RENTING A HOME / APARTMENT
Today, a little forethought and 10 minutes with your phone, could keep you out of court with your landlord, and maybe even win you multiples of your security deposit. Here are a few things you should know that can help you with renting:
PHOTOS / VIDEOS Take photos/video of the entire space you rent, with special attention to any defects present when you move in. Images of floors, walls, ceilings, common areas and exterior can become useful in the future. Photograph/video any problems with the property as soon as they occur. Take the images twice: 1) as you are about to move in, but before, and 2) again after you vacate and clean, but before returning keys.
PAPER TRAIL – Make all important communications in writing and/or email. Email yourself a copy of your lease to maintain an electronic copy. Make sure you provide a new postal mailing address to your former landlord when vacating to help you get your security deposit back. You must turn in your keys.
Problems with the apartment:
1. SAVE YOUR LIFE – Do not tolerate any electrical problems, structural concerns, any other health or safety concerns, heating, or plumbing problems. Notify your landlord in writing immediately. You can report important problems with the apartment or building to the City of Chicago at 311, or 911 for emergency.
2. There are laws that require heat and utilities not be interrupted by your landlord.
3. If you have to break a lease, there are ways to minimize your exposure to a suit for damages
a. Find a substitute tenant to take your place. (if the landlord has no damages, there is nothing for it to win).
b. Clean up your place so it is ready to re-rent immediately.
c. Landlords have a duty to mitigate damages, meaning they have to try to replace you once they know you are leaving.
d. Never get into an argument with your landlord. Heated exchanges make possible allegations of threats, criminal charges (the subject of an upcoming blog), Orders of Protection (sometimes called sarcastically a ‘quickie eviction’- (also used among roommates who fight).
Even if you do everything right, there is still a chance that the landlord might try to keep your security deposit. Do not battle over it. All you need to do when you leave is described above: clean up, imaging, give the keys back to the landlord along with a USPS mailing address for the return of your deposit, and wait. Depending upon where you live, the landlord’s duties and your remedies vary. However, the landlord is required to return your deposit or provide you with proof of damages and receipts. If it does not, usually within 90 days, then many lawyers stand ready to prosecute the landlord in these cases, because the evidence is strait forward and the legal fees can be recoverable from the landlord.
If a dispute arises, or if you have any questions about avoiding a dispute, please contact me for a free consultation.
(This is by no means everything you need to know. None of this should be taken as an opinion on the merits of a particular case. All claims have time limits known as a statute of limitations. If any claim is not timely filed, it will be forever bared. Accordingly if you ever wish to pursue any case, you should counsel immediately.)