Finding rental property

Federal and state laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against renters on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status or disability.

Seek legal advice if you believe you have been subjected to any of the following on the basis of those reasons:

  1. Refusal to rent or sell housing or negotiate for housing
  2. Making housing unavailable
  3. Setting different terms or conditions for renting or buying or different privileges
  4. Provision of different housing services or facilities
  5. Falsely denying that housing is available to inspect or rent
  6. Denying anyone access to or membership in a facility or service related to rental housing
  7. Threats, coercion, intimidation or interference with the exercise of a fair housing right


A written lease is not necessary but you should sign one for your own protection. Without it, your landlord can terminate your tenancy at any time.

Ask for a copy of the lease and read it carefully before you agree to rent the premises. Ask questions if you aren’t sure about any of its terms.

Look for these important terms:

  1. The amount of late fees and the date by which rent must be paid to avoid late fees
  2. Amounts of security and pet deposits and what portion is nonrefundable, if any
  3. What utilities, if any, are included in the rent and who is responsible for starting service
  4. Landlord’s right to enter the premises
  5. Repair obligations
  6. Limitations on occupants and visitors
  7. Duration of the lease and transition to month-to-month lease at the end of lease term
  8. “House rules”
  9. Name, address and contact information of the owner

Be sure to get a copy of the signed lease before you leave the office after signing it and be sure to get a number to call for emergencies.

Basic obligations of renters and their landlords

Renter’s obligations:
  1. Security and other deposits
  2. Pay rent for the duration of the lease, even if you move out before it expires
  3. Maintenance and upkeep
  4. Insure your personal property with renter’s insurance
  5. Report any defects, accidents or malfunctions to your landlord immediately
  6. Follow any “house rules” that apply to the premises
  7. Comply with the lease. If you breach any provision of the lease, the landlord can terminate the lease and evict you.
Landlord’s obligations
  1. Perform repairs as called for by the lease
  2. Keep your security deposit and keep accurate records of all security deposits
  3. Install locks and other security devices; landlord must re-key the exterior doors between tenants
  4. Accommodations for disabled residents
  5. Return deposit within thirty days (be sure to give your landlord a forwarding address

Don’t delay to seek legal advice if the landlord refuses to make necessary repairs of problems that render the premises unsafe or unhealthy.

Moving in

Be sure to thoroughly inspect the premises before you move your belongings in and note any defects and items requiring repair. Your landlord may have a move-in inventory. Record what you find on that form and supplement it with additional sheets if necessary. This will protect your deposit from repair charges when you move out. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself if your landlord doesn’t give you one. Take photographs, if possible.

Maintenance and repairs

Your lease will set forth what you have to do to maintain the property, so be sure you understand what it says about your maintenance obligations.


You and your landlord have certain rights and obligations if the landlord attempts to evict you. If you receive a notice of eviction, seek legal advice immediately.

Moving out

The lease will state what condition the premises must be in after you move out, but expect to have to clean the premises.

The landlord is obligated to return your security deposit within thirty days.

Home safety and security

Locks and other security devices

The landlord is only required to provide locks for exterior doors and windows.

Smoke detectors

The landlord is required to install some smoke detectors and inspect and test them at the beginning of your tenancy. You must report any malfunctions to the landlord and if you disable any of them, you may face liability for any resulting injury or loss.

When others are injured

Make sure you have renter’s insurance that includes liability coverage.

Report any injuries to the landlord as soon as possible, after medical assistance is requested.

Report the accident to your insurance company immediately. You insurance company has a duty to defend you if you are sued but your failure to notify it in accordance with your policy may void your coverage for the accident.