Is your landlord breaking the law?
4. Where's the security deposit?
So, like most tenants, you gave your new landlord a security deposit — probably the equivalent of one month's rent — upon moving in. You made the check out to him, tucked the receipt away, and that was that. You'll get the money back when you move out, as long as there's no damage to the unit. No problem there, right?
Not so fast. As a result of too many landlords' misuse of security deposits — they spent the money immediately then had trouble refunding it — several states have enacted laws that essentially keep an eye on that money for tenants.
In those states — Florida, New Jersey, Kentucky and Massachusetts are just a few — the landlord is required to put the tenant's security deposit into a dedicated bank account. He must then provide the tenant with the bank-account information.
In Massachusetts, for example, the tenant is also due the interest on that money if and when it is refunded. If a dispute arises later and the landlord has not properly handled the security deposit, a housing-court judge may order that the landlord pay the tenant triple damages. In other words, triple the amount of the security deposit.
"So let's say I go smash the walls and the landlord deducts from the security deposit," says Michael Kelley, director of rental housing resources for the city of Boston. "If I go to court and say, 'You never showed the deposit information,' the judge could rule against the landlord and award triple damages.
"Landlords are often ruled against on a technicality, and we want to protect them as well," Kelley says.
5. Are pet deposits treated differently?
A damage deposit by any other name is still a damage deposit and must be treated accordingly under that state's law. So if you handed over an additional $1,000 as a pet deposit, it must be treated the same as a security deposit.
6. The landlord wants even more security deposit later
Let's say you've lived in the apartment for five years, with no problems. Every year your rent has gone up 3%. Suddenly, your landlord requests an additional 10% in security deposit.
What do you do? Most often, you'll simply have to pay. Yes, this one is not illegal. However, it may be if the request is for an amount that exceeds the percentage increase permitted under state law.
However, in every case, if the landlord keeps any part of the security deposit after you move out, he must provide a written, detailed invoice of his deductions. In addition, he cannot deduct for normal wear and tear — for example, things such as light scuff marks, small picture pinholes or fading or dirty paint.
7. The pests aren't gone, but at least the landlord keeps spraying
You have a bedbug problem, and the landlord has the building manager attempt a sweep. Big surprise — the bedbugs return within days. The manager tries, and fails, again.
The landlord is not really violating any rules, is he?
In the end, he could be. Remember the space-heater example. When it comes to health and safety, it's not enough for a landlord to take a Band-Aid approach. Laws in 49 states require that landlords provide a fit and habitable dwelling.
"When we see rodents or any other infestation, we know that there are other problems that need to be fixed," Murray says. "They're not addressing the underlying problem. They're not keeping up the building."
So what should you always do?
The lesson all tenants need to learn, advocates say, is to document all problems, make requests in writing and, if issues are not resolved, contact a government agency or tenant group for help.
We rented a house in New Mexico for 3 years, I left that house in better shape then when I first rented it. I mowed the lawn and planted flowers, And with the owners permission I painted the kitchen and bathrooms. As soon as I did all these things, the owners decided that the house looked so good that they decided to sale the house right out from under us. And we paid for the improvement. We did not get one cent extra for the paint except we did get our deposit back. And they gave us 2 weeks to move out.
I just got through dealing with a witch of a landlord. If you live in Toledo, Ohio watch out for her. She looks like a very nice older lady, but looks are deceiving. I gave a deposit (promptly spent) then found out there were foundation problems (flooding) never fixed. She cried broke every time I asked about anything although she had a business nearby and did weddings. Infestation of spiders, centipedes, and millipedes and she wanted me to pay for pest control. Utilities were more than they were for a 2600 square foot house, but the only way they could read the meter was to go through her adjoining house. If I was a day late, she threatened to evict me, talked to me like I was dirt. I was a homeowner and lost my house because of economy. I did more on her property than she did. When I moved I did everything right, her townhouse was show ready. She waited till the 30th day to give me $200 of $725 deposit, charging me for pulling up some weeds that I did a year ago to control insects. 60 days to get her to court and still didn't get full deposit. Thought it was over then found out 3 months later that I had been paying gas bill at her townhouse. Asked for my money back, no response.
Everyone: take pictures, and get everything in writing. Emails put a date, time stamp on correspondence. That was the only thing that helped me get back what I did. I probably could have gotten full amount but I was nervous about being in court.
