We recently asked our lovely Instagram followers to hit us up if they had any questions about renting. We got a lot of responses. Here are the best questions, our answers, and links and sources to back them up.
Who pays for bed bug treatments?
"Is there a solid law on who shoulders the burden of bed bug treatment in an apartment building in Virginia?"
This is SUCH a common concern for renters. We'll give you the Virginia-specific info and also some general info for anyone anywhere who may be dealing with an infestation.
The bad news? Virginia state law doesn't address who's responsible for the cost of pest removal. But you're not completely out of luck - every state has some version of the warranty of habitability, a clause that exists in every lease (even if it's not specifically mentioned) that protects your right to live in a safe and comfortable home. It's not hard to argue that a bed bug infestation gets in the way of enjoying your home, thus violating the warranty of habitability.
If you've got an okay relationship with your landlord, send them a text or email letting them know how serious the issue is. If they don't take action, your best option is to mail them a letter, certified mail, citing the warranty of habitability. Certified mail is crucial because if (god forbid) the matter were to end up in court, you'd have proof that your landlord received notice from you about the infestation and didn't take action. If it gets extreme, there are next steps you can take, whether it's legally breaking your lease and moving, refusing to pay rent until it's taken care of, and more.
For a rundown of bed bug laws by state, check out this blog post.
420 blaze it
"Everyone in my building, including my landlord, is 420 friendly. It’s never been an issue until this really uptight girl moved in downstairs. She’s complained a few times. Does my landlord have any obligation to do anything besides texting us to not smoke weed? She’s always threatening to call the cops on my landlord for not doing anything. I live in Missouri."
This is a spicy one. Hopefully your uptight neighbor isn't reading the Caretaker blog, or she will know exactly what to do to get your landlord to take real action about the kush. Weed isn't legal in Missouri, but calling the cops on your landlord for not forcing you to stop smoking weed isn't going to be really effective. The cops will probably be annoyed that she wasted their time unless they find some giant grow operation and it turns into a drug bust. It's not the job of the police to teach people how to use landlord-tenant law in their favor. That's our thing.
My best advice for you? Make sure your stash is well hidden in case she does try to involve police, and maybe slip a note under her door suggesting she check out the subletting laws in Missouri. Sounds like she's not a great fit for the building and maybe she'd be happier finding a 420 friendly subtenant and a new apartment better suited to her lifestyle.
Getting out of a lease
"I signed a lease until May but found a better option. Can I move out before the lease ends? I live in Vermont."
Almost every state has laws about subletting; whether it's allowed, and how exactly to do it legally. In Vermont, you have the right to sublet as long as you get approval from your landlord. The state law doesn't demand that you get approval in a certain way, so we recommend you follow these general guidelines when asking your landlord if it's okay.
Keep in mind that your landlord has the right to say no. That's why it's a good idea to find a replacement subtenant who meets the same qualifications you did when you signed the lease. Caretaker makes it super easy to screen subtenants based on tons of factors, and your landlord is more likely to say yes if you present them with all the information they might want about their new tenant. Some state laws detail what reasons a landlord can use to legally say no to your request, but Vermont doesn't. If your landlord says no, unless it's for a reason covered under Vermont's Fair Housing laws, you might be out of luck.
As always, we have this information for every state in the country. Choose your state from the dropdown menu to read what your local law says about subletting, and if you're ready to find a subtenant, list your room on Caretaker!
If you're super desperate to get out of your lease, check out Caretaker Instant. Submit a request, and if approved, we'll take over your lease within a month. You're outta there, and you're welcome.
Cigarette smoking neighbors
"Can I complain about my neighbors cigarette smoke if it's a non-smoking apartment?"
Yes. Not to sound dramatic, but you can always complain to your landlord about something affecting your quality of life. It's your landlord's literal job to make sure your home is safe for you to live in and that comes with certain responsibilities. If I owned a building and specifically designated it a smoke-free building, I'd want to know that my tenants were violating the lease and potentially making one of my units reek of cigs. Your landlord might even thank you.
A few months ago, Hilary Duff called out her next door neighbor on Instagram by his full name for smoking cigarettes inside her building. We wrote a detailed rundown of the law and what a person should do if they're dealing with smoking neighbors, which sounds like it will be useful to you in this situation.
