Renters tend to come and go and unscrupulous landlords can take advantage of the churn. If you take proactive steps to protect yourself, you will have the law on your side.
A lease agreement is the legal document that spells out the length and terms of your tenancy. Take a careful look at your lease, including whether the address of the unit is correct and the security deposit terms. Don’t be afraid to hand write in any terms you want included such as when you can sublease the unit or terms you discussed with the landlord that didn’t make it onto the lease agreement form.
When you move in, take photographs of your empty apartment. If there are any water stains along the ceiling, discolored sections of carpet or missing tiles in the bathroom, a nice date stamped photo will come in handy if your landlord tries to keep your security deposit. Include in your lease agreement a list of anything that is not in working order when you move in.
When you contact the landlord for any reason (or the landlord contacts you), keep track of it. While it seems cold, you can carry on an entire landlord-tenant relationship over email. If you do use the phone, keep a log with dates, times, purpose, and content of conversations. This may come in handy if you face legal problems down the road, during an eviction, or if you need to sue the landlord for wrongly withholding your security deposit.
Basically, when in doubt – Document! Document! Document!
Renters, have you had to deal with an unscrupulous landlord? What did you do in response? Were you prepared to respond? Tell us in the comments!
This post includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.