Finding an apartment and roommates is not the last step in the housing process. Landlords will require upfront fees, a signed lease and expect you to be a good tenant. The following information is provided to help you understand what your rights and responsibilities are as a tenant.
Signing a Lease
Once you have decided that you want to move into an apartment, you will be required to sign a lease. Most leases are a yearlong commitment, and there will be additional fees if you move out early. It is extremely important to thoroughly read the lease so that you understand what you are signing, as it is a legally binding document. Along with signing the lease, you will have to pay first and last month’s rent, a security deposit, and, in some cases, a broker’s fee. Make sure you have a copy of the signed lease for your records.
As a tenant, you have certain rights. This includes having a safe and habitable living space that is structurally sound with heat and water. You should know who to contact in the event of a maintenance issue, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the property. The landlord must also give you reasonable notice to enter the apartment for repairs, inspections and showings.
As a tenant, you also have certain responsibilities. You must pay the agreed upon rent as stated in your lease, or you may face eviction. If they are not included in your lease, you will also be responsible for paying for utilities such as heat, hot water and electricity. It is also important to report needed repairs in the apartment right away. Finally, it is your responsibility to care for the apartment and be respectful of your neighbors.
This pamphlet about Tenant Rights and Responsibilities from the Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations Department will provide you with more in depth information about tenant rights and responsibilities.
While landlords are responsible for the physical building, they are not responsible for your personal belongings in it. In the unfortunate case of a fire, burglary, or other disaster, your personal belongings will not be covered, unless you have renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance also covers personal liabilities if someone is injured in your apartment and additional living expenses after the disaster. It is important to research different companies and compare different insurance plans. Most major insurance companies such as Allstate, Geico and State Farm offer renter’s insurance.