What every renter should know and do for a stress-free tenancy
By Sadiya Anjum
Being a tenant comes with its own set of responsibilities Ė from paying rent to abiding by the policies of the landlord. Most tenants get annoyed with their landlords for reasons big and small. But if you annoy the landlord, he can put you in some serious trouble. Here is some guidance to avoid doing that as well as to protect your rights as a tenant.
When seeking to rent in the first place, begin with filling out your application form in as much detail as possible. A credit check will be done on you but not without your permission. If you provide the necessary details and not withhold information, your application will only be processed faster. Also if you have any skeletons in the closet in terms of any kind of criminal history, come clean. Because if the truth is revealed later, you may face eviction and/or if you have lied in the rental application you may get tangled in legal hassles.
As far as a lease agreement goes, remember an oral lease is just as good as a written one. An oral lease may seem simple but if anything goes wrong how will you ever prove it if you donít have it in writing? But beware of written leases too. Do not get troubled by the enormity of it or the legal jargon. The golden rule is to read it, read it and read it. If you donít understand anything, ask your landlord or someone to explain it. If there are portions you are dissatisfied with, talk it over with your landlord and get it amended. Just because the agreement is typed, it does not mean it canít be changed.
Very importantly, if the condition of the property has been stated in the leaseĖ make sure it tallies with the actual condition of the property. Only if you have thoroughly understood the agreement should you initial it. Except if some repairs need to be made and your landlord agrees to do it but hasnít gotten around to it even on the day of signing your lease, then donít sign just yet. Either ask him to get it fixed before you sign the lease or get the details of the repair needed and the promised date of completion of it added to your lease.
While you are moving in, take a camera and film the condition of the house or photograph it. Make sure that dayís newspaper is in the background so you can record the date. This will come handy later when you are moving out. In case of any problems, you can prove that you are leaving the house in the same or perhaps a better condition.
During your tenancy, make sure you pay your rent on the exact date specified. If you are paying by cash, get a receipt. If for some reason you are unable to pay the rent on that day, inform your landlord in advance. He may or may not spare you but not informing him and then avoiding him may unleash his total wrath.
For all repairs and complaints, hand it in writing to your landlord. For everything with regard to your rental property, get it in writing and then signed by all the parties involved (roommates, landlord etc.). Check your mail regularly for any legal notices or any other document from your landlord and see what needs to be done.
Keep in mind that a lease is a legally binding document. Of course you know that but understand the implication of it. Whatever is stated Ė who will take care of the yard, who will pay for which utility, are pets allowed etc. has to be followed. There is no getting around this. If you do break a rule, it could get you into serious trouble whether or not you were actually aware of the clause. However with mutual consent of all the parties involved, the lease can be amended.
If any serious problems arise during your tenancy, your landlord can either lock you out, try to get you evicted or take you to court. Stay prepared for all when you foresee the problem. For a lockout situation, make sure you have some place to stay for the night in an emergency situation with a few necessary items. If a policeman is coming over to see through an eviction, start packing some things in advance because the constable is going to wait only a few minutes before he throws you out. As far as a court hearing goes, make sure you are aware of the date and exact place you have to show up. Hire an attorney to see you through any of the above situations.
Finally when you are moving out, go through the lease for terms and conditions regarding this situation. Follow through all of them and photograph/film the state of your apartment after you have made the necessary repairs (if any). Or make sure the landlord is present to approve the condition of the property and get his approval in writing. Leave your forwarding address and other details so your landlord can return your security deposit as agreed.
Keep the aforementioned in mind so you can have a safe and hassle free tenancy.
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