When it comes to Landlord Tenant relationships, you need to watch the details.
In general, most people want to be liked and don’t want to sow seeds of hate and discontent. When given the opportunity to agree and be amiable about something, and if there’s no obvious downside, we jump right up on that wagon and go for the ride. But when it comes to legal relationships, rethink that impulse.
When one moves into a new property there is the inevitable signing of lease agreements, walk-through, and a myriad of other formalities. Unfortunately, too often these formalities are either overlooked or ignored altogether.
Lease terms: Know what the lease says. Unfortunately most renters have little or no say in what the terms are. Many leases are just basic forms someone swiped off the internet and was never designed for your specific property. Know who’s responsible for what. Know what the late fee terms are. Know how to get a hold of your landlord or management company if there’s a problem. Many see this as just a routine formality, but if there are later problems it’s the lease terms that tell you what you can and can’t do to fix it.
The walk-through: this gets a lot of folks in trouble. We all want to be nice and not complain, to go along to get along. But your failure to note each item out-of-place is essentially your acceptance. Who wants to complain to the little ol’ lady showing you the apartment? You’re all best buds, aren’t you? They won’t do you wrong. What’s a little carpet staining, anyway? Well, two years later that carpet stain belongs to you. So does the scratched linoleum floor in the kitchen. And the cracked window. And the hole in the wall behind the kid’s bedroom door. And anything else you felt just wasn’t important enough to mention. Put all of this down on the report. Your security deposit depends upon it.
When things do go wrong: Sooner or later something comes up. The heat goes out, the entry walk lights burn out, the neighbors just bought their teenaged son a new bass guitar, or the local nocturnal recreational pharmaceutical distributor just moved in next door. Don’t hesitate to contact the landlord. Better yet, and often required, put such notices in writing. You don’t want to cause waves, after all, who wants to move out in the middle of winter? But your ability to properly address the problems can depend on who you notified when, and how. Landlords must give all notices in writing. Tenants, too, if they wish to get out of their lease under proper circumstances, usually must also notify the landlord of any problems in writing. When there’s a later argument about the right to terminate the lease, you will want to make sure you have all the documentation you can get.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and write things down. When getting into that new apartment, make sure you are not taking the responsibility for old carpets and broken fixtures. You can be sure that on the move-out report the landlord will list each anomaly they see. If it you didn’t note it at the beginning then they will probably blame you. Legal relationships require you to think about the details in the beginning or suffer consequences later.
These are just a few of the things to be thinking about in leases.