Living in the Apartment
Yes. When you sign a new lease, a landlord sometimes gives you a list of apartment rules that are considered part of the lease. You might even be evicted if you do not follow the apartment
rules. During the period when your lease is in effect, the landlord cannot make any significant changes to the rules. If you are on a month-to-month lease, then the landlord can change the rules with one month’s notice.
Your lease agreement or the apartment rules may answer many questions about what you can do when you live in the apartment. Here are some common questions.
You will be responsible for any damage you cause to the apartment. Talk to your landlord before hanging pictures or making any other changes to the apartment that the landlord might consider to be damage, even if you think you are improving the apartment. Some landlords do not care if you hang pictures because nail holes are usually easy to fix. Just be aware that you may have to pay for those nail holes or other changes you make to the apartment.
The landlord cannot raise your rent during the term of your lease. In other words, if you have leased your apartment for a full year, then the landlord cannot increase your rent during that year. If you have a month-to-month lease, then the landlord can raise your rent by giving you notice of the increase at least one full month in advance. This gives you the option of deciding whether you want to stay and pay the increased rent or whether you want to try to find a new place to live.
Your lease, or rules mentioned in the lease, should tell you whether you can have pets, and any restrictions if some pets are allowed. Unless you have a medical need for a pet, such as a seeing-eye dog or a therapy animal, a landlord is not required to allow pets. Some landlords do not allow pets at all. Others allow you a limited number of pets or only pets smaller than a certain size. Others require you to pay an additional security deposit to have pets. This is all legal. Having a pet in your apartment when your lease does not allow it could be a cause for eviction.
Check your lease. Many leases limit the number of days guests can stay in your apartment. Yes, this applies to boyfriends and girlfriends too. If someone is staying in your apartment when your lease does not allow it, the landlord might be able to evict you. You might be able to get your landlord’s permission to let you have friends stay longer than the lease allows if you ask. If your landlord agrees, get permission in writing if you can.
Unless your lease allows a grace period, your rent is due in full on the day specified in the lease – usually the first day of the month. Your landlord might give you a couple of extra days to pay the rent, but does not have to do this.
A landlord can charge a late fee, either a reasonable flat fee or a small daily amount. But a late fee cannot be imposed merely as a penalty; the amount must reasonably reflect the cost to the landlord of late rent payments.
No. Even if you have paid a security deposit or “last month’s rent,” you cannot skip a monthly rent payment and just assume the landlord will use the security deposit to pay your missing rent. The purpose of the security deposit is to protect the landlord against both unpaid rent and damages to the apartment. The security deposit is set aside and only used when you move out. If you do not pay your rent, the landlord can evict you for non-payment of rent even if you have enough money in your security deposit to cover the unpaid rent.
There are only a few reasons a landlord can come into your apartment, and, unless it is an emergency, the landlord must give you 24 hours notice and come at a convenient time. The reasons a landlord may enter your apartment are:
- to make repairs or perform maintenance;
- to supply necessary or agreed services;
- to inspect for damages;
- to show the apartment to prospective buyers, renters, or contractors; or
- to remove any personal property of the landlord’s that is not covered under the rental
You can’t be charged for wear and tear caused by normal nonabusive living. But your landlord can bill you for damage you cause, even if it was an accident or caused by your guest. The landlord may keep enough of the deposit to repair such damage.
If the tenant has purposely destroyed the landlord’s property (by throwing a rock through the window, writing on the walls, or smashing the furniture, for example), the tenant may be guilty of criminal mischief and could face up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine, and still have to pay for the damage.