Yes, some of the illegal actions are indeed illegal in some states, but NOT in every state. Self help eviction for instance. I am a landlord in a state where I am happy to report it is VERY legal. Don't pay my rent and yes one day there will be a notice posted on your door (as per the lease) and 5 days later your keys won't fit the lock anymore. Similar for the nonsense cited about the possessions left behind. Yes, in states whose court decisions have been leaning towards socialism for the past few decades, places like NY, MA, and CA, the landlord can't sell or dispose of the items left behind. That is why I am not a landlord in those places any more. In states that are pro capitalism however, what you left behind you abandoned on the day you failed to pay the rent. Why do we put that in the lease? Simply so the tenant can't stand up in court and claim he/she hadn't realized their coin collection could be seized and sold to cover back rent if they were dumb enough to still have it in the place on the deadline stated on the notice prominently posted on their front door when the rent became past due. In my current state, since I am not a business, the tenant who rents my mom's old house is a trespasser when the rent day arrives if the rent is not going to be paid. If I was stupid and started an eviction process, then under the state law I would be stuck and forced to wait the year and a half the court might take to hear and decide the matter. Fortunately my state gives small owners a choice. This choice includes visiting a local street corner and hiring 4 unemployed youth (formerly called hoodlums and thugs when I was younger) to help throw a trespasser and his stuff out. Yes, I have been to court in situations like the ones cited. I have won every time. Like I said the article is poorly researched and shouldn't be taken as a gospel valid in every state. Check with a lawyer in your state, note also that in some states the rules vary from town to city to county so that the rule in one part of the state may be totally different in another part of the same state.
I think there should be a way to do a credit/background check on Landlords We have had the worst luck with people who bought houses thinking they were going to make a lot of money in the rental business. In Arizona we had two landlords that rented us houses that were in foreclosure. We had one evict us because we complained too much about repairs that were needed. He claimed he never received our rent. When we got into court we had proof that a check was received. The judge said he would dismiss it if we had the rent plus the almost $2000 for the landlords lawyers fees which we had the rent but not the lawyers fees so now we have a ding in our credit. The rental we are in now in another state is just as bad. The neighbors thought we bought the place because we cleaned it up so much. Most of the appliances have been replaced by us as well as most of the repairs. We still have another 5 months on the lease and we would move but 4/2 rentals are slim pickens in the area that we live. We have had our share of good rentals but too many people are renting out homes they can't sell and they have no business trying to be landlords because they cannot afford the upkeep..
The vast majority of misconduct allegations against landlords are fabricated by legal aid and used to answer the unlawful detainer landords obtain in an effort to recover their property. Legal aid tell the tenant they can use this ploy to get the tenant three to six months free rent. Naturally the tenant agrees, and after the first time they koow how tto play the game over and over. Who's really is the criminal here??
dragon lady....good name, seems to fit. Because you don't like how an agency works...that does not make them useless. Nor more than if someone doesn't like you....it doesn't make you useless.
You expected an "agency" to do someone about "non reputable contractors" and "bandaid repairs" ? You realize each of those terms are qualitative and subjective...right. You have the right to move out at the end of your lease....my guess is got into a cheap rental, and won't get out because it will cost you more to get more.
But on the plus side, look at it as a learning experience to your next rental.
As the tenant advocacy person notes, landlords aren't licensed. I will expand on that sage comment to say, neither are advocay groups. That said have a rental unit, and treat people with respect and expect the same.
To Ryan in Texas.....I see you have the football fan approach to politics, the dems versus the repulbicans. It likely saves brain from having to think on a case by case basis and making an informed decision.
Many renters have an anti business, class warfare, entitlement mentality.
Or more bluntly - they are true Democrats.
When you see how people leave places they have rented, it makes you lose faith in humanity. Trash strewn everywhere. Stains left uncleaned. No respect for the property.
Those of us who own our homes see what "regular wear and tear" is. For every one year in an owned property, you see about 3 years worth of wear in a rented property.
Once you have cleaned up after them a few times - your concept of renters being innocent victims will go out the window.
