Tenants frequently contact me when they are having a dispute with their landlord in the Raleigh, North Carolina or Wake County area. These disputes typically arise out of a number of different situations; however, the most common situation arises when the tenant’s lease is ending and the landlord has either refused to return the security deposit or is demanding an amount in excess of the security deposit to cover repairs to the apartment. This, of course, occurs at the end of the lease when it will be much more expensive and time consuming to deal with your landlord. This is most common when it is a private landlord that the tenant is renting from because the landlord will often be unfamiliar with the laws governing residential tenants in North Carolina and the landlords routinely do not follow them. There are a number of ways to protect yourself as a tenant in Raleigh, North Carolina before the lease is even signed and this is the topic of this blog. I will have a blog at a later date about how to protect yourself after the lease has been signed.
#1: Know tenants’ rights in North Carolina.
Tenants and landlords’ rights and regulations are set in North Carolina by the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act of 1977. Here is a link to the law: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByChapter/Chapter_42.html .
Familiarize yourself with North Carolina’s rules on leases, treatment of security deposits and the eviction process. The more than you know about your rights as a tenant, the more you can protect yourself against any illegal actions of the landlord.
#2: Investigate buildings and properties in Raleigh.
Landlords and management companies are as varied as the tenants who inhabit their properties. Check apartment rating sites such as Apartment Ratings and Apartment Reviews. Read neighborhood blogs, whether intended for renters or owners — especially if you’re considering renting in a condo buidling that was originally intended for owners but was converted to rentals. These buildings may “go condo” again as part of the developer’s strategy, so if you’re planning to stay awhile, keep that in mind. Take a look at foreclosures in an area, too, using tools like ZIP code searches from providers such as RealtyTrac.
#3: Get a lease — and read it.
Whether you’re entering a long-term rental agreement or just subletting for a few months, you need a lease. It will explain how the landlord is to behave and how you are to behave, and the consequences of either party not living up to expectations. Leases will spell out rules on deposit (how much, how long it will be held after move-out, whether it must be placed in an interest-bearing account or not); landlord access to the property (how much notice, etc.); fees or eviction procedures if you pay rent late or fail to pay; and more. They may also spell out policies on roommates, subletting, ending the lease early, going month-to-month and more.
While most landlords and renters begin their relationship with the best of intentions, circumstances can change and leases help provide a guideline for how to navigate them. When in doubt, ask questions. Also, keep in mind that leases are negotiable: You want to pay a lower pet fee, spread your deposit out over a few months, or go month-to-month at the six-month mark instead of the 12-month mark? It never hurts to ask.
#4: Expect a background check.
Landlords routinely conduct background checks, calling prior landlords, confirming your income or employment, reviewing your credit report or other forms of payment history and verifying whether you have any legal infractions in your background. Check your own credit and background before you begin looking to rent an apartment. You want to check before your landlord does so that you know in advance about any red flags that appear on your record and can prepare for a conversation with the landlord or property manager rather than stammer on the spot. Keep in mind that some background check services don’t always get it right: If you have a common name (i.e., John Smith) or same-named person living in the area (perhaps a relative), occasionally information crosses wires. Separately, if your credit is poor, but your outlook is brightening — say you were out of work for a time and ran up credit cards, but now have a new job and have been in it for a few months — a landlord may be forgiving when told the reason for the poor scores. Check your background using services like Intelius or PeopleSmart and run your credit report (free, once a year) atAnnualCreditReport.com.
#5: Get renters’ insurance before you move in.
Most landlords will have insurance on their buildings, but what that covers may not extend to your home or its contents in the event of problems like fire, burglary or natural disaster. And if you have a guest who hurts himself or herself at your home, or a pet that bites, you might be liable for others’ medical coverage if they choose to sue. To protect yourself, use renters insurance and get it before you move in! Some landlords require that you have renters’ insurance, which minimizes the risk of landlord-tenant disputes in the event of problems in your home. Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive — typically $15 to $30 per month, depending on the policy type, provider and level of coverage — and generally covers theft and damage from fire, windstorms and hail, and internally generated water damage (such as that resulting from sprinkler system activation). You can also buy policies that cover a business you run from home, that offer a living allowance should you need to move out while your place is under repair, and so forth. Some varieties of renters insurance cover personal property inside your home as well as property that might be with you outside the home (like a laptop normally stored at home that you leave in a car trunk, for instance). Shop around at portals such as Renters Insurance, ask your auto insurer if it offers policies or hit any of the major national insurers for more information.
#6: Use your camera.
When you take possession of your rental, take photos noting your rental’s condition. These images can be useful if you wind up in any kind of disagreement or dispute concerning maintenance, damage or insurance coverage. If your phone or camera has a time-stamp feature, use it to verify when the images were recorded. It’s not being paranoid — it’s using common sense.
#7: Know where to complain.
If you feel that your landlord or management company is mistreating you when you are applying for an apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, you have a variety of places to complain. For discrimination, including rejection of a rental application on potentially discriminatory grounds, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division via email at email@example.com.
These are just some tips for protecting yourself when you are looking for an apartment in areas in Wake County including Raleigh, North Carolina. Landlord-tenant law can be a complex area of law and waiting until the problem arises is much more difficult to deal with than taking preventive measures to protect yourself. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Chris at 919-803-1516 or http://anglinlawfirm.com/contact-us/ .