I guess there are two things I should say up front before I get into Tuesday’s Tenant Tips.
First is, I am not a lawyer. I have dutifully sat beside my husband during endless hours of court TV, and he has as successful a track record in small claims court as any good attorney. Still neither of us is licensed to practice law, no matter what he says. 🙂
Any “advice” that is offered here is not legal advice. It is more of the common sense variety that your grandmother might offer and therefore should not be relied upon as qualified legalese.
Second is I have been a landlord (or perhaps more accurately, a landlady) for the past 20+ years. So the common sense suggestions I offer come from being in the trenches. For reasons we will probably get into later, I cannot always say these things to my tenants when I want to. So I am saying them here and now, and hopefully they will be of some use to someone out there who wants to be a wise and wonderful tenant.
I know the stories of scurrilous slumlords are prolific and horrible. Let’s face it, there are those types every business who will make as much money as they possibly can, honestly or dishonestly, without a thought to the people they damage in the pursuit.
I would like to offer that a better relationship between a landlord and a tenant can be achieved if it doesn’t start with the assumption that the landlord is out to take advantage. Start with the desire to build a good working relationship. If in the course of building a positive connect you see red flags waving, that’s when you operate from a negative position. And the best “operation” is to run in the opposite direction.
This rental thing is a business. Businesses are started to make a profit. Our retirement will hopefully be funded by the hard work we’ve put into providing quality housing and by the good tenants with whom we develop a mutually respectful business relationship.
It is easier to approach renting without the fear of being taken advantage of if you educate yourself. There are two basic principles that I would stress to anyone who is looking for a place to rent:
Know what your rights are and how to protect them.
Know what your responsibilities are and how to fulfill them.
Each state in the United States has a set of laws that outline the relationship between tenants and landlords in that state. Here in Oklahoma that set of laws is commonly referred to as the Oklahoma Residential Tenant/Landlord Act. This Act outlines laws that cannot be nullified or altered by a lease, as well as those that kick in in the absence of any specificity in the lease regarding an issue.
Here are examples of these two points:
- The Oklahoma Tenant/Landlord Act specifies that a tenant’s security deposit must be placed in a escrow account separate and apart from rent monies received. Nothing in a lease can legally skirt this law.
- The Oklahoma Tenant/Landlord Act specifies that unless it is otherwise stated in the lease, a tenant will be on a month-to-month lease, requiring 30-days written notice to terminate tenancy. It is the option of the landlord to stipulate that a lease be a different term, perhaps six months or a year. If the landlord does not stipulate a different term, the month-to-month term kicks in under the provision of the TLA
Before one starts looking to rent a place, it is prudent to get a copy of the laws of the state that govern the tenant/landlord relationship. Read and understand them. No, it is not riveting reading and you might need a dictionary at hand from time to time to understand the official legalese. However, it is wise reading.
Knowledge is power.