Back

dollar pile of security deposit backIt would be so easy to just pay a security deposit, and then receive it back when you move out. However, there are circumstances and regulations that may inhibit that simple process—but there are steps you can take to make the return of your security deposit smoother and easier.

Think ahead.

Thinking ahead before you move out can save you a load of hassles later—and get your full security deposit returned. If you have a fixed-term lease, such as a 12-month lease, and you have to move out, find another tenant to take over your lease. For a month-to-month lease, give the appropriate amount of notice (i.e. 30 days, 15 days, etc.) as specified in the lease you signed. If you don’t give proper notice, your landlord may be allowed to deduct the amount of unpaid rent from your security deposit.

When you give notice, inquire about the expectations of your landlord. What condition do they expect your rental to be in after you move it? When you get an answer, make an effort to thoroughly clean your rental and leave it in the condition described by your landlord. Take pictures of the rental after you move out to ensure you have documentation in case of any future conflict.

Be patient.

By law, your landlord does not need to return your security deposit immediately when you move out. Be patient and wait for the deposit, which is typically (dependent upon local regulations) within 21 days. Usually you receive the deposit (or what remains of the deposit) in the mail with a statement detailing any deductions taken from the security deposit.

Contact the landlord.

If you disagree with the amount of security deposit that is returned, (calmly) contact your landlord. State the reason you disagree with any deductions, and discuss steps needed for resolution. Document the date and time of your call (or calls) and discussions for future reference, if needed.

Get legal advice.

If these steps have not resolved your issue, contact an experienced, local real estate lawyer. The lawyer can outline your options to get your security deposit back, such as pursuing the matter in small claims court, or can assist you with further actions, such as drafting a strong letter to your landlord, which may resolve your problem.

Consider small claims court.

You may be able to get your security deposit back in small claims court. There is a small cost to the process, so make sure the amount of your security deposit is worth your time and effort. You don’t need a lawyer to represent you in small claims court, but contacting a lawyer can increase your chance of success.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.