There are many landlord – tenant issues that can be resolved by having a good rental agreement.
Having said that there are many issues that occur that often require legal intervention between a lessor and lessee.
In an ideal world we would find the perfect apartment, sign the lease, pay our deposit, move in and live there for as long as the lease allowed it, pay our rent on the due date every month and move out at the end of the term – perfect. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world and very often, what started out as a very amicable arrangement can turn into a nightmare. You do need to make sure that you are covered with a good rental agreement, but why, what can possibly go wrong?
- Scenario 1 – you lose your job/income and either can’t pay your rent or need to pay it later than you have agreed on the contract. The first line of defence here is communication, don’t hide away from your landlord, turning the lights off if you see him walking towards the door and hiding behind the sofa – landlords are people too (well, some of them are). You might find that by talking it through you can come to some arrangement with them to pay a reduced rate for a month or two, or maybe even do some work in lieu of some of the rent (you should have plenty of spare time on your hands). Every situation is different so talk it through and don’t let it become a legal matter if at all possible.
- Scenario 2 – you need to leave your apartment before the rental agreement is finished. Again, talk to your landlord about the situation. You might find that by giving a pre-determined number of days notice (variable from state to state) you can get out of the lease early. If you do leave the property before the lease is up you are bound to continue paying the rent until the end of the term – BUT – (that’s a big “but” isn’t it?) your landlord must make every effort to re-let the property during that time. If he doesn’t advertise it, for example, you might not have to pay.
- Scenario 3 – the cooker isn’t working, the washing machine leaks and the heating is dodgy. Your landlord has been promising to get them fixed but nothing has happened. What do you do? You have the right to live in a habitable place, if the repairs are needed for health and safety reasons then they must be seen to in a timely fashion. If your landlord hasn’t kept up with the repairs how about speaking to him about getting the work done yourself and knocking it off the rent – if he agrees you must have this in writing though, with price estimates etc.
There are many more connotations of course, these are just a few examples, but the bottom line is always communication – as soon as communication breaks down you’re all in trouble.
Legal aid is not generally available for landlord disputes although if you are having a particular problem it is still worth finding out about the laws in your state and for your particular situation – it doesn’t cost you to find out!
The best advice is to have a legal rental agreement in the first place, so that both parties know exactly what is expected from them and the consequences of exactly what will happen in the event of any problems. Sorting things out at the very beginning, before they become problems is always the best policy.