Protect Yourself as a Renter

Currently, the rental market is very favorable for tenants who are looking to lease property.  There is a plethora of available rental properties and monthly rents in certain parts of the country have been at an all-time low.  However, just because now is the time to carpe diem your way into a lease agreement, it does not mean that you should lay all judgments aside.  Whether or not the time is right to rent property, you should always know what your rights as a tenant are in regards to your state landlord/tenant laws.

First, take advantage of the Web and start off by finding your specific state’s landlord/tenant laws.  They can typically be found online, but if you have a hard time figuring out which link is right or not, then navigate your way to your state’s Attorney General’s Web page.  That will surely lead you to your specific landlord/tenant law.

Next you need to watch for the following red flags in the lease agreement you are about to sign.  Because each state law varies, you should research each of these red flags on your state website so that you know what and how it is that affects you.

  • Can the monthly rent amount be changed, without notice, within the time frame of the lease terms?
  • If the landlord doesn’t respond to your maintenance requests, do you have the liberty to go ahead and make the repairs yourself and deduct the expenses from the rent amount?
  • How and when will your security deposit be disbursed or settled on once you vacate the property?
  • Are there possible eviction proceedings that could take place?

In regards to the possible eviction proceedings, you need to realize that it may not necessarily be in regards to something you have caused or failed to pay.  Make sure that the owner isn’t in a foreclosure process with their current mortgage company as this has not been uncommon in recent years.  Be sure that you have an exit plan in place with your current landlord or property manager in case this should happen to you.

The moral of the story is that you should always be prepared.  Know your rights.  To accomplish this all you have to do is do a little research beforehand.

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Jessica Hickok is a REALTOR® Broker and Property Manager/Landlord with Dizmang Properties, Inc. (www.getpaul.com) in Springfield, Missouri. She can also be found on Twitter as @SugarCube.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.