By Mitch Kuffa
Question & Answer
I was recently posed with an interesting question from a different perspective – that of a renter.
Do you know what I should know as a renter? What kinds of things should I be making sure that the landlord is doing each year? For example I can guarantee you that mine doesn’t check the furnace filters or have the furnace inspected each year (hence my chilling evening last week). For those of us who aren’t homeowners, we don’t even know the basics. What basic stuff should we be doing?
Basically, leave it the way you received it. That is why it is important for renters to document the original condition of the unit that they will be living in. And just a stupid vague list like a “scratch in the paint”, “spot on carpet”, etc. is useless. Rather, you want to document any evidence of water in the basement, anything that doesn’t function in a normal manner (faucets, drains, lights, appliances, thermostat) and anything you consider hazardous (pedestrian traffic concerns, windows that do not function, hanging wires, missing electrical cover plates, fans that don’t work, etc.).
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Once you are living in the unit, any requests or complaints to the landlord should always be in writing and verified with photo’s if possible.
Landlords in general can almost always find legitimate ways to withhold initial deposits. Here are some of the things that you need to do however:
- Change furnace filters (approx. every 4-6 weeks when in operation) and clean and maintain the humidifier (if there is one present).
- Do not put anything down any drain other than water and soap. If you have a disposal use it with discretion.
- Cut the grass, trim the landscaping away from touching the house and shovel the snow (including all public walks).
- Clean the gutters (but request downspout extensions or splash blocks from the landlord). This will help keep the foundation area dry.
- Occasionally (once every 2-3 months), check the crawl space or basement for leaks.
- Do not abuse any doors or windows.
- Change bulbs, replace plugs or light switches that you may have damaged and do not use extension cords as a permanent wiring system.
- Paint or repaint when necessary (this also includes patching any holes made by pictures, door knobs, or abuse).
- Repair worn or damaged drawer slides, hinges or doorknobs.
- And most important of all is CLEANLINESS. Clean carpets, wash walls, clean plumbing fixtures, discard debris and garbage in a normal and timely way, keep the garage neat and sweep out, store items neatly, do not cause any damage or abnormal wear to finish floors, clean windows, do not dig holes in the backyard, rake leaves, etc..
- Do not allow any obnoxious activity by pets or children.
- Do not use any adhesive application to tubs, floors or carpets.
- If the carpet needs to be changed due to abnormal or excessive wear and tear, or due to a pet, it’s your problem.
It’s really quite simple, let’s play reverse roles here. You are now the landlord. You are to provide a clean, safe, functional living unit for “X” amount of dollars a month and expect to get it back the same way you presented it (other than NORMAL wear and aging of the systems). If the furnace or hot water tank fails due to age, or the roof starts to leak, then you the landlord should be responsible.
- If I were a landlord, I would make up a set of helpful hints to the proposed tenants as it relates to my expectations. “Do not pour grease down the sink drain”, “wipe up the bath floor after taking a shower”, “periodically change the furnace filter”, “address any peeling paint issues”, “treat or clean-up any mildew/mold type stains discovered”, “clean the window tracks”, etc., etc., .
- The tenant should return the living unit in the way they received it, should provide basic preventative maintenance while living there and formally report any malfunctions of the major systems (foundation, structural movement, roof, plumbing, heating, electrical) to the landlord so that he can correct the concern while it is still in its infancy.