Landlords are like the weather; most are delightful or at least acceptable, but when they’re bad, they’re bad, and unfortunately you often can’t choose the type of landlord you want to have. Just like the ordinary people they are, they can seem nice at first and only later show their unruly side.
These sort of landlords are professionals (and I’m not using the term loosely) at gambling with the safety of their tenants. A few may even take joy in it, and there a lot of things that can go wrong when something is not fixed as it should be. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself from the trauma that this can sometimes lead to.
Constant Vigilance! – Especially When You Move In
If some things seem more than a little shaky, well, find out for yourself what works right and what doesn’t, and document everything using a camera or your smartphone. If your landlord refuses to fix these issues, chances are you’re still going to get a bill for them when you move out. If and when that time comes, your photos will be invaluable in proving your case (and avoiding the loss of your deposit and hefty fees!)
Make Sure That Crystal-Clear HD Smells Legitimate
Many landlords offer utilities bundled with your rent, and in many cases this includes TVs. In most cases this can be a great deal for everyone – but some unsavoury landlords have been known to illegally “tap” a neighbouring property’s cable line, feed it to their own property, and then charge the tenant for what is in effect “free TV”. This is not only illegal on the part of the landlord, but could also get you into hot water as well. Always make sure that bundled utilities are legitimate by requesting a copy of the invoice or receipt from your landlord for any utilities that are bundled into your rent.
Get Your Problems Solved
Any place that you rent – whether it’s a house, an apartment, or the back of a golf cart on the 9th fairway – represents an investment on the part of your landlord. For this reason, it’s in their best interest to keep their properties properly maintained. Unfortunately, some landlords simply don’t – or won’t – perform adequate maintenance. If you’ve got a serious problem like a broken front door lock, a malfunctioning oven, or a dysfunctional A/C system, document your attempts to get your landlord to fix the issue by mailing certified letters and keeping the copies and receipts – then hire someone to fix the issue. In most jurisdictions, a judge will allow you to deduct the amount that you spent on necessary repairs to make your home habitable again from your rent balance. (Disclaimer: We’re not legal experts; you should probably consult with one before doing this.)
Channel your inner Magnum P.I. or Murder She Wrote and keep copious documentation of everything that happens from move-in to move-out. Take entire hard-disks of photos, especially right before you move in, and once you’ve moved out. Make sure to keep all letters you receive from your landlord, and make sure before you turn your keys in and leave for good that you’ve received a signed document from your landlord agreeing to anything you might be responsible for (including turning in your keys!) Unsavoury landlords have been known to gleefully accept keys, gate-openers, and all other manner of things from tenants, and then back-bill for those very same things, claiming they were never turned in.
Conclusion: Avoid the ‘He Said, She Said’ With Some Simple Common Sense
A lot of this may seem like common sense, and some of it truly is – but you’d be shocked at the amount of times an unscrupulous landlord has gotten the best of an innocent tenant due to the tenant’s lack of knowledge, documentation, investigation, and record keeping.
About the author: Carter Schimpff is the Director of Online Marketing for SML, a nationwide moving company specializing in revolutionizing the way Americans move. Whether you just need a little help moving the heavy things into your rental truck, or you need an affordable nationwide door-to-door full service solution, and anything in-between, SML has the crews and the experience to help make your next move a simple move. That’s SML – Moving Made Simple.