How is a rental agreement made?
A rental agreement is a legal agreement between tenant and landlord; therefore, it is constituted as a lease. Before signing such an agreement, it is wise to read it and understand it.
When can a landlord withhold part or all of my deposit?
1. Compensation for the tenant's possible nonpayment of rent.
2. Damage to the premises.
3. Nonfulfillment of the rental period (tenant moves out early).
4. Any unpaid bills, which become a lien against the rental property due to the tenant's occupancy.
5. Costs of re-renting the premises after breach by the tenant.
6. Costs of removal and storage of tenants' property after a summary ejectment ("eviction") proceeding.
7. Court costs in connection with terminating the tenancy.
A landlord may not use the deposit to cover normal wear and tear to the premises. Nor may a landlord charge more than his actual losses against the security deposit.
The landlord must return the deposit to the occupant with in a "reasonable length of time" of the lease termination date. The industry recognizes this to be within a 30 day period. The landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of any deposit deduction withheld for whatever reason. Contact the Housing Service Center (HSC) for assistance if your deposit is not returned within a reasonable length of time.
What should I look for in my contract?
The contract or lease should record the full names and identifications of the parties involved in signing the contract, the specific address of the unit involved, the beginning and ending dates of the total rental period, the total amount of rent payable, the amount of the rent deposit, and the amount and due dates of subsequent payments required.
Blank spaces not applicable to your lease should be filled in with "N/A." It should provide provisions for cancellations (military clause, deployment and permanent change of station (PCS) orders), extensions of lease beyond the first rental period (1 year, 6 months, month-to-month option, 7 day notice to vacate, etc.). It should specify the landlord's rights and responsibilities as well as the tenant's. The contract should clearly state the utilities and services applied by the landlord in the rental charge. Many contracts will also include operating policies or house rules that are applicable to the tenants that, if not observed, can be cause for eviction.
When can a tenancy be terminated?
A landlord can terminate (end) tenancy at the end of the lease period. In addition, a landlord can terminate a tenancy at any time if the tenant has done any of the following:
• Failed to pay the rent.
• Materially damaged the rental property ("committed waste").
• Interfered with other tenants ("committed a nuisance").
• Used the rental unit for unlawful purposes.
• Violated any provision of the rental or lease agreement (including improper assigning or subletting of the unit).
What problems are often overlooked?
When looking for an apartment, here are the necessary actions to take:
1. Investigate the location for crime and convenience to post.
2. Don't let the landlord or owner show you a model; see the apartment or house you will be living in.
3. If satisfied, note any deficiencies or damages at the bottom of the lease, if any. Talk with the landlord to see when he might be able to have these problems fixed. Write a statement stating when the landlord has agreed to have the problems fixed and have him or her initial the statement.
4. Read over the lease completely. Make sure you understand everything in it; if you do not, bring it to the HSC and an off-post counselor will review it with you.
5. Once you have signed the lease, to protect yourself, make a thorough inspection of the premises. Set out in writing any damages or defects in the premises existing when you take occupancy, so that you will not be held responsible for them at the end of the term. When finished, have the landlord sign and date the list. Provide a copy of the inspection list to the landlord and keep a copy for yourself.
6. If you have any problems while checking the rental, signing, during and clearing, call the HSC.
Can the landlord raise my rent?
Once the lease is signed, this is a binding contract. The amount of the rent cannot be raised until the lease is up. When the lease ends, or there is no written agreement, the landlord may increase the rent. When increasing rent, the landlord must give the tenant proper notice. The procedures for this required notice is the same as "ending the agreement." If you are opposed to the increase, you have the right to move prior to its effective date.
If I move before my lease or rental agreement ends, can I lose my deposit?
Not only can the deposit be lost, the landlord may be able to collect the remainder of the rent for the lease period. Termination fees can be very expensive. Make sure your lease provides you adequate protection if you are required to vacate early (i.e. Military Clause, Roomate Clause, etc.).
What if I have a problem at the rental unit that the landlord refuses to fix?
It is the landlord's responsibility to maintain the unit in good, safe, working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances which he has supplied or are repaired by his agreement or any law to supply after you have notified him of any defects in writing (in emergencies you may call him or her on the telephone, but follow up in writing).
If you have a problem at the rental unit, you should give the landlord notice in writing, telling him or her of the deficiencies (a phone call advising him of the problem, followed with a written request to repair is recommended). A good response time is 3 to 10 days depending on the nature of the repair required. If he does not respond, send a letter (return receipt requested) or come to the HSC and speak with one of the housing specialists. The housing specialist will assist you and advise you on landlord responsibilities. They can also mediate the problem between you and the landlord. She or he can call the landlord and request the deficiency be corrected on your behalf.
If the deficiencies are not corrected in a timely manner, you may consider small claims court. The housing specialist will be able to advise you based on the circumstances of your particular problem.
When can a landlord make me move?
1. If you violate any portion of your rental agreement or if you violate health codes - by leaving garbage on the premises, etc.
2. If you don't pay rent. The landlord must give you a written notice which gives you 3 days to pay the rent or move. After 3 days, if you are still in the premises without paying, the landlord can file with the court for eviction. If you disagree with the eviction, you will have a chance to answer a summons.
3. When the lease is up or there is no lease agreement; however, the landlord must give proper notice.