If you’ve ever rented a home in the past, you know how much of a risk it can be. What if you get a bad landlord, or on the flip side, what if you get a bad tenant. Just like all human interactions, home rental can become complicated, and with college starting up again soon, many young people, perhaps your dependents, are venturing into their first tenant/landlord relationship.
We heard from one of our Plan Attorneys, Dave Johnson, Esq. of the Virginia Beach Law Group, about how tenants can take steps to protect themselves and be good tenants. He has provided representation for landlords and tenants, so he has a wide perspective on where this relationship can go wrong and what you can do about it. From his website, we’ve pulled 5 easy ways he recommends to be a good tenant and protect yourself before there is an issue with your landlord.¹
- Ask where your landlord got the lease agreement, and then read it before you sign it.
Because not all landlords are giant corporations with a legal department, they may have downloaded a general form lease and filled in the blanks. This can cause complications, so ask if they have had a lawyer review the lease, and then read it yourself. If you are a Legal Resources member, simple lease review is a fully covered service!
- Create a move-in checklist and share it with your landlord.
When you first move in, there may be damage from a previous tenant. Attorney Dave Johnson, Esq. recommends you make a detailed list of all damages or issues and note the state of the property before you move in. No matter what, make sure you have a written version of this and keep a copy of it for yourself and send one to the landlord as documentation. This can be referenced on move out to avoid any fines for damages you didn’t cause.
- Communicate in writing.
No matter what the agreement is, communicate via letter, and keep a copy for yourself. Don’t leave it as a text or verbal conversation – follow up via letter so all parties have a copy in writing. This is especially important if you discuss modifications to your lease. If your landlord doesn’t send you the written changes, you can send them yourself! Similar to the above, you want a written record of communications and agreements.
- Know your renewal terms.
If you don’t plan on renewing your lease, you have to give notice (again in writing, see above). Your lease will detail when this should be done, but pay close attention, because 60 days may actually mean 90 days: “ if you want to be out at the end of the month of July, for instance, your notice, mailed to landlord, needs to get to the landlord 60 days before July 1st – which requires it to get to landlord on or before the last day of April – not 60 days before the last day of July.”
- Mail your former landlord your new address.
When you move out, let the landlord know where you’re going and how to communicate with you. If you have a deposit coming back, this is where he or she will mail it, and if you owe money, hiding won’t stop the landlord from filing a judgment with the courts.
You can get more information and details from an actual attorney by reviewing Attorney Johnson’s blog on their website!