Protecting your rights – Enforce your rights
Here are some tips on how your can protect your rights as the tenant:
Paperwork: This is probably the most important aspect of the entire landlord tenant relationship. Read the papers carefully before you sign them. Hire an attorney and let the attorney review the papers before you sign them. Most landlords use standard forms but you should still have the form reviewed before signing them. The last thing you want is to sign away your rights without knowing. Proper paperwork is very important for protection of your rights.
Lease/Rental Agreement: This is the document which determines the terms of your lease. Read it carefully before you sign it. Have an attorney review it for you. Ensure that you understand every clause of the agreement. Pay specific attention to the security deposit, rent payment and termination clause. If you feel the agreement is too rigid or too biased in favor of the landlord, you can request the landlord to modify the agreement. If the landlord is not willingly to negotiate, you are better off looking for another property.
Oral Contracts are Difficult to Enforce: Courts do uphold oral contracts but oral contracts are difficult to prove. Unless you can prove the existence of the contract, the courts cannot enforce it. Anything that you and the landlord agree about, i.e. the terms of the lease, should be recorded in writing. You may trust your landlord but should things go wrong between the two of you, you will be to force the landlord to keep his promise only if you have it in writing.
Right to Privacy: Examine the lease carefully regarding the circumstances in which the landlord can enter your premises without any notice. Generally, the landlord is required to give you notice before entering into the premises. However, in certain emergencies such as a gas leak, the landlord can enter without your permission.
Repairs: The landlord must repair and maintain the premises. If you notice anything requires repair or maintenance, inform the landlord. If your landlord does not make the necessary repairs, your state law will determine your options. Generally, you can carry out the repairs yourself and deduct the amount from your rent.
Relationship with Landlord: Your landlord is a human being after all. Humans make mistakes. If you have any problem with the landlord, try to sort it out through a friendly chat than a screaming contest. If you cannot sort out the issue through a friendly chat, communicate with the landlord in writing and keep a record of the correspondence. Having a good working relationship with the landlord is in your interest.
Insurance: Try to avail of renters insurance. Renters who have considerable private property–computers, jewelry, and electronic equipment, for example–can purchase a renter’s insurance. This insurance allows the renter to file claims for those covered items in case of theft, fire, or disaster. Renter’s personal property is not covered by the landlord’s homeowner’s insurance.
Security Deposit: This is the one issue that leads to a lot of disputes between the landlord and the tenant. Check the terms of the lease to understand how the landlord will deal with your security deposit, including when it will be returned and whether the landlord is entitled to deduct any amount from the security deposit.
Safety and Security: Before you move in, check the property to ensure that there is no threat or danger to your life and property. In some counties, the law requires the property to have certain safety features in place. You should be extra careful if the property is located in an area where there is a high crime rate.
Eviction: As a tenant, you have certain rights when it comes to eviction. You cannot be immediately evicted. The landlord must file a lawsuit against you and prevail. However, if the landlord wants to evict you, it is better to move out and move on because if you continue staying there, you will have to deal with the landlord who does not want you there in the first place.