Home or Apartment Renters Questions & Answers
If you're looking to rent an apartment or house we've got the answers to your questions. While the laws vary state to state, most of this applies to all tenants looking to rent.
Security Deposit Questions
Credit & Renting
Real Estate Brokers
Extending a Lease
Breaking a Lease
Dealing With Your Landlord
What’s the best way to make sure I get my security deposit back?
I am leaving my apartment soon and want to make sure I get my security deposit back. There are a number of things you can do the make sure you get your security deposit back. You can ask your landlord before you leave for him to come and inspect the premises. That way if he claims you did any damage you can fix it before you leave. Make sure you clean the apartment before you leave so that it is in the same shape, except for normal wear and tear, as when you moved in. Take pictures so that if the landlord claims you did damage you have proof of how you left it. Write a letter requesting you security deposit back with an address for your landlord to send it to. Make sure you send this letter by certified return receipt mail. This way the landlord can’t claim he never received it. Every state has a specific timeframe that a security deposit and/or a damage claim/itemization must be sent to a tenant. Check out our instructions for writing to your landlord for a security return >
What can I do when my landlord will not return my security deposit?
My landlord has refused to return my security deposit so what can I do? I left my apartment or rental property in good condition and my landlord is still refusing to return my security deposit. Landlords routinely keep security deposits when they should not. Tenants many times feel powerless to do anything about it. Every state has specific laws regarding security deposits and when they must be returned and specifically what they can be kept for. There can be serious repercussions when landlords refuse to return security deposits for illegal reasons. Research your state law regarding when a security deposit must be returned and under what conditions a landlord may keep it. Our instructions for writing to demand your security deposit has all you need to know.
What do I ask a landlord or broker when I am looking for a rental property?
You need to know when the property is available, if utilities are included, and how much of a security deposit is required among other things. If utilities are not included you want to know what the estimated monthly cost is so you can include that in your budget. You want to know if the landlord is collecting a security deposit and last month’s rent. Many times they will collect one month of a security deposit. Many states regulate how much a landlord is allowed to collect as a security deposit.
Can you negotiate how much you must pay?
Depending on the rental market where you live you may be able to negotiate the rent. If the market is hot and properties are going quickly it is best not to try and negotiate because you may lose the property. In markets where rental properties are plentiful it is best to take your time and negotiate for the best rent possible.
How much money do I need to be able to rent an apartment?
This can depend on a number of factors. Usually a landlord will collect a security deposit that is equal to one month of rent. So you need to have at least two months of rent available when moving in. There are some instances where you may have to pay an application fee or a credit report fee. These fees should not be too much and if they are you may want to walk away. Remember that you will also need money to move, even without movers there are many hidden expenses in the moving process.
Does my credit matter when I rent?
It depends on whether your landlord pulls a credit report or not. If you go through a broker or management company they almost always require a credit report. They want to see that you pay your bills on a regular basis. So it is very important to make sure you pay your bills (i.e. credit cards, car payments, student loans) on time. For those who already know their credit is not that good you should try to find a landlord directly and present yourself in the best possible manner. If he asks about your credit explain to him that you went through some hard times but have always paid your rent on time.
To Use a broker or not?
If you're like me you hate to pay for a broker in any type of transaction, and this can be especially true is a rental situation where the fee could be substantial. Depending on where you live there are other alternatives. Craigslist and local newspapers can be great places to locate rental units. If you do choose to use a broker pick someone very carefully to ensure you get the best service. Many times you can also find a broker that gets paid from the landlord thereby eliminating any fee.
Can a landlord evict me for not paying rent?
I could not pay rent last month so can my landlord kick me out? When you stop paying rent a landlord may start a eviction proceeding against you. Most states have different timelines on eviction proceedings so you should contact the local court or a legal aid organization for some assistance. The best course of action is to try and talk to your landlord, explain your situation and ask him to give you some more time to pay your rent. In these uncertain economic times people are sometimes more understanding.
How can I break my lease?
I have a family emergency so can I break my lease. You generally can’t break a lease without being subject to a penalty. If you have signed a lease for a year and break it after six months you are liable for the rent for the remaining six months. Most states require a landlord to try and mitigate the loss by finding a new tenant but you are still liable for any lost rent and any costs associated with the landlord finding a new tenant. The best course of action is to try and find a qualified tenant before you leave as this can save you a lot of money as well as your security deposit. Take a look at our detailed instructions for writing a breaking lease letter to your landlord >
The home I am renting is in foreclosure. What can I do?
It is becoming much more common today that tenants find their home in foreclosure and do not know what they can do. Many times a tenant will find out a home is in foreclosure after the landlord has not been paying the mortgage for a number of months. Tenants naturally become angry that they have been paying the rent and now may be kicked out because the landlord was keeping their money and not paying the mortgage. There is something tenants can do. A law recently came into place that protects bona fide tenants with leases until the end of your term and gives almost everyone regardless of a lease or not at least 90 days notice. We have details on this law and instructions for writing a letter to your landlord to respond to an eviction notice >>
What can I do if my landlord won’t make repairs?
Under state law tenants generally have a few options when a landlord fails to make repairs. A tenant should always send a notice to a landlord indicating what the issues are. Depending on the severity of the problems the landlord usually has a certain amount of time to repair. If a tenant is without heat in the winter the landlord obviously must get that fixed immediately, while with something like a leaky faucet more time should be allowed. Tenants may under some jurisdictions withhold rent, repair and deduct the costs from rent, abandon the premises or sue for damages. You should consult an attorney before you do any of these to make sure you are legally within your rights. We also provide instructions for writing a letter to get repairs from your landlord >
How do I extend my lease?
You like living in your rental property or apartment and your lease is about to expire. You would like to stay in the property and want to approach your landlord to see how you can get your lease extended. You would also like to get it extended without any increase in your monthly rental payment. You should call or write a letter to your landlord requesting that he extend the term of your lease for another year (or different term) and hopefully he will do this without raising your rent. You can point out the benefits to keeping you in the apartment or rental property which are that you are a good tenant and he will not have to spend any additional money to find a new tenant and will not lose any rent if there are a few months without a tenant. Take a look at our instructions for how to write a letter to extend your lease >
How should I communicate with my landlord?
What is the best way to communicate with my landlord? Many times a tenant is on very friendly terms with a landlord and can ask for something and it just gets done. For others who do not have that kind of relationship it's best to put everything in writing and send it by certified mail return receipt. This way if a further issue arises you have proof of your request and that the landlord received it. It costs approximately $5.59 and is well worth the cost.