Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ten Tips for Renters

Leases are rental agreements that outline the rights and responsibilities of both the property owner and the tenant. A lease can cover an apartment or a house.

If you are searching for a rental unit, be sure to read the lease carefully and ask questions about any clauses that you do not understand.

Make sure the landlord gives you a signed copy for your records and store it someplace you will remember, that way you can refer to it whenever necessary.

There are both federal and state laws that protect tenants’ interests. The use of security deposits is regulated at the state level. Here in Connecticut, landlords can not require a security deposit any greater than two months’ rent, which can be in addition to rent for the month of move in.

When it comes to tenants age 62 or older, landlords may not demand more than one months’ rent, which can be in addition to rent for the month of move in, under Connecticut law.

Connecticut landlord/tenant law can be found on the Judicial Branch's Web site.

For a state-by-state directory of landlord/tenant law visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Here are 10 Tips for Renters, courtesy of the Federal Citizen Information Center:

1. Be prepared to provide a prospective landlord with written references from previous landlords, employers, friends and colleagues; and have a current copy of your credit report with you.

2. Carefully review all the important conditions of the tenancy before you sign a lease.

3. To avoid disputes or misunderstandings with the landlord, get terms and conditions in writing.

4. Ask about your privacy rights before you sign the lease.

5. Know your rights to live in a habitable rental unit – and don’t give them up.

6. Keep communication open with your landlord.

7. Purchase renters’ insurance to cover your valuables.

8. Make sure the security deposit refund procedures are spelled out in your lease or rental agreement.

9. Learn whether your building and neighborhood are safe and what you can expect your landlord to do about it if they aren't.

10. Know when to fight an eviction notice and know when to move. Unless you have the law and provable facts on your side, fighting an eviction notice is usually shortsighted.

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