My wife and I outgrew a starter home about three years ago and had some difficulty selling it after we bought our new home. After a while on the tanked market the second mortgage became a drain on us so we decided to rent it out (not sissy out and let it foreclose like many others). I never was after any profit and pretty much just looking to make ends meet till the house finally sold. Luckily we've always had decent tenants who paid on time but I will say there was never any pride in the upkeep... Usually It would take days once a tenant moved out to get everything back up to par, and there is a big difference between normal wear and tear and blatent neglect. As a former renter myself before I got married I frequently shook my head thinking I never treated or left a place the way some have left my property... Guess it's a sign of the times.
I see comments about horror stories on both sides of the spectrum and I will just offer this small bit of advise for you to take or leave. It comes down to individuals and people in general. I as a landlord did my homework in selecting my tenants based on references and credit and would suggest that other landlords do the same. Alternatively as a tenant I would ask questions to the prospective landlord on how possible problems would be handled, ask neighboring tenants or people who formally rented from that particular landlord.
Many comments here are quick to blame the other guy and I'm sure I'll get a few thumbs down since it's so easy to click but always assume the worst and prepare yourself for what you're getting into people.. Use common sence!
We made a huge mistake renting a house right next door to where we were building our new home.
The young landlord was nice in the beginning, but we caught him and his wife coming out of the house we rented shortly after moving in. They said they were checking the house because they saw a neighbor walking around the side of it, which was a huge lie.
We caught them on a hidden camera a lot, but didn't say anything since we had nothing inside for them to take or complain about to us.
We were smarter because we took pictures of the whole place before moving in and through out the yr and 1/2 we rented as proof of what the place looked like.
When the landlords wife left him he would stop in nightly to tell us everything that was going on between them, but in the end they got back together and that is when all hell broke loose on us because she HATED us because we knew everything about their split up.
They would show up at 9:00 @ night and want to check the place or fight with us because we were not parking correctly or watering the yard or drove over a sprinkler. It was anything she could think of.
We had an open lease to where we did not have to move out until our home was built. They try to make us move out after a yr and when our Attorney told him they could not do it they then tried to raise the rent, and again our Attorney told them they could not do it under the contract we had all originally signed.
In the end when we moved out, we ended up going to court to fight to get our money back. He tried to collect on all sorts of damages to the house, including termite damage that we told him about and asked to have taken care of. THANK THE LORD WE HAD OUR PICTURES OF BEFORE - THROUGH OUT AND MOVE OUT!!! Those pictures showed it all and in the end we walked out of the courthouse with a HUGE smile on our face.
He has since rented the house out and it is now a dump and they continue to go inside when renters are not at home. NOT OUR PROBLEM!!
We pay more than most tenants, and we actually have the right number of people living here and we clean the place everyday and have maintained it perfectly. Even the maintenance staff says it looks as if we just moved in our place because it is so well kept. These people have it coming to them and they will get what they deserve. This dumb manager brags about working for this company for almost 16 yrs, well, she is now going to lose her job over something so stupid and trivial that she blew out of control trying to act like she was some big boss. Now her, her supervisor, and other staff are going to lose there jobs as well for the acts that took place. Its so hilarious to me because we tried to work with them and they continue to act like monkeys. They stuck together so they will FALL TOGETHER. So now at there age, they will probably be one of the old people working at walmart or in fast food.
Landlords deserve what they get, they are evil and they got in this business for the wrong reason. Yes I do believe a landlord should make a profit, but I also believe a tenant should be given a decent place to live. For some reason landlords think they are somehow superior, when in fact they are just average joes stuck paying more than one mortgage. If you screw tenants, you ruin yourself. It is true there are bad tenants out there, but if you actually check references properly you will probably not run into them as often. Truth is you guys go after money first and thats why you continue to get f***ed in the A$$. My property mgmt hates me because I actually want to be able to sleep in my apartment at 1am and not deal with noisy neighbors so they refused me services and now legally they are in major hot water. Stupid is as stupid does. I tried to work with them for months to get the issues taken care of and they tried to bully me, and now after months of antics they are walking around scared because of the all the laws they have broken. Well I could show pity but I won't. They had no problem being A$$holes when "they assumed I was some dumb chick in my 20s" so I am going to do what I love to do and teach them MFs a lesson.
Being a landlord is not for everyone, you better check your work ethic and personality out thoroughly before you invest in real estate.