Know Your Renter's Rights and Rest Easy

By Bridget Kulla

June 04, 2008

Know Your Renter's Rights and Rest Easy Know Your Renter's Rights and Rest Easy

Don’t lose the security deposit on your apartment or get evicted because you weren’t familiar with your rights and responsibilities. It pays to know your renter’s rights.

Your Lease

Your lease is a binding contract. If you are familiar with the terms of your lease and what the law requires of you and your landlord, you can avoid problems. Fail to abide by the terms of your lease and you’ll form a bad tenant history which will make it difficult to rent in the future.

Security Deposits

A security deposit is a payment made to your landlord when you move in to ensure that your rent will be paid and other responsibilities of your lease are upheld. Some states limit the amount landlords can ask for in a security deposit. Check local rent control regulations for other rent or deposit limits.

Most states hold strict guidelines as to when and how to return security deposits. Landlords are usually required to return your deposit 14 to 30 days after you move out. Some states require landlords to pay back your security deposit with interest.

Tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear, like small nail holes or faded paint. Your landlord can keep all or part of the deposit to cover costs of unpaid rent or excessive damage, like broken windows. Usually your landlord will have to provide a list of damages, the repairs needed to fix them, and written evidence, such as invoices or bills, indicating the costs. If repair expenses exceed your security deposit, your landlord can sue you for the additional costs. Your landlord must return the balance of the deposit once all repairs have been made.

Making an Apartment Inventory

It’s smart to make a thorough inventory of your unit when you move in. Inspect your apartment carefully, specifically noting any damage. Don’t forget to check things like water pressure and appliances. If possible, make this inventory with your landlord and both sign it.

Photos and videos are good additions. Write the date on the photos or videos and give your landlord copies. This way when you move out there will be no disputes about the condition of the unit when you rented it.

Some states require landlords to provide move-in statements detailing the condition of the apartment when you moved in, including any preexisting damage. Even if you live in a state that requires move-in statements, you should still create your own inventory.

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