When renting a property for the first time, it is important to make sure that your landlord is disclosing all essential information that pertains to your property. It’s also important to recognize when your landlord could be taking advantage of you by charging additional or excessive fees. Scroll on to find out how you can protect yourself when starting the rental process!
1) Your Landlord Must Follow Your State’s Laws About Disclosing Information Before You Rent
Each state may have different laws, but common information that should be disclosed includes:
- Notice of mold when the landlord knows or has a reason to believe that it exists
- Information about a state’s sexual offender registry/a list of registered offenders in the area
- Disclosure of recent deaths that occurred in the rental unit
- Notice of the presence of lead-based paint if the property was built before 1978
Your landlord should not want to keep any of this knowledge hidden, and if you find out that they have intentionally withheld information, you may have grounds to take legal action. That being said, most landlords are perfectly aware of what they need to disclose and will share that information with you before you rent the unit.
2) It Should be Cheap to Submit a Rental Application
Landlords can choose which credit bureau they want to utilize for credit checks, which vary in prices from free to about $30. Some of these services also include background checks, which is part of why they cost more. Although the amount you have to pay will differ between landlords, these costs can add up quickly if you are applying to multiple rentals.
3) You Have the Right to Know What Your Application and Screening Fees Pay For
If you do pay application and screening fees, the landlord is required to give you a breakdown of exactly where the fees are going. If you decide to go through a landlord directly, be careful that you check that they are willing to give you the cost breakdown – if they are not, you should probably reconsider dealing with someone unwilling to be transparent.
4) Your Landlord is Responsible for What They Agree to Do
Make sure you are fully aware of what your landlord has promised, according to your rental agreement. If they have stated that they will pay certain utilities or be responsible for maintenance and repairs in your unit, they must honor that, unless the landlord and you both agree to break that provision.
This extends to issues beyond repairs, but the concept is the same. If your landlord agrees to certain conditions in the lease agreement, they cannot go back on their word – a rental agreement is a legally binding document, so if your landlord is not upholding their side of the agreement, discuss the problem with them, and if they are unreasonable, keep notes and consider your legal options.
5) Your Landlord Must Include an Itemized Notice if They Are Not Returning Your Security Deposit
If you are a responsible renter and you live according to the outlines of your rental agreement, you can expect to receive your security deposit back. What many tenants do not know is that if a landlord is not returning your security deposit (in part or in whole), the landlord must include an itemized list of what they are deducting. This is not only for your benefit but for theirs, if the tenant doesn’t receive an itemized list, the landlord could lose its right to keep any part of the security deposit.
Even if there is extensive damage that will cost more than the security deposit to repair, the landlord must send a letter to the tenant explaining the damage and the landlord’s intent to keep the security deposit to pay for this damage. If they have legitimate reasons to use your security deposit to cover damages or cleaning costs, they have a right to do so, but on the same note, you have a right to be assured that your money is being used properly.
It’s important as a renter to arm yourself with knowledge that can protect you from being taken advantage of. Know your rights as a renter and be sure to hold your landlord accountable as well.