With homeownership rates dropping across the country, landlords are gaining power. But sometimes they stretch the truth to get you to sign a lease. As a tenant, you might lie about the breed of your dog to ensure your building will allow him. Landlords lie too, especially when they struggle to rent a place or get the price they want. So you should be vigilant. Here are examples of the white lies landlords tell. They could cost you.
1. I’ll call before I drop by
Rules exist regarding when your landlord can drop by the property to “inspect.” If they constantly show up, the law might be on your side. Obviously, a landlord will be interested in whether you’re trashing the property, so it’s understandable they may want to come by now and then. But they need to let you know when they’re coming.
Protect yourself: Document each time your landlord checks up on you. If it’s too often for your comfort, let your landlord know and reference any applicable laws in your state.
Next: Is this broken?
2. The property has been well-maintained
You toured the area, scoped out the neighbors, and feel good about signing the lease. One more thing to do: Get a good idea of the home’s condition. A coat of paint and cheap carpeting can make a dump look decent. And if you’re not careful, a landlord may blame any preexisting damage on you.
Protect yourself: Dig deeper and ask questions about anything that seems out of place. Take pictures of damaged areas.
Next: This expense is often an afterthought while moving — but it’s important.
3. You’ll get your deposit back
Moving into a new place always requires an up-front cost. It often takes the form of deposits and fees, which you’d think are refundable. But somehow, landlords and management companies find a way to keep it. They may say they had to clean the carpets — even though you paid to have them cleaned — or they plan to replace them.
Protect yourself: Inspect your local laws to see which protections exist. You may be able to fight back and keep your money.
Next: It’s not just the neighbors, but the neighborhood as a whole.
4. You’ll love this neighborhood and your new neighbors
If you’re moving to a new city, you likely won’t know which neighborhoods are bad for traffic, noise, or pollution. You may end up with loud, obnoxious, or dangerous neighbors. And a landlord, desperate to rent out a place, probably won’t try to scare you away.
Protect yourself: Be sure you’ve researched the area. Visit the property at different times of the day (and night) to get a feel for the neighbors. The last thing you need is an unexpected two-hour commute or a frat house next door.
Next: Get kicked out?
5. We uphold tenant rights
Landlords need to abide by many rules. One is their reason for evicting someone. If you don’t pay your rent for months on end, that’s one thing. But if you feel you’re being discriminated against, that’s another.
Protect yourself: Look at what types of legal protections you have when it comes to getting evicted. Certain legal barriers exist to keep your landlord from evicting you.
Next: Don’t fall for this sales tactic.
6. A lot of people are interested, so you better sign this lease fast.
Desperate landlords will try to create urgency in order to pressure you into prematurely signing a lease. An antsy renter facing a hot real estate market is even more vulnerable to this tactic. But patience is truly a virtue when it comes to anything involving even a relatively long-term contract.
Protect yourself: Hasty decisions rarely benefit anyone. When you’re ready to jump on a rental, take a deep breathe and assess how comfortable you truly are with the lease’s conditions.
Next: Nobody wants to live in a filthy home.
7. The property has just been cleaned
Is the apartment or house you hope to rent clean? Like, really clean? Your landlord may try to use some Lysol and do some superficial cleaning, but you’ll want to look for troubling signs. Unresolved issues can seriously impact your health. Plus, who wants to live in a filthy apartment?
Protect yourself: Look for evidence of rodents, pests, and even mold. Educate yourself on subtle signs of uncleanliness.
Next: Rent increases aren’t always fair.
8. We’re very fairly priced
Many renters’ worst fear is getting a notice that their rent is increasing. In some cities, those letters are more akin to eviction notices, as prices increase so high that a once-affordable place is suddenly out of reach.
Protect yourself: Ask about rent increases, understand the local real estate market, and check laws that protect tenants.
Next: Really read that lease.
9. Don’t mind the legal jargon
You need to read the fine print. Whether it’s on a rental agreement, car lease, or signing up for iTunes, a legal landmine could screw you. Yes, it’ll take time. And no, it’s not fun. But it’s more fun than having no legal recourse down the line.
Protect yourself: Carefully read through your lease terms to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Next: When will this be fixed?
10. Repairs will be made before you move in
So you’ve checked out the place, and a few repairs need to be made. No problem. You and the landlord come to some sort of informal agreement. When you move in, though, the work hasn’t been done. Big surprise.
Protect yourself: Make sure you get all repair promises in writing when you sign the lease to ensure the work is done before you move in.
Next: Do you have kids?
11. We prefer no kids
One way landlords try to skirt the rules is by not allowing children in their properties. Kids are messy and break things. So, some landlords don’t want to rent to families with children. This, of course, is illegal under federal housing laws. If a family with children under 18 wants to rent, their kids can’t be used as justification for rejecting them.
Protect yourself: Research the laws that protect renters, and don’t be afraid to use them.
Next: But what about pets?
12. We’d love it if you brought a pet
Landlords may love pets because they can charge you exorbitant fees for them. Pets are tricky. Dogs, cats, and other animals cause damage, so many landlords simply don’t allow them. Others charge deposits or “pet rent” to make up for it.
Protect yourself: This is yet another area where you need to look into local laws and regulations to make sure you’re not getting screwed on deposits and rent charges.
Next: Know who pays for what.
13. We would’ve told you no painting if you had asked
Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can and cannot change within the rental property. If you feel like painting, for example, run it by the landlord. If you do come to an agreement and later your landlord decides to call your changes “damage,” you can find yourself in a bind.
Protect yourself: Get agreements in writing, and always follow the golden rule: Leave it in better condition than you found it.
Next: Inquire about the repair process.
14. We’ll schedule repairs quickly and pay you back for them
Your landlord may come over and fix things personally, or they might refer you to a list of businesses to call. Every landlord will have a process for repairs in your rental. The same goes for reimbursements. If something in your unit breaks (and eventually something will), the last thing you want is to have to pay for it. If you pay a plumber with your credit card, expecting a prompt reimbursement from your landlord, you’ll incur interest and end up paying more out of pocket waiting for them to cut you that check.
Protect yourself: Ask your landlord about the repair process and get any rules or expectations in writing. And don’t put yourself at financial risk assuming your reimbursement check is in the mail.
Next: Your landlord may try to fudge some expenses.
15. The utility bills aren’t costly
Many renters overlook hidden costs when apartment-searching. If you don’t budget for electricity, heat, air conditioning, internet service, and other expenses, you may wildly exceed your budget. Proceed with caution if a landlord assures you the bills will be low.
Protect yourself: Call your city utilities office and ask for the home’s utility history. They should be able to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision.