Tips for Tenants
By following these simple tips you may be able to avoid legal problems later
- In shopping for a place to live: Go to the Health Department and review their file on the address you are considering. Check with the utility company to determine previous winters' heating. Talk with current/ prior tenants of the landlord you are considering.
- Read your lease before you sign it. Or better yet, let one of the Student Legal Services Lawyers review it before you sign it.
- Don't agree to an oral modification of a written lease. Write all modifications down and sign with the landlord.
- Avoid "shared utilities systems". (Several apartments and one electric/water, etc. bill)
- Do not pay rent in cash. Get receipts.
- To increase chances of getting your security deposit back, photograph/video-tape/document the condition of the apartment when you move in. Provide your landlord with written notice of all defects in the apartment.
- Contact your landlord IN WRITING at the first sign of condition problems in your apartment.
- Make a copy of everything you send the landlord. Keep everything you receive from the landlord.
- Don't accept legal advice from your landlord.
- Meet all your legal obligations: Keep your apartment safe and sanitary, get rid of garbage in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner, use appliances properly, prevent others from damaging your place, don't disturb your neighbors, don't unreasonably withhold consent for your landlord to enter your place.
- If your landlord fails meet its legal obligations or fails to repair a problem that materially affects your health and safety, you may be able to escrow your next rent with the court instead of your landlord. You must be current in your rent payment and you must have given written notice about the problem to your landlord. Contact Student Legal Services for assistance with escrowing your rent with the court.
- Seek help at the first sign of a problem.
- Register and vote in local elections.
- Landlords must give reasonable notice, presumed to be 24 hours, to the tenant before entering the apartment. This notice doesn't apply in emergencies.
- If problems arise between housemates or your landlord, consider mediation as a way to resolve the conflict. Professional mediation is available at Kent State University.
- Upon move-out, clean the apartment thoroughly and remove all of your belongings and rubbish from the apartment. Take photographs and video of the apartment once you have completed your cleaning. Ask your landlord to conduct a move-out inspection.
- Provide your landlord with a written notice containing your forwarding address and request for the return of your security deposit.
- It is NOT your landlord's responsibility to cover the cost of your belongings or to pay for items that are damaged or stolen by others. If you want to be sure you are covered, you should purchase renter's insurance.
- First, check with your parent's Insurance Agent, many home owner insurance policies provide coverage to children temporarily living away from home. If you are not covered then call several agents to get quotes on coverage.
- There are many types of renter's insurance; make sure you get the amount of protection you think you'll need. Some policies will protect from fire, theft, AND flood, while others will limit your payments to certain types of losses. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT TYPE OF PROTECTION YOU ARE GETTING.
- Some more expensive policies will pay to replace your belongings, while others will give you the cash value of an item at the time it was destroyed. For example, replacement insurance will pay for a new television, while fair market insurance will give you the value of the television at the time it was destroyed.
- Certain types of renter's insurance also pay for the cost of personal injury on the rental property.
- If a polite call or letter to your landlord doesn't remedy a housing complaint, a confidential inspection by the Health Department may be the answer. Make sure you ask the health inspector to provide you with a copy of the notice he sends to the landlord if he finds any violations
- Know where the fire extinguishers are and make sure they are in working condition. Make sure their charge has not expired. Check smoke detectors monthly. If you use natural gas, your house should have a carbon monoxide detector. Lock doors at night. When leaving for long weekends and breaks, secure all valuables. Purchase renter's insurance to protect your belongings.
Avoiding Roommate Conflicts
- Conflict is inevitable. Deal with it in healthy ways. Consider mediation to resolve disputes. Make out an alternating weekly chore list. Live with people you know well and trust. Respect others possessions. Disrespect of one another is the fastest way to an argument.