How many times have you or someone you know experienced a problem with a landlord before through renting an apartment or house? You’ve probably heard about quite a few horror stories about “renter issues” haven’t you? I know I have. As for me, as a college student, there’s no way I can afford to buy a house; and when I graduate, it’ll take me awhile before I am able to do that. Plus, I don’t want to make a permanent commitment to buying a house before I’m unsure of where I want to settle down at. Renting is just the most practical and realistic option for me (because I definitely don’t plan to move back in with my parents or anything) and a lot of other people I know. Currently, I rent an apartment and it can be so frustrating. The apartment complex won’t let you out of your lease for any reason, no matter how urgent the circumstance is. The only way you can get “out of” you lease is by finding someone to take it over for you; which is a $200 fee. Even when doing this, your name stays on the lease so if you don’t know this person you just have to trust they pay their rent. There are ways around this particular part, however you have to fight them about it and they’ll try to make you look stupid in the process. You have to pay fee’s for the smallest things (such as a $200 fee for transferring ROOMS in the same apartment complex). I could go on, but as you can see this is getting ridiculous. Whenever my lease is up for this year, I plan to rent a house and live there until I graduate and get on my feet after graduation (that is if I can get someone to take over my lease for the following year that I have already signed for..see what happens when you are overly prepared!!). However, I have always been leery of renting a house because of all of the horror stories I’ve heard about dealing with landlords. Thankfully, LegalShield has services and advice to help when you run into problems.
LegalShield is a company that provides legal help for a much cheaper price than hiring a lawyer. Once you are a member, you pay a monthly fee and have access to experienced lawyers for whatever legal issue you may need. In this case, renting and dealing with landlords. Unless the issue became really serious, most wouldn’t hire a lawyer to help them with renting and landlord issues, however with LegalShield’s help, this can be done a lot smoother, cheaper and more practical.
The first thing that LegalShield suggests is to inspect the lease you are signing and make sure they have these things:
- Names and contact information of the lessor and the lessee (including roommates)
- The address and unit number of the property being lease with a brief description of the property
- Length of tenancy with specific dates
- Amount and due dates of monthly rent with information regarding late fees, etc.
- Whether the landlord is responsible for utilities and if they are if there is a cap on how much can be used
- Amount, due date, and conditions surrounding the return of security deposits
- Rules and any associated policies or fees regarding pets, smoking, etc.
- Responsibility regarding repairs and upkeep of the property
According to LegalShield, if these things aren’t in a lease, you should address it immediately with the lessor or property manager before signing. Typically, if any of these things are missing, it is a red flag.
To get more in detail of rental leases, here are some more clauses that could be in a lease that you need to understand fully before signing so that you can negotiate, et.c of needed.
- Lease break procedure and fees: Most leases will include an early termination fee (as I mentioned earlier) if you are needing out of the lease. This could mean that make you pay the remainder of the rent due for the rest of the lease. However, most states require them to try to find someone to re-rent the property and release you of your financial obligations (or in my case, you still have to pay a fee for getting someone else to take over for you).
- Automatic renewal clause: Some leases will have an exact move-out day and some will be automatic renewal. Make sure you who which one is on your lease and the notice you should give before planning to move out.
- Modifications: Make sure you before you make major changes such as painting, knocking out walls, etc. you get it in writing on the lease that you are allowed to do it, or else you could find yourself in big financial trouble.
- Damage and destruction: Make sure you know what your landlord will cover in case of natural disaster, etc. Knowing this will help you decide whether or not you should get renters insurance or not.
LegalShield can help in many ways with problems with your landlord, but these are a few steps to avoid them before they happen. Another thing renters need to know is that a lease is negotiable. I wish I would have known this when I was first renting and this is something that I will definitely keep in mind in the future. Landlords will often be pushy and make you feel like what they have in place is the only way. Keep in mind that if there is something you have a problem with, address it with your landlord. Make sure you read the lease carefully and look for the tips given above before signing. If you still run into issues (which you probably will), LegalShield will be there to help.
Pictures retireved from here