Make sure your first apartment is a place you can call home.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR LEASE BEFORE YOU MOVE IN
Month-to-Month Agreement: This agreement is for an indefinite period of time, with rent payable monthly. A month-to-month agreement continues until either the landlord or tenant gives proper notice to end it.
Long-Term Lease: During the term of the lease, the rent cannot be raised or the rules changed unless both landlord and tenant agree. Leases for more than one year are exempt from the Landlord-Tenant Act, but only if the tenant’s attorney has approved such an exemption. A lease must be in writing to be valid.
Understand The Rules: Before making a decision on what apartment to rent, consider your needs. Make a checklist of what your place must have and those qualities that are not so important. Contact your Better Business Bureau for a reliability report on the property management company or apartment owners you are planning to use.
Once you’ve found your ideal apartment, make sure you understand your responsibilities as an apartment tenant. Carefully read your lease and be aware of the legal terms and conditions before signing the contract.
Your Lease Should Contain:
- How all maintenance and repair concerns are handled.
- The conditions under which your rent can be increased during that term.
- Who is responsible for the repair of all appliances, fixtures and furnishings that come with the apartment.
- How many people may occupy the apartment.
- Whether pets are allowed.
- The conditions of your security deposit, including what it covers and conditions for a refund. Security deposits are usually required and offset the landlord’s cost of repairing any property damage.
DEPOSITS AND OTHER FEES
When moving in, the landlord may collect funds to apply to cleaning services or unit damage. The money collected may be refundable or nonrefundable. Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, the term “deposit” can only be applied to money that can be refunded to the tenant.
Refundable Deposits: If a refundable deposit is being charged before move-in, the law requires:
- The rental agreement must be in writing. It must say what each deposit is for and what the tenant must do in order to get the money back.
- The tenant must be given a written receipt for each deposit.
- A checklist or statement describing the condition of the rental unit must be filled out. Landlord and tenant must sign it, and the tenant must be given a signed copy.
- The deposits must be placed in a trust account in a bank or escrow company. The tenant must be informed in writing where the deposits are being kept.
- Unless some other agreement has been made in writing, any interest earned by the deposit belongs to the landlord.
As a tenant you have the following responsibilities:
- Pay rent and any utilities agreed upon.
- Comply with city, county or state regulations.
- Keep the rental unit clean and sanitary.
- Dispose of garbage properly.
- Pay for fumigating infestations caused by tenant.
- Properly operate plumbing, electrical and heating systems.
- Do not permit “waste” (substantial damage to property) or “nuisance” (substantial interference with other tenants’ use of property).
- Do not intentionally or carelessly damage the property.
- Restore the property to the same condition as when the tenant moved in.
- Adhere to state and local codes to provide for the tenant’s health and safety.
- Maintain structural components and the property in a weather-tight condition.
- Provide reasonably adequate locks and keys.
- Provide heat, electricity and hot and cold water.
- Set water heaters at 120.°
- Provide garbage cans and arrange for removal of garbage, except in single-family dwellings.
- Keep common areas clean and free from hazards.
- Keep electrical, plumbing and heating systems in good repair and maintain any appliances.
- Provide smoke detectors, and ensure they work properly when a new tenant moves in (tenants are responsible for maintaining detectors).