Small claims court
Each year thousands of small claims end up in court, and the cases are usually a dispute between the property owner and tenant when damage or lack of cleaning has occurred. In most cases, supportive documents are lacking by the tenant, and the tenant usually loses. There are measures that a tenant can do to protect his or herself only if they take the time and record the condition of the property.
Have every agreement in writing
Foremost, to prevent any misunderstanding; all documents need to be in writing, signed by both principle parties. Avoid verbal agreements for they do not stand up in court as opposed to a written agreement. Make sure that a provision in writing clearly states if move-out and cleaning of the apartment or house is to be within the 30-day period. If additional time is a factor to clean the apartment or house after the 30-day period, both parties must agree to this in writing. Make sure who pays for what utilities, maintenance, and repairs. Make sure there is an agreement that if the property owner does not complete repairs and the tenant have to remedy any repairs, deduct the costs of repairs from the rental.
Inspection is everything
Upon inspection of the property, either make a mental note or write down marginal conditions. If odor is present in either the carpet or rooms, or any other eyesore, or any failure, point this out to the property owner for a resolution. If the property owner agrees to fix any problems and fails to fix all of the discrepancies at the time of signing of the rental agreement, note the failure(s) to repair on the contract. On the other hand, if the property is acceptable and the tenant agrees to the terms and signs a contract then the contract becomes binding.
A camera is indispensable
For the tenant’s protection, the tenant needs to have a camera that has features of providing a time and date stamp for each photo taken. This method of taking pictures is one way of insuring peace of mind.
Photos are the key
Once the keys are in possession by the tenant, take a moment and go back to the property. Take photos of everything. This includes carpets, inside and outside of all the appliances, the sinks, toilets, washer and dryer room, walls, blinds, ceiling fans, ceiling, water heater, the garage and the floor of the garage. Write down any discrepancy that might include porcelain chips, kinked water or gas lines, and paint chips on the corners of each room, cigarette burns, and discoloration in the carpet, sinks or bathtubs, and oil spill on the garage floor. Check for carpet rips, unraveling of fibers. Check for pin or nail holes. Be sure to do the following on first inspection: Check for clogged showerheads, sufficient water pressure, running hot water, and check to see if the garage door is working properly.
Insurance is in the envelope
After taking the photos, download them onto the computer, making sure the title and dates, as well as time of the photo taken, are correct. Burn the photos onto several CDs. Take one CD and put it into a semi-rigid envelope, mark it “Do Not Bend”, register and certify the mail then address the envelope back to the tenant. Upon receiving the certified envelope, DO NOT OPEN IT, instead, put the envelope in a safekeeping place. Take the second CD and mail the envelope to someone trustworthy for safekeeping. It would be wise if that someone would not open the envelope either. In the event of a dispute, the arbitrator should be the only person to open the envelope that contains the CD.
When it is time to move be sure to abide by the written agreement, or any other subsequent agreement that the tenant and the property owner signed. If it requires that the tenant give a 30-day written notice, make sure to vacate the apartment or house by the end of the month. This may or may not include the time it takes to clean the house or apartment.
Improvements belong to the property owner
Any improvements made to a rented property, stays with the property when the tenant moves, unless expressed in writing by both the property owner and tenant in that the removal of the improvements only if the tenant agrees to make the necessary repairs making the property whole to the property owner.
After cleaning, and before handing over the keys to the property owner, be sure to take photos of everything, to support the original photos taken on the date of move-in.
© 2013 James Ian MacIntosh all rights reserved