When deciding to rent, make sure you understand your responsibilities and rights as an apartment tenant.
A lease is a written agreement between you and your landlord. Read the lease carefully before signing; if any point appears unclear, discuss it with the landlord. The lease should tell you how much your rent will be and for what period of time your contract is active. It also tells what services your landlord provides, such as those related to painting and repairs. If this information is not provided, ask your landlord to state on the lease how repairs and other maintenance concerns will be handled.
It is a good idea to keep a copy of the signed lease in a safe place until you have moved from the apartment.
A security deposit is usually required to offset the landlord's cost of repairing any property damage you cause. Before you sign the lease and move in, find out what is covered by your deposit and what conditions there are for a refund.
If your landlord deducts any damages when you move out, ask him for an itemized list of the damages he deducted, including the amount and reason. Compare his list to the list you wrote down before you moved in. Let your landlord know immediately if there are items you disagree with. If you don't, you may lose your rights to contest the damages, also losing some or all of your deposit.
Under certain circumstances, a landlord may have the right to require the tenant to move with very little notice. Reasons may include disputes with other tenants or failure to pay rent. However, a landlord may not evict a tenant for reporting housing code violations, for joining or establishing a tenant's "union" or similar organization, or for asserting other tenant rights.
Know your tenant rights. Rental agreements are generally not permitted by local laws to include:
* a waiver of the landlord's responsibility for injury caused by his or her actions;
* a claim that the tenant must pay the landlord's legal fees and court cost in the event of a trial;
* a waiver of the tenant's rights to the full application of all local housing codes;
Housing codes which govern apartment rentals are set by local authority (city, county or state). Visit www.hud.gov to find out what your local laws are. The BBB advises renters to check with their local regulatory agency to see what the particular laws are in their area.
Websites, Addresses, and Phone Numbers:
The Indiana Code-Landlord Tenant
Landlord/Tenant Law-Monroe County--Indiana U
Indiana Civil Rights Division
Indiana Government Center North
100 N. Senate Ave., Rm N-103
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2773
AG's Consumer Protection
Illinois Landlord Tenant Statues
Illinois Tenants Union
4616 N. Drake
Chicago, IL 60625-5814
The Tenant Union at Champaign-Urbana
Metropolitan Tenants Organization
The Home of Chicago Tenants Rights on the Web
Kentucky Landlord/Tenant Statute
Kentucky Attorney General's Office
1024 Capital Center Drive
Frankfort, KY 40601
Louisville Tenants' Union, Inc.
425 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.
Louisville, KY 40202
Kentucky Fair Housing Council
835 W. Jefferson St., Room 100
Louisville, KY 40202