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Tips for Protecting Your Rights as a Tenant

As the old quote from Benjamin Franklin saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This idiom is definitely applicable to landlord-tenant disputes. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid potential problems with your landlord.

Examine the Lease Carefully.
Your landlord or the leasing agent at an apartment complex might just hand you a stack of papers and ask you to sign the bottom of each page. Don’t just sign it blindly. This lease agreement affects your legal rights, and you should be given the time and ability to carefully read the agreement to see if you have any objections to its terms. Besides, if your landlord is pushing you to sign a lease but won’t allow you to read it, can you really trust them?

Get it Writing. Do it in Writing.
Landlords tend to make lots of promises when they try to get you to sign a lease. These oral promises are hard, if not impossible, to enforce. If a landlord is making you a promise, make sure to get it in writing. Likewise, help protect yourself by submitting every communication to your landlord in writing.

Timely Repairs are Usually the Landlord’s Responsibility.
Your landlord has a duty to maintain the rental unit in a condition that does not harm the quality of life in your unit. This means conditions that affect heating, water supply, electricity, and structural safety are the landlord’s duty to maintain. When your landlord fails to properly maintain the premises, you have a few options. First, you can withhold rent until the problem is fixed. Second, you can pay for the problem yourself and deduct the cost of repair from your rent payment. Third, if the problem persists long enough of is so severe that it would be unsanitary or unsafe to live in the unit, you can consider the landlord’s (in)action a constructive eviction and move out. Check local laws in your area before you attempt one of these options.

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