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Renters Avenue – Know your rights and responsibilities as a renter

Whether you’re renting your first apartment, moving to a new city or just want to move closer to friends or work, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is where you are going to live.

Renters Avenue provides access to public and private resources and information, all in one location, free to the user, for renters and homebuyers, made possible through business and corporate sponsors. Pulling together a collective of hundreds of resources and information on housing and financial tools led to the creation of Renters Avenue.

Our focus is to help people with immediate needs and offer assistance to those that are looking to take their next move on future housing options and grow their financial well-being. We want to make your experience as a renter as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.

The Rental Application Process

You should be prepared to provide information and verification regarding your job, income, and past credit and rental history (see credit score). Property managers may require you to provide your social security number, references, driver license or government ID, and addresses of where you have lived in the past.

Applications will differ between property management companies and there is usually a fee to apply and to conduct a credit check. This credit check will search background on civil and criminal information. Application fees are generally non-refundable so it is a good idea to know what the fee and qualifications are in advance.

Housing Provider (Landlord, Property Manager)

A landlord or property manager is an individual or a business who rents or leases property for money to another party. Property managers have the right to collect rent, and set late fees. They also have the right to raise the rent as defined in the tenant-landlord lease agreement.

When tenants do not pay rent, property managers by state law have the right to evict or remove a tenant from the property. The process of eviction varies from state to state and evictions can show up on your credit report in the future.

Property managers are responsible for maintaining their rental properties in a habitable condition, and to rightfully manage security deposits. The property manager must follow all local and pertinent state laws, ordinances, building codes, perform prompt repairs, and maintain vital services, such as plumbing, electricity, water and heat.

The Resident (Tenant)

The legal term for the renting party is a tenant.

Property managers typically provide the necessary maintenance or repairs during the time frame stated in the lease, while the tenant is responsible for the cleanliness and general upkeep of the property and other responsibilities stated in the lease.

The Lease

Leases are legal agreements outlining the responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord. Before you sign a lease you should take the time to read the agreement. It’s important that parties on both sides of the lease understand their responsibilities and rights.

Your lease should include the monthly amount for rent, the due date for payment, methods of acceptable payment, allowable grace period for late payment and amounts and timeframe of late fees. There usually isn’t much negotiating ability when it comes to leases, but you should ask if there are any concessions, promotions or discounts available.

Renters have the right to not sign a lease for a property they do not want or to be forced to sign a lease. Renters can negotiate on language within a lease to assure privacy and entry notice from the property manager. The lease agreement should outline the notice required with the exception of an emergency.

Check for the following in your Lease:
Maximum occupancy, quiet hours, rules on overnight guests, access for maintenance personnel, parking and storage fees, non-smoking policies, right to enter, renters insurance requirements and eviction policies.

The Property Details

The lease should include basic facts about the rental property, including the physical address and the property manager’s name, address and contact information. It should also state the date the lease was signed; the start and end dates of the rental period; and options for renewal, including policies for any rent increases. If any appliances are in the unit such as an oven, refrigerator or clothes washer or dryer, or if the unit is furnished, that should be included in the lease, too.

Deposit and Fees

Aside from rent there may be other costs such as deposits and fees that should be noted in the lease. Security deposits and any fees, including late fees, fees for parking or pets should be clearly stated in the lease with conditions for getting your deposit back when you leave the property. If you do not receive your security deposit back, without explanation, contact your landlord. If you do not hear back, you have the right to make a claim under small claims court.

More information can be found here: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=9\

Property Inspections

Property inspections before moving in are common to assess and record the condition of the property and make sure plumbing, door locks and windows are in working order. Document existing damage in the lease or in a provided form and keep a copy of this with your contract. It is a good idea to take videos or photos for documentation.

Utilities

The lease should indicate policies regarding utilities and billing. Some property managers will pay for electric, water and sewer services, while the tenant is responsible for paying for the cable and internet service. Be sure to find out if any utilities are included as part of your monthly rent and whether you or the property management company is responsible for to utility payments

Maintenance and Repairs

Generally, the property manager is responsible for taking care of all repairs and maintenance – whether it’s a leaky faucet or a broken air conditioner. In some situations, the landlord might repair or replace only major appliances but leave the tenant responsible for everything else. When a maintenance issue does arise it is important for the tenant to request the repair in writing. There may also be stipulations about the maintenance of the yard or outside areas. Be sure you are clear on who is responsible for service calls and payment.

Entry

Property managers and their contractors or maintenance personnel cannot enter the renter’s place without notice, unless there is an emergency (such as a fire or gas leak), or if the property manager has reason to believe the tenant has left or abandoned the property or if there is a court order.

Proper Notice

A renter has the right for a reasonable response time to repair requests and maintenance. A renter should receive proper notice prior to eviction and to dispute an eviction in court. Renters have the right to be informed in writing of changes to the lease.

Rent Increases

Rent increases should be stated in the lease. Rent increases during the lease term could be due to a new tenant joining the household, a new pet, or if the landlord significantly remodels the property.

Property management companies may be able to increase rent if the property is located in a city with rent-controlled or rent-stabilized ordinances that allow for these changes in the rent amount due. Check your city ordinances for information.

Discrimination

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits property managers from refusing to rent to a prospective tenant based on race, color, national origin, sex, familial status or handicap. For example, property managers cannot ask your race, ethnicity or national origin, religious beliefs, if you have children, or mental or physical disabilities.

Pet Policies

A property manager may choose to not accept pets. Service animals and emotional support animals may need to be verified. Read the lease to find out if animals are allowed and whether there are any size or breed-specific restrictions. Local ordinances may prohibit certain dog breeds, so it’s important to check ordinances in your City.

You might be required to pay additional rent or a “pet deposit”. The “pet fee” may be nonrefundable because it is used for treating the space after you leave to shampoo and deodorize the unit. If the lease contains a no-pets clause and you violate it, the property manager may have the right to proceed with eviction.

Renters Insurance

The property manager’s insurance does not cover the tenant. The tenant is often required to insure their own property against fire, theft, and water damage which protects you if you are sued for negligence in the event a bathtub or sink overflowing and damaging the apartment below or in case of a fire.

Showing the Apartment when the Lease is Up

It’s not uncommon to see a provision in your lease to show your apartment to prospective residents near the end of your lease. Terms of the showings should be agreed upon in advance.

Early Termination

If you need to “break” the lease and leave before the date the lease ends, the lease should explain how much notice is required for that situation. The lease should also state options, penalties and fees in the event that you need to move out before the term of the lease expires. Some leases allow for subletting the property and some do not.

Safe Residence

Renters have the right to live and enjoy a habitable and peaceful safe residence that meets the standards specified in your lease. Every State has protections outlined for victims of domestic violence. Please refer to state law for more information. Victims can often times move to new location without being penalized.

 

Nancy Burke
Renters Avenue was created and developed by Nancy Burke of Nancy Burke Consulting, LLC. For nearly eleven years, Nancy led the government and community affairs for apartment associations in Colorado. During her time in this role, she observed time and again the frustration expressed through renters and need for public and private resources and housing information.

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