Monthly Tips for Tenants: March
Report Needed Repairs Immediately
Imagine this scenario: You have noticed the sound of water trickling in your toilet but, being busy with midterms, haven’t thought much about it. You leave for spring break and return to find the toilet has flooded. Worse than that, your new water bill is about 10 times the amount it should be. You and your roommates decide not to worry about it since none of you or any of your guests broke the toilet, as far as you are aware, so it must be the landlord's responsibility, including the inflated water bill and clean up from the flood. Wrong!
Many leases contain the following clause: “Lessee (tenant) agrees not to hold lessor (landlord) responsible for failure to repair until lessee has notified lessor of the need for repair and a reasonable amount of time has passed after such notice.” Even if your lease doesn’t include a clause worded this way, you are still considered liable for damages caused as a result of faulty plumbing, wiring, or other rental equipment that resulted because you and your roommates did not report them to the landlord.
To prevent a costly situation from happening where you are found at fault, report problems in your rental the same day you notice them. If your roommate says he/she is going to call the landlord or maintenance office to report a problem, like a broken window, check back with him/her soon to make sure that he/she does. Since most leases are “joint and several” you will be held accountable by the landlord as a group for any damages, beyond reasonable wear and tear. All maintenance requests should be in writing and kept in a “Rental” file.
Put it in Writing and Keep Your Records
Even if your landlord or management company has instructed you to call in repair requests, make a note of the date, time and reason for your call. Then follow-up with a short letter to the landlord about the problem that needs repair. Include an update of any other items that need maintenance or repair. Make sure the letter is dated. This paper trail is crucial if you are faced with question of responsibility for a costly problem.
Contact the Housing Information Office at (734) 763-3205 or Student Legal Sevices at (734) 763-9920 for assistance with drafting correspondence to landlords.
Think Again Before Squeezing In Another Roommate
It’s a gamble to move in more roommates than are listed on the rental lease. The landlord might not blow the whistle, and might seem to give a nod and a wink because the rent is getting paid. However, this is a risky game. Many students in the past have been stuck with the difficult challenge of quickly finding alternate housing when the City of Ann Arbor conducts a routine inspection and finds more people living in the house than the building’s Certificate of ccupancy allows. Additionally, safety may be another reason for not allowing additional housemates. Safeguard yourself, and make sure your name and signature is on the lease. If it’s not, you could find yourself in the position described above, or trying to come up with more rent each month to cover the portion previously paid by tenants who were not legally living in the rental and had to move out.
Maintain a Clean Community
If the city has to clean up your messy property, you will be charged a cleanup fee of at least $70. To avoid this charge, always to do the following:
- Pick up all litter
- Keep your property area neat
- Don’t abandon furniture at the curb, or block dumpsters
- Store trash cans at the side or rear of the building except on collection day
Failure to keep your yard clean may result in a visit by the police and a ticket!