We’ve all heard the saying for as long as we can remember “Renting is a Waste of Time and Money” and while that is very true, not everyone is ready to purchase Park Place or the Boardwalk. I’ve been a renter for over 15yrs now and there have been many ups as well as downs. In the process I’ve learned quite a bit about myself as well as the individuals I rented from and I can tell you, all landlords are not created equal.
While I have had some landlords that made me feel as if I never wanted to move, I have also had my share of others in which I couldn’t wait until the lease was up. As a tenant there were many mistakes that I’ve made along the way but with experience comes knowledge and due to those previous rental mishaps, I now know what to do before I signed the lease (those tips later)…but it was through my most recent rental experience that I did fully came to know what my rights as a tenant really meant.
A couple months ago my dryer started acting up, it got to the point where it wasn’t drying the clothes as it should. The first thing I thought of was the heating element, maybe it was timing out. I purchased both the washer and dryer brand new in 2012, so 5 years later and this being the first problem, was well worth the expense. In the meantime I was contemplating on maybe purchasing another dryer but before I made that decision I decided to get the dryer checked out first…and, I’m so glad I did. To make a very long story short, the repairman came out and told me that the dryer was in good condition, however; my dryer hose was clogged. He went on to say that the hose was so backed up he was surprised that it hadn’t started a fire.
OMGOSH? Like, Really??
He immediately told me to contact my landlord and let him know of the situation because it was very serious. My mind at that time went on flashback mode – the landlord hasn’t been that responsive when I’ve asked him about things in the past or let’s say, he’s acted but not in the way that I felt like he should. But this situation was very serious so I did as the repairman asked and called him right away.
Once called, I was informed that he would get someone on it right away. Two days later, I ended up sending a message to confirm if something was still going to be done. I was then informed that I could still use the dryer and that someone would be out to the house as soon as they can. Fast forward over a month later – no response, I sent a message explaining the situation again and asked if someone was going to come out, Once again, I was informed that the person was too busy and that they would find someone. Fast forward another month and a half later…..still no word. I was in shock that my issue had not been taken care of quicker than I had hoped, after all – a clogged dryer vent is a fire hazard that could have caused major damage within that time period and it did, especially to my light bill. So, I did my research and took matters into my own hands; I hired whom I needed to come out to the house and fix the issue in which got fixed the same day. There was a bird’s nest in the vent along with globs of lint; talk about a disaster waiting on a match. I was appalled at the landlord but after doing my research, I found that as a tenant I had rights and therefore could take those expenses from the rent payment and that is exactly what I did.
So given my experience, I wanted to leave you a couple of tips showcasing what I did and mistakes I made in the past regarding past rentals….
I. Document, Document, Document…
In order to withhold some of the rent money to pay for the necessary expenses needed to be fixed, I had to document and keep record of the times in which I contacted my landlord. I would suggest that if you have a problem, right down or keep track of the date, time and conversation discussed. It’s the most relevant piece of information that will come in handy should you need to take such action as I did or even take your landlord to small claims court.
I also would suggest telling your landlord about the situation a couple of times (3) to be exact with time in between to give them time to take action before you take action. You don’t want to jump the gun, because it could hang you later on. Always make the landlord copies of receipts of the items that you purchased, you keep all the originals and if you do get someone to handle an issue or problem that the landlord has failed to do. Make sure you try to get a reasonable person that offer reasonable prices; you don’t want them to think that you’re trying to take more off the rent than you need to and if you have to take them to court, you might receive questions from the judge asking “Why you didn’t go cheaper”– Remember, you’re not trying to stick it to them. You’re just trying to spread awareness that you won’t be run over.
II. Read Your Lease to the “T”
The number one mistake I’ve made in renting is not taking out the time to read my lease in it’s entirety. Getting the keys to your own space can be very liberating but costly if you don’t take out time to read your responsibilities vs. the landlord’s responsible actions. People automatically assume that if they rent then the landlord is automatically responsible for everything…not true. You may be responsible for taking care of the yard or fixing things that become dented, broken or messed up during your stay. Every lease and landlord is different so make sure you read what you’re supposed to take care of during the duration of your lease. And No, the landlord is not responsible for replacing light bulbs nor air filters…sorry. *sidenote* If there’s something you don’t understand or need clarity on, please talk to the landlord about it first before signing…once you sign, you are bound to whatever the lease states you are to do.
III. Inspector Gadget to the Rescue:
Once you’ve read your lease and got all the formalities out of the way and before you move one single item into your humble abode. Go alone or with a trusted friend and inspect your new place. Take out your phone and take pictures of how your place looked before you moved in. Check the wall sockets, the carpet, the bathrooms, sinks, under the sink, wash area even outside. You’re checking to make sure that everything is in good condition. If you notice the carpet is torn or a light fixture is broken or knobs or lights are off or out, take notes and write it up for the landlord, make sure you date it and keep a copy of it for yourself. You want to make sure that the landlord knows about any and all discrepancies before you move in, this makes him or her aware that there is an issue. If they choose not to fix it, then they will not be able to hold that against you once you move out…that’s where your copy of the letter comes into play.
IV. Credit Jeopardy:
If you rent from a private owner, they may not necessarily report your monthly payment to credit reporting agencies, however; most management companies do. If you ever have hopes of moving out to obtain better digs or have a desire to own your own home one day, then paying your rent on time is the meat that will get you there. This brings me to my next point…
V. Be Upfront about It:
If you live in this world, then you know accidents and misfortunes do happen. If you get laid off, have surgery or suffer any other life crisis that will affect you paying the rent, please be upfront with your landlord. I don’t know what type of relationship you may have with him or her but keeping them informed about important matters, will help build a trusting relationship with them, one that could indeed get you into your next place. You never know who they may know or who may know them.
VI. Leave it There:
There was one place that I moved into years ago that had pictures, curtains, shower curtain liners and other miscellaneous things in it. I was under the impression that the owners had just placed it there to stage and dress up the place when they showed it. It wasn’t until I moved out and was expecting to get my full deposit back that I noticed their list of reasons why it was cut short, they had listed all those little trinkets right on the detailed list. So please, if you move into an apartment or house and there are items left there either by the landlord or someone previously; please let your landlord know and ask what you need to do with those items. My suggestion would be to take pictures of where the items were or hung before you take it all down, put them in a box and save it for when you move out. Once you move out, refer back to your pictures to see how those items were placed and hang or place them back where they were. If the landlord says that you can have them, document the date and time of that conversation and refer back to it when you need it.
If you live in North Carolina, Listed below are a couple of links that offer great information on your rights as a tenant as well as the landlords. If you don’t live in NC, then you can replace the NC in the link below with your state acronym. Different rules apply for different states, so make sure you’re following the correct guidelines outlined for yours.
Overview of Landlord Tenant Rights in NC
North Carolina Residential Tenant Rights
Roshonda N. Blackmon – Creator of JustsumInspiration, Author, Speaker & Encourager
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