Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Protecting Yourself Against Predatory Landlords
Problems arising from rental relationships can be especially upsetting when the home becomes an extension of the day's frustrations, rather than a refuge from them.
Some landlords neglect maintenance, while others habitually enter without notice. Even those fortunate enough to avoid major issues may sometimes find it difficult to recover the security deposit. Although landlords often have the upper hand, tenants may still come out on top if they are savvy, informed consumers.
Download and print these tips
If You Have Never Met A Potential Landlord In Person:
a) Never send them money by wire transfer, and b) never give them private financial information (such as your social security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers). Beware any potential landlord who makes such requests.
Carefully Inspect The Exact Unit That You Want To Rent, Not Just A Model Unit.
Open every door and closet, note any odd smells or noises, check for deadbolt locks, and confirm there are adequate exits in case of emergency. Take video and/or photos of the unit during the walk-through with the landlord. The more photos, the better—if your landlord later tries to withhold your security deposit for existing damage, you will have proof that you were not responsible for it. Landlords are required to provide basic amenities of habitability, which typically includes heat, water, electricity, cleanliness and safety. If talking to the landlord isn't going anywhere, you may be able to remedy the situation by withholding a portion of the rent, calling the building inspector, or breaking the lease and moving out without penalty.
Read The Lease Contract Carefully To Make Sure You Can Live With Everything That Is (Or Isn't) There.
If the landlord makes additional promises, they need to be written on the lease document before signing. Never rent without signing a lease. Buy renter's insurance whether or not the landlord requires it, and make sure it is “replacement cost” insurance. A typical policy may cost anywhere from $10-30/month, and could even be less inexpensive if bundled with a car or life insurance policy.
If You Need Help With Your Specific Situation, Get Free Legal Advice