As a prospective tenant looking for a place to rent, you should be aware that there are some very interesting rules that landlords must obey. As a renter you do have options and you do have rights. Please read below for some helpful hints.
1. The landlord cannot raise the price of rent:
If you have a written lease with the landlord, he or she may not raise the price during the time period of your lease. If you have a verbal agreement and are paying rent month to month, the landlord must give you a 30 day notice before raising the cost.
As a renter you are responsible for the general upkeep of your place. The landlord is responsible for keeping your place in good repair, as well repairing certain items in the unit that should be mentioned in the contract.
Your landlord must provide:
-Safe, sanitary living conditions up to all housing code.
-Provide safe heating equipment that heats the entire unit
-Must keep the entire unit weatherproof, waterproof and rodent proof.
-Make sure the stairways, approaches and entrances are safe and can support people.
If the landlord does not obey to this:
Take pictures of the problem, just in case you have to go to court, this will provide proof. You must ask your landlord to repair the problem, and, if he/she does not, you should write him/her a notice by certified mail that tell him/her he/she has 14 days from that date to fix them.
If the problems are not fixed, you may terminate the lease, and these problems should be mentioned in the notice.
3. If you landlord has locked you out:
It is against the law for a landlord to lock you out unless he or she has gone through an eviction process with the court and has gotten a judgment against you saying that he or she can take possession of the unit. The landlord must bring a person from the court or a constable to evict you. If the landlord does not do this call the police. If the landlord locks you out, contact an attorney right away and send the landlord a notice about the lockout (keep a copy), you may then sue the landlord to get back in your unit, or you can simply send a notice that you are terminating your rental agreement. Your may sue for monetary damages equal to 3 months rent, security deposit and prepaid rent and attorney fee’s if you win. Talk to a lawyer first.
4. If your landlord has taken or locked up your personal property:
If you still live in the unit, call the police first and report your property has been taken. If the landlord has only given you a 3-day notice about your rent, and there has been no eviction judgment against you, you may have a defense to the eviction. Call a lawyer for more advice.
5. If your landlord has entered you apartment without permission:
The landlord must give you at least a 24 hour notice before coming into your unit and may not come in at unreasonable times. He or she may only come in the unit to inspect it, make repairs or show it to future tenants/buyers. Only in an emergency may the landlord come in without any notice (ie fire, broken water pipe)
If the landlord does not give you notice or continues to bother you, you should call a lawyer. You are able to sue the landlord.
6. No hot/cold running water, electricity, gas, or other essential services:
If you landlord has cut off any essential services you may send him or her a notice terminating your lease (keep a copy). Explain your problem in the notice and tell him/her that you are terminating your lease. The lease will then be ended, and you can move out and stop paying rent. You can also sue the landlord after terminating the lease for not fixing the problem. You may receive payment equal to 3 months rent, plus your attorney’s fee if you win. You may not get this if you are behind in paying rent. Talk to a lawyer first before taking these steps.
7. Lease to Tenants with Children:
You cannot be refused housing, or put in certain areas in an apartment complex, including proximity to or from an activity center or water area, because you have children. You cannot be questioned about your marital status or number or children. The landlord is violating fair housing practices and federal law if they discriminate against your race, color, religion, national origin, handicap, or because you have children.
8. Right of Inspection:
You have the right to thoroughly inspect the property before you sign the lease.
You may ask for a complete inspection, and remember to take notes of what problems may arise.
After your inspection, if you want certain repairs to be done, make sure to tell the landlord before paying any money and make sure he agrees on the conditions to be repaired in writing, and fully accomplishes these repairs before you move in. If you wish to move in while the repairs have not been finished you need to get in writing the exact date that repairs will be finished.
Sign a move-in checklist. Even if you do a walk-through and find no major problems with the unit, make sure you and the landlord sign a move-in checklist. It will describe the condition of the apartment. If the landlord refuses to sign the checklist, then make you own list, sign and date it and mail it to the landlord (make sure you keep a copy). If the landlord tries to charge you later for damages to the unit, you will have your checklist to prove that the damages existed prior to moving in. Some examples of the type of damages to note on the list include dirty walls, stained carpets, dirty refrigerator, etc. You and your landlord should also sign a move-out checklist also so that you both agree as to what has been damaged while you lived there.
Best of luck with your apartment search!