Yes, you do have rights and they include the following:
- Your apartment must meet be safe and clean to live in. It must meet state and local building codes, housing codes, health requirements, zoning ordinances, etc.
- The appliances must work. Check the refrigerator, stove and garbage disposal if so equipped.
- The heat and air conditioning must work.
- The toilets and hot water heater must work. Run water to see if it gets hot. Flush the toilets for pressure.
- The door locks must work.
- The roof cannot leak. Look for stains on ceilings, inside closets and around the floors.
- The windows must work - they cannot be sealed shut, or inoperable.
- Outside pathways and porches must have working lights.
The Importance of a Walk-Through
Do a walk-through BEFORE YOU SIGN A LEASE. Most reputable managers will allow this. Sometimes, however, the apartment for rent is still occupied. If this is the case, ask the manager if you can wait until the walk-through to sign the lease or rental agreement. A good manager will agree to this. You may have to leave a deposit to hold the apartment, but make sure it is refundable - again, get it in writing. If this is not possible, or if the manager doesn't agree, you have 72 hours after move-in to do a walk-through - DON'T LOSE THIS OPPORTUNITY.
Moving In - Understand The Terms Of The Lease
- When you are renting an apartment, both you and your landlord have created a relationship in good faith. You must get the name, address and phone number of your landlord. If the person you are dealing with is a manager, make sure you know her/his name, address and phone number and find out who owns the property. Get their name and phone number as well.
- Make sure you know what your rent is, where to pay it, and where to contact your landlord for repairs or problems.
- You will probably be required to pay a security or damage deposit with the first month's rent. THE DEPOSIT IS NOT RENT. If you have a written lease, it will generally state what your deposit will cover. If you don't understand the terms, ask the manager to explain them clearly.
- Ask the manager outright - "How much is usually deducted from the deposit upon move-out?" Surprisingly, they will usually tell you - if they do, have them write the amount on the lease and initial it.
- Some leases say the deposit is only for damages done to the unit or if the unit is "not left in a clean condition." That is pretty subjective. Your idea of clean and your manager's will most likely be different. Ask what it means - also, ask if you have it professionally cleaned and give a copy of the receipt, will you get all of your deposit back? Some leases may say the deposit can be used for payments of rent or late payments of your utility bills. Make sure you know which applies to which situation, and ask if a receipt will be attached for proof.
- If you do not have a written lease and there is no detailed agreement regarding the damage deposit, it is likely that the deposit will be used for cleaning and repairs that exceed normal wear and tear. This can be based on length of occupancy - make sure you know the time limits that these charges apply. Always ask for a receipt for the repairs or cleaning done.