Some helpful tips to consider before you move in, as well as a look at your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
Things to to before you move in
It is important that you make a thorough check of your apartment before moving in. To help you, we have put together the following safety checklist of things to look for:
- Talk to the landlord about the nearest fire extinguishers. One should be centrally located for you to access: know where it is.
- Smoke alarm check: Go through the apartment and do a smoke alarm inventory. Do you have one in each room and hallway? If you are missing any, ask the landlord about them. If they are there, talk to the landlord about replacing the batteries, and test them every month.
- Before moving in, ask about having the locks re-keyed.
- Install deadbolts on exterior doors.
- Most cities or countries require that there are GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles in baths and kitchens. If your apartment is in a building, it might not be up to code. Ask your landlord if they are compliant with the requirements.
- Consider renters insurance to protect your belongings or your personal liability.
- Make sure your windows have keyed locks or security pins or nails in addition to standard locks.
- If you have a balcony with sliding doors, that's an easy way for burglars to break in. Ask your landlord about installing anti-lift and anti-slide devices on them, especially if your place is on the ground floor.
- Be particularly careful with basement windows; they should have extra protection, such as metal bars or be made of burglar-resistant glazing to discourage intruders. For fire safety, however, they should have quick-release mechanisms to allow for a quick escape in case of fire.
- Don't place any valuable items near windows or glass doors; glass can easily be broken for entry.
- Are the oven and broiler clean? This can be a fire hazard if not.
Your Rights and Obligations
The landlord must provide and maintain the rental property, and must obey the rules of the rental agreement. The landlord (or his/her representative) must be accessible to the tenant and must:
- Keep the premises up to code
- Maintain the roof, walls and structural components
- Keep common areas reasonably clean and safe
- Make repairs to the unit in the same condition as when the tenant moved in (except for normal wear and tear)
- Provide a reasonable program for control of pests
- Provide necessary facilities to supply heat, electricity, and hot and cold water
- Provide reasonably adequate locks
- Maintain appliances furnished with the rental unit, and
- Comply with any duties imposed by local laws
- Inform the tenant of the name and address of the landlord
- Provide working smoke detectors
- Provide written notice of whether the building has a fire sprinkler system, alarm system, and smoking policy
The landlord may not knowingly rent property that is condemned. If a landlord fails to perform his or her duties, three types of remedies may be available to the tenant:
- The right to terminate the rental agreement and move out after giving written notice to the landlord
- The right to initiate litigation or arbitration proceedings
- The right to make limited repairs and deduct their cost from the rent
In general, before exercising any of the Landlord-Tenant Act's remedies, the tenant: (1) must be current in rent payments, and (2) must give the landlord written notice of the defective condition.
The tenant must:
- Pay rent
- Keep the premises clean and sanitary
- Not damage or permit damage to the unit
- Dispose of garbage
- Properly use fixtures and appliances
- Restore the property to its initial condition, except for normal wear and tear at the end of the term
- Comply with the rental agreement
- Maintain smoke detectors and replace batteries
- Describe any necessary repairs in writing
If the tenant fails to perform his/her duties, the landlord may seek to evict the tenant. If a tenant fails to maintain the premises, the landlord may:
- Evict the tenant
- Make repairs and bill the tenant
- Sue the tenant for damages or to force compliance with the rental agreement
Upkeep and Repairs
The landlord must maintain the premises in compliance with specific building codes and local ordinances; common areas must be kept clean and safe; facilities and appliances must be in reasonably good working order. Damage caused by weather, acts of God (such as earthquake, accident), or by unknown third parties are generally the responsibility of the landlord.
A tenant has certain responsibilities to keep the unit clean and safe, and may not deliberately or negligently destroy, damage or remove any part of the premises and must notify the landlord (in writing) when major repairs are needed.
Once notified of a defective condition and unless circumstances are beyond the landlord's control, the landlord has a certain amount of time to make repairs:
- 24 hours to restore lost heat or water or remedy a condition that is imminently hazardous to life
- 24 hours to provide hot or cold water, heat or electricity
- 72 hours to repair major plumbing fixtures and, if supplied by the landlord, the refrigerator, range and oven
- Not more than 10 days for other repairs
Withholding Rent for Repairs
Except for the limited right to make minor repairs and deduct their cost from the rent, a tenant has no right to withhold rent. The cost per repair may not exceed certain limits and reasonable notice to the landlord is required.
Unless the rental agreement provides otherwise, the tenant has no obligation to insure the premises. However, tenants should consider purchasing renter's insurance on personal property and liability insurance for claims by third parties (such as guests) for personal injuries occurring on the premises, since the landlord's insurance covers only the property.