Renting A New Apartment – Legal Considerations

What To Know When Renting A New Apartment

Congratulations! You’ve got the apartment. The hunt is over. Now for the legal part. Apartment leases can be for a term of months or can be month-to-month. Leases can vary in both depth and complexity.

Once you sign the lease, the first thing you should do is purchase renters insurance which will cover the value of your personal property should there be a fire or your property is stolen. Renters insurance is fairly inexpensive and will can protect you against third-party liability claims should you be sued by someone who gets injured in your apartment.

Initial Walkthrough

Protect your Security Deposit. Before moving in, do your initial walkthrough and inspection of the apartment and make sure you document everything that is damaged or needs repair: kitchen counters that may be chipped or scratched, carpet that is stained or ripped, walls that look like they have been stained by water damage and any other areas that show excessive usage. Be specific when documenting areas of concern. It’s  advisable to take photographs of all visible damage and items in disrepair.

Once you have made a list of pre-move-in damage, stains, etc., ask your landlord to meet with you so you can share your list and compare notes before moving in. You should both sign the list acknowledging the present condition of your apartment. Make sure to  keep a copy. This protects you from being charged later for any pre-existing damage to your apartment once vacate.

Proving Preexisting Damage

It’s a good idea to have a witness with you when you note the condition of your apartment.  If you’re really concerned about being charged for pre-existing damage, you can go one step further and seal your document and photographs in an envelope and mail it to yourself, making sure that the postmark is clearly visible — but don’t open it. Keep it sealed so that you can open it in the landlord’s presence (along with a witness) if thee is a dispute.

All these legal precautions may seem silly, but you never know what the landlord will claim when your lease is up and you vacate. You don’t want to lose your security deposit and have to take your landlord to small claims court to get it back.

As a tenant, you are legally responsible for all damage to the apartment during the term of your tenancy. But not before or after you vacate.

Reasonable Wear And Tear

The landlord is not allowed to penalize you for reasonable wear and tear which is cause by reasonable use and aging. If the stove was ancient when you moved in, but working, then it’s probably not your fault if it goes in disrepair during your tenancy. However, if your pet dog rips up the carpet, you’ll be liable for the repair or replacement of the carpet.

Confirm Important Communications In Writing

Follow up conversations with your landlord about the condition of the apartment or other potentially legal issues should always be confirmed in writing. Keep copies of all correspondence confirming your conversations and agreements.

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