Generally, one of the perks of renting an apartment is that you don’t have to deal with the hassles of repairs and regular maintenance. If anything breaks or goes wrong, a simple call or email to your landlord should theoretically fix any problems in a timely manner.
However, as a renter, it may seem like the fate of your apartment is in your landlords hands. Everyone has heard those stories about a landlord who fails to keep the building up to health and safety codes or those who take months to fix leaks and broken smoke detectors.
While you can purchase renters insurance to protect your belongings from theft and fires, you should also be proactive in learning about your rights as a tenant and voicing your concerns when necessary. While tenant rights vary by state, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides some of the most common apartment renters rights, that may likely be addressed in your states landlord-tenant law:
As a renter, you have the right to an apartment with adequate water, electricity and heat as well as a structurally safe apartment. This means if you find mold, heavy rust, bugs or rats, and/or broken or missing smoke detectors, you should contact your landlord immediately. If your landlord has violated terms related to the health, safety or necessary repairs of your apartment, you might be able to break your lease without legal or economic ramifications.
Before you sign your lease, make sure you have discussed the turnaround time for any repairs or maintenance tasks and the agreed upon time down in writing. You should also check to see if you can order repairs and deduct the cost from rent.
While you’ve probably seen movies where an unsuspecting renter comes home to find his couch and other belongings along the sidewalk, most states prohibits landlords from evicting you without a court ordered eviction notice.
Many states not only limit the amount your landlord can charge for security deposits, most states also require that your security deposit be returned within 14 to 30 days after you have moved out. Your landlord cannot deduct from your security deposit for normal wear and tear and some states, like Illinois, require an itemized report of deductions.