“People who used to live in my building gave the front door code to random crazy people on our block. I asked building management to reprogram the code and they said they feel it’s not necessary. What can I do? I’m worried about my safety and that packages may be stolen from the lobby. I live in New York City.”
First of all, it’s totally fair for you to want your building code to be changed so that only tenants of the building have access to it. Secondly, when you sign a lease, you are agreeing to the terms that are actually mentioned in the lease, but there are also some things that exist in every lease agreement even if they’re not specifically mentioned. These are called implied covenants. One super important implied covenant that is present in every lease is the warranty of habitability.
The warranty of habitability protects your right to life in a safe and comfortable home by outlining your responsibilities and your landlord’s responsibilities. In New York, the warranty of habitability is defined by law, and the law specifically says that your landlord must prevent any conditions which would be dangerous, hazardous or detrimental to your life, health or safety.
Random people on the street knowing the code to enter your building could be seen as a violation of that law. Since you already asked that it be changed and your building management said no, your next step should be to communicate with them in writing. Often, you can get a landlord to act by letting them know (politely, but firmly) that you know your tenant’s rights. It may sound like overkill, but send your landlord a letter citing New York’s warranty of habitability law. Mail it with delivery confirmation so that you have a receipt showing your landlord got the letter, and keep a copy for your records.
If worst comes to worst, you may have a case for constructive eviction, which is a sort of self-eviction you initiate when your landlord is breaking the law. New York law allows constructive eviction when the warranty of habitability is violated. If you have to initiate this course of action, keeping detailed records of any communication with your landlord will be super important.
Security deposit issues
“I live in Oakland. My old landlord sent me a list of money owed on my security deposit. He’s charging me for touch up paint, smoke alarm battery replacement, cleaning, and floor scratches. Am I really responsible for all of that?”
In short: No, you're not responsible for that.
The topic we get asked about most frequently is security deposits. As always, we recommend reading up on your local laws on security deposits, because knowledge is power, and it will make it less likely for you to get screwed over. In general, your deposit can only be used to cover unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear, but check your states law to see if there are any other cases.
In California, the law is clear. You can only have money withheld from your security deposit for four reasons. The charges for cleaning the unit might be legit, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when you moved in. If the carpets were musty when you signed the lease, this isn’t your landlord’s opportunity to get them professionally cleaned on your dime.
Smoke alarm batteries being replaced and spots on the wall needing to be touched up with paint, however, are considered normal wear and tear. That stuff happens when someone lives in an apartment, and California law says you can’t be forced to pay to fix it. Floor scratches? This is why you should always at least take photos of your unit when you move in and when you move out. Even better, request a walk through inspection with your building management. If the floors were scratched when you moved in and you didn’t make them any worse, you can’t be charged to repair them.
No subletting allowed in Brooklyn?
“My landlord says I can’t sublet my apartment. It’s also in my lease that I can’t sublet. I know New York law says a landlord can’t unreasonably withhold consent to a request to sublet, but I signed a lease saying that I can’t do it. Does me signing the lease mean I can’t do it?”
I moved into a new place in Brooklyn last month. While reviewing the lease with my broker, we got to a clause that said “No subletting in the unit.” I said, “This is unenforceable under New York Real Property Law 226-b.” I crossed it out of the lease and put my initials next to it.
This is super important: If you sign a lease with a clause that goes against what local law says, that part of the lease doesn’t apply to you and can’t be enforced. New York and Illinois are the two states in the country where your landlord is legally required to let you sublet your apartment as long as the person you want to sublet to meets the same requirements you met when you applied.
Your landlord may not know this, or they may know it and think you’re too lazy to know your rights under the law. As long as you request approval to sublet in the legal way and present a subtenant who is as qualified as you are, your landlord cannot prohibit you from subletting. If you request approval to sublet to a qualified person and they ignore it, the law considers that approval, and you can go ahead with your sublet.
Poop in the driveway
“My landlord and her husband are great, but their dogs poop all over my grass and driveway. They’re actually great landlords, the best I’ve ever had. How do I avoid confrontation and get their dogs to stop pooping on my driveway?”
If you like your landlord and you have a good relationship, just talk to them. Say, “Hey, your dog is pooping on my driveway. I’m not a huge fan of poop. Is there any way you could have your dogs poop somewhere else?”