Before Signing a Rental Agreement, Be Sure to Know Your Rights

Landlord/tenant relationships can easily result in misunderstandings, unless both parties are clear on the precise rights and responsibilities each has under the lease.

Landlord/tenant issues tend to arise more frequently with first-time renters than with more experienced renters. In college towns in Minnesota and across the country, many students moving into off-campus apartments or duplexes fall into this first-time renter category. Unfamiliarity with the rental process often leads to problems involving such things as roommates, utilities, and security deposits. Seeking the advice of a legal professional can play an important role in setting the proper expectations and minimizing the possibility of conflict later on.

Roommates

Many renters do not understand, for example, that when roommates sign a lease together, each is jointly and severally liable for the entire amount of the rent. If one roommate does not pay his or her share of the rent, the other roommate can be held responsible for the whole amount to the landlord. This means that would-be tenants should choose roommates carefully before co-signing a lease.

Utilities

Utilities are another common area of potential misunderstanding between landlords and tenants. In many rental arrangements, such as duplexes, utility charges may be divided among the various tenants. It is important to know at the inception of a lease what will be the responsibility of the tenants and what will be the responsibility of the landlord.

Security Deposits

The purpose of a security deposit is to protect the landlord against damage to the unit that occurs while the tenant is in possession of the property. It is not intended to be a deposit against payment of rent. Often, a landlord will require a separate deposit of the rent for the first and last months of the lease term.

In order to avoid later disputes about damages to the apartment, the landlord and tenant should confirm the condition of the property at the time the tenant takes possession. This may include a joint walk-through, a checklist of items damaged, or taking pictures or video of any conditions that seem to warrant concern. In addition, the tenant and landlord should promptly address any issues that arise during the lease, rather than waiting until the end of the lease term.

Get Legal Advice

Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, make sure you know where you stand on any legal issues relating to your rental agreement. An experienced law firm like Burns & Hansen, P.A. can provide valuable guidance to help you meet your goals.