During my years as an apartment complex manager, I’ve learned a lot about the unseen situations that can disrupt personal, professional and financial circumstances. How these ‘unplanned emergencies’ can affect your rental status is the first thing you should consider before you sign the lease on that perfect rental that you’ve spent so much time researching.
From job transfers to workplace reduction, emergency relocation to help an elderly parent or a break with your roommate, threats from a neighbor, or damages from your own trusted guests, you must be aware that the wording of the lease you sign may have a long lasting influence on your ability to be eligible for another quality rental.
Confirm the Vacating Policy
If you find yourself in a situation where you must vacate before the end of your lease, prepare yourself by rereading the Landlord & Tenants law in your state. Approach your landlord with the full knowledge that you understand that you are responsible for all rents and damages for the term of the lease, unless the apartment can be re-rented. Ask what your options are. For all you know, there is a waiting list for your rental and your relocation could turn out to the owners advantage. If not, you and the landlord have the responsibility to make a good faith effort to re-rent the unit at the same rent you are now paying. Double rents cannot be collected, and your obligation will end when a new tenant takes possession.
Even if you forfeit your security deposit, don’t be tempted to leave the unit in a worse condition than when you moved in. Ask for a copy of the check in/out inspection form. Future landlords will be checking your rental history, and you don’t want to burn any bridges.
The opposite could also happen. You may want to fulfill your lease, but loss of job, unexpected medical bills or another personal financial crisis my make it impossible to pay your rent on time. My suggestion is to contact your landlord as soon as the possibility of delinquency occurs. Make sure you understand the penalties defined in your lease. Usually a landlord will want to keep a good tenant and will work with you if you can provide a detailed plan to become current within a certain timeframe. Find out if the landlord has the discretion to waive late fees, and whether or not your strict adherence to this new plan will affect any later rental reference. Keep communications open and work to avoid a notice to vacate.
The Roommate Dilema
When you share a rental, always remember that each person who signs the lease is totally responsible for fulfillment of the lease. There is no such thing as a share of the rent unless it is specifically spelled out in the agreement with your landlord. That means your roommate’s noise level, housekeeping views, financial abilities and invited friends become your burden. If the roommate abandons you, you’re responsible for the rent. If you find you can’t tolerate it and have to move out, you’re responsible for the rent. Any written commitments between renters that is not a part of the lease is not a concern of the landlord.
When a total breakdown of this type of relationship occurs, sit down together to find a solution. Find out if it is possible for one of you to completely absolve the other of any responsibility and amend the lease. Approach the landlord with your proposal. Remember, however, that it is of no benefit to the landlord to lose a responsible tenant and be stuck with a trouble maker.
Your rental is your home. Knowing your responsibilities and your rights before signing a lease agreement will allow you to relax and enjoy it.