It’s your first apartment and although you’re looking forward to this more than anything else, you still want to make sure that you protect yourself from any bad business practices or situations. Here are a few things to keep in mind for your first, or fiftieth, time on your own.
- Before you move in to your new place, make sure that you walk through the exact apartment that you’re going to move into, NOT a model. If there are any things that are wrong with the apartment make sure you tell the landlord what they are, and that you want them fixed, before you move in.
- If, for any reason, these items are not fixed by the time that you move in, document the things that need to be repaired or replaced in writing and with photographs. Send a copy to your landlord and keep a copy for yourself. These things should include any chips in the walls, broken appliances and anything in the apartment that looks worn or deteriorated. In the event that your security deposit is held for any of these items, you now have proof that they were in existence before you moved in.
- Make sure that the locks are changed before you move into your new apartment. Ask the landlord to tell you who has copies of the keys. Usually, the only other people that should have access to your apartment is the building management.
- Purchase renters insurance. You might not think that you have a great deal of stuff to cover but when you start to add it all up it will probably amount to more that you thought. Depending on the terms of the policy that you purchase, renters insurance will protect you from fire, break-ins or other disasters at a low cost.
- Landlords MUST fix major problems in the unit. It is their responsibility to keep the apartment livable and in good condition. If you signed a lease for an apartment with air conditioning, the landlord must keep the air conditioning working in the unit. If the water is shut off (and you’ve paid your bills), the landlord must fix any problem in a reasonable timeframe.
- Depending on your lease, your landlord may or may not be responsible for minor problems like leaky faucets or problems with appliances. (Make sure you ask about this before you sign the lease.) If it states in the lease that you are responsible for issues of this nature, building maintenance may be able to fix the problem but don’t be surprised if you end up with a bill for the repairs. Another good reason to make sure you document any problems before you move into the apartment.
If your landlord is not receptive to repairing major problems or is hesitant to meet with you for any other major dispute after you’ve moved in make sure you take the following steps, and take them exactly in this order:
- Submit a repair request through building maintenance.
- If this is not acted upon…
- Propose mediation with your landlord. There are independent agencies that will be able to hear both sides of a case and help the parties in the dispute come to a reasonable agreement.
If mediation fails to bring about a resolution…
- Report your building and landlord to a local housing authority or building agency. Most often this agency can apply the needed pressure for your landlord to understand the importance of your issues and help rectify any problem.
Only when that fails should you…
- Sue your landlord in small claims court. Not only might this damage the reputation of your landlord and the apartment property but if the lawsuit is financial in nature, it may also reflect NEGATIVELY on your credit report.
Only when all other attempts at mediation have failed should you take this drastic measure.
- The Federal Fair Housing Act protects renters from discrimination. To review this act please visit http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/title8.htm.