If you are an apartment tenant, you have many rights when it comes to your landlord, your neighbors, and even your roommates. Federal, state, and local laws ensure that you can enjoy your apartment with the comfort of knowing that, for example, your landlord can't evict you just because he or she feels like it or increases your rent without notice. Knowing as much as you can about your rights helps you stand up to him or her if you believe they've been violated.
If you break your lease, do you have to continue paying rent? Can your landlord shut off your utilities in an attempt to get you to move out? What rights do you have when a neighbor drives you crazy with loud music?
Breaking a Lease
A lease is a binding contract between you and your landlord, so breaking it for any reason is a breach of contract. However, sometimes life interferes with your plans, and you may find that you need to break a lease. Moving to another city for a job, getting married or divorced, or deciding to buy a home are all reasons you may find yourself needing to discuss with your landlord about your options. Your rights will vary from state to state, and often you will incur a penalty for leaving early. If you give plenty of notice and offer to help your landlord find a new tenant, you may get off easy and not be penalized, but if your landlord feels that he or she may have a hard time renting out your apartment, you will likely be required to pay your rent until a replacement is found. The best place to start is with a conversation with your landlord.
Getting Results From a Landlord
Many types of problems can arise during your lease term that may require the landlord to take action, such as a broken appliance, problems with heating, pest control, noisy neighbors, or needing to terminate your lease early. However, not all landlords are courteous when it comes to replying to tenants promptly. If you have an issue that needs your landlord's attention, start by following his or her protocols when it comes to communication. Perhaps your landlord prefers that you call instead of email or refer an issue to a maintenance company directly. Always be persistent and let your landlord know what's in it for him or her when making a request (such as if the water is leaking and will damage the property).
Written Roommate Agreements
Living with roommates isn't always easy, but many of the issues you might face can be settled by talking through common issues before moving in and having an agreement in writing. Decide who pays for what, what each of you will bring to the place in terms of appliances and furniture, and what you will do if someone needs to move out early or cannot pay rent. Then, write it down and enjoy your time together as roommates.
Dealing With a Bad Neighbor
Is your neighbor playing loud music or having wild parties late into the night? Or maybe he or she is leaving trash in the hall or otherwise creating a less-than-ideal living situation for you. The first step to resolving the situation is to talk with the neighbors directly. It's possible that they do not realize they are bothering you and the problem will resolve itself. If this doesn't work, talk to your landlord and see if they can help talk to the other tenant. If problems don't resolve and are legitimate enough, you can also involve the police or go to court as a last resort. However, if the issues are more of a nuisance than a serious problem, you can try taking measures on your own to not allow them to get under your skin, such as wearing earplugs at night, using a fan to create white noise, or buying an air purifier for any smells that may waft in from a neighbor's unit.
Reporting Bad Landlords to HUD
If your landlord gets federal assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) but isn't living up to their obligation to provide safe and decent housing for low-income tenants, you should report the issue to authorities. Tenants of HUD-insured or HUD-assisted properties are encouraged to report problems with landlords to HUD by calling the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line at (800) MULTI-70 (1-800-685-8470). HUD specialists are available to hear your complaints and concerns in English and Spanish.