Finding a new rental is exciting, but before you sign on the dotted line and move in, it’s always smart to read the fine print. Tenants’ rights vary from state to state, and laws for rental properties are sometimes different for the variety of dwelling-types (ie, single family home vs condo). Your rental agreement, or lease, should spell out the specifics, especially in terms of which expenses you’re responsible for. That being said, here is a list of the expenses you usually can count on your landlord to pick up. Be careful not to assume that they will be though, and be sure the details are spelled out in your lease.
- Normal wear and tear: It’s only natural for carpet to get a bit worn and for woodwork to be scuffed after a year of occupancy. “Normal” is a subjective word though, and you’ll want to get specific expectations before signing your lease. It’s also recommended to take pictures of any existing damage before moving in. That way you can’t be falsely accused of causing it.
- Some repairs: According to a recent article from the Miami Herald, landlord tenant laws require your landlord keep the rental property in a habitable condition. This means that the building must be structurally sound, and have safe plumbing, electrical and heating systems, and hot and cold water. But those rights only go so far. Leaky faucets, running toilets or torn window screens are not considered “must-repair” issues.
- Maintenance: Your landlord should be responsible for maintenance and repairs, including preventive maintenance, like annual inspections of the furnace, air conditioner and water heater. Necessary repairs for all appliances provided with the property should also be the responsibility of the landlord, unless of course they were caused by the tenants’ actions, or if it says otherwise in your rental agreement.
- Special assessment fees: If your new rental is within a condominium or property with a homeowners association, be sure to determine who will pay the HOA, or other, fees. While these fees are typically picked up by the landlord, because these assessments often cost thousands of dollars, it’s crucial to clarify before signing the lease.
- Pest control: This one is usually a point of debate. Unless an infestation is caused by tenant behavior or action, the landlord is usually required to pay as an issue of maintaining habitable living conditions.
- Safety measures: Most states consider maintenance of a secure environment the landlord’s responsibility. That means the landlord should pay for a deadbolt, exterior lights, or other safety features as standard precautions.
Again, all of these points should be clearly spelled out in the rental agreement. If you don’t see the details in the lease, negotiate them with your landlord and have them added in.
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