Do I have to pay rent if I lose my job?

Written by Laura Agadoni on . Posted in edited, For Renters, Leases & Legal, paid, Rent & Expenses

The short answer is YES! If you’re in financial trouble and can’t pay all your bills, make sure you pay rent. Otherwise, you can be evicted.

Many people think they can get away with letting the rent slide when finances are tough. This is especially true when renters are in a mom-and-pop type of landlord situation (as opposed to a huge management company).

Not paying rent is one of the worst financial decisions you can make.

Just because you have a mom-and-pop landlord doesn’t mean you’re actually dealing with your mom or dad. Maybe you could get away with not paying money owed to your parents, but you shouldn’t take that risk with your landlord. If you do, you could be out on the streets.

You could be evicted

Not only could you be evicted for not paying rent, an eviction goes on your personal record. When you try to rent another place, the new landlord or property manager will look at your background check and see that you’ve been evicted. And that will make it difficult for you to rent another place.

Prioritize your payments

It’s never good to skip paying a bill, but if you’re in financial trouble because of a job loss or other reason, prioritize which bills you should pay first.

Your top priorities are survival needs: food, medical, and shelter. Make sure you stay healthy and have a roof over your head. Pay for your basic needs first.

It’s better to skip your credit card payment than your rent.

Next in line: pay utilities, your car payment, and legal obligations such as child support and taxes.

After you’ve paid all the above, pay your unsecured debt, such as credit card debt.

Communication is key

When you know you won’t be able to pay all your bills, call your creditors and explain the situation. You might be able to work out a payment plan that you can afford. Some creditors might agree to take a lump sum payment—for less than what you owe—as a settlement. This lessens your bill and eliminates your monthly payments.

Talk with your landlord

Let your landlord know right away if you can’t pay rent. Don’t bury your head in the sand, hoping the situation go away. And don’t keep this information from your landlord, in the hopes they won’t notice—they will.

Besides, if you’re up front with your landlord right away, they might work with you on a solution. They might let you pay rent late one time, for example. Or they might discount your rent moving forward if you do some work in return.

Related: 5 things to do when a tenant stops paying rent

Note: Most landlords are more likely to work with you if you’ve always paid the rent on time, before you lost your job (or whatever financial difficulty has come up), and if you followed all other lease terms.

Keep in mind that your landlord doesn’t have to agree to any arrangement other than what’s in the lease. Your landlord has their own bills to pay.

But it’s a good idea to ask if you can work something out if you find yourself in financial difficulty. Whether you think your landlord will agree to a special arrangement or not, let your landlord know about major changes in your life that affect your ability to pay rent, rather than just skipping out on rent payments.

Note: In general, big management companies are less likely to be flexible with rent payments than independent landlords.

Figure out a game plan

Look at your income and expenses. Maybe not being able to pay rent will only be a one-time incident. But if it looks as though you won’t be able to afford your rent payment moving forward, discuss options with your landlord. They might let you out of your lease, for example, if you agree to leave quickly.

Every situation is different, so discuss your particular case with your landlord.

Discuss your personal situation with your landlord.

What to do if you’re in financial trouble

Here are some measures you can take to help you get back on your feet:

  • File for and collect unemployment if you lost your job.
  • Ask about a hardship program. Call the customer service department for your credit card or loan, and ask about a hardship program that can help you pay your bill. These programs can help in various ways, such as lowering your monthly payment. In many cases, if you enter into a hardship program with your credit card issuer, they won’t report you to the credit bureaus (if you complete the program).
  • Go to your city or county government website for assistance programs. You will often find grants offered by charities, churches, and the government to help with your bills and rent.
  • Get counseling on how to budget. You can find reputable counselors from your local government website.
  • Ask your family or friends for help.

The bottom line

It’s tough to lose your job and then have problems paying your bills. But rent is not an expense you can skip out on. Don’t risk losing your home. Many landlords, if they can financially afford to, will try to come up with a plan that both of you can live with.

10 landscaping tips to save water

Written by Ruth de Jauregui on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, For Renters, Maintenance & Renovations, paid

Drought, water restrictions, and increasingly expensive water bills should motivate everyone to learn how to save water in a landscape plan.

Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, there are ways to save water without busting the budget on initial changes. Before beginning any project, review any HOA or city/county restrictions on landscaping. And tenants should always discuss landscaping ideas with the landlord before adding or removing lawn, shrubs, or trees.

5 suggestions for landlords

Implementing water-saving measures can range from repairing a faulty sprinkler system to fully renovating the landscape. Adding plants, shrubs, and trees suited to the local climate reduces the time required to maintain the landscape as well as reducing water usage.

1. Select the right type of grass

Save water by selecting the appropriate grass species for the USDA hardiness zones and environmental conditions. Grasses are divided into cool- and warm-season species. Most grass species require full sun or a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive.

Bluegrass and fine fescues grow well in USDA zones 2 through 7. The fine fescues, Chewings, creeping red, and hard, are better choices than bluegrass due to their drought and shade tolerance.

In USDA zones 6 through 9, zoysiagrass requires the least amount of water. It, like bermudagrass, becomes straw-colored in winter.

Bermudagrass is another tough, spreading grass. It’s found in USDA zones 7 through 10. It is invasive and will take over the flowerbeds if not separated by a barrier—such as concrete edging—and edged regularly.

Related: Top 5 exterior maintenance items to perform before residents move in

2. Use ground covers

Water-saving alternatives to grasses are ground covers and native plants. Replace part or all the lawn with ground covers, preferably natives, which are suited for the site to save water.

Sun-loving miniature daisies, creeping thyme, and blue star creeper cover bare soil while reducing water usage.

In part-sun to shade, easy-maintenance ground covers like ajuga, also known as bugleweed, provide green coverage and flowers. After the ajuga finishes blooming, clean up and rejuvenate the plants by setting the mower at its highest setting and mowing over the fading flowers and foliage. (Avoid Vinca minor, also known as periwinkle and myrtle, and English ivy; both are invasive.)

While people often use decorative rocks as a ground cover, in time they begin to look drab and dusty. In addition, they harbor weed seeds and can develop into a messy expanse of unattractive weeds. Instead, weed cloth covered by organic mulch helps prevent weed growth and slows the evaporation of water from the soil.

3. Practice xeriscaping

Xeriscaping doesn’t mean cactus and bare rocks. The primary focus of xeriscaping is reducing water use. Plant drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs, and trees that may be natives or originated in a similar climate. The plantings might include iris, daffodils, daisies, hardy hibiscus, poppies, salvias, and other flowers that require less water once established in the landscape.

4. Consider installing a drip-watering system with a rain-sensing timer

Each plant, shrub, and tree receives water directly over the rootball according to the plant’s needs with this system. This allows specimen plants that may have higher water needs to receive the correct amount of moisture, while other plants are not overwatered. Set the timer to water in the early morning, between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., on the city- or HOA-specified days. The rain sensor prevents wasteful watering on rainy days.

5. Inspect existing sprinkler systems

Repair leaks and replace broken or inefficient sprinkler heads. Adjust the sprinklers to ensure that the water lands on the lawn or in the landscape and not on surrounding hardscape, such as sidewalks or the driveway. Add a timer to prevent overwatering.

5 ways tenants can reduce water usage

Tenants have fewer options than landlords, but there are a number of water-saving steps that can reduce the water bill while maintaining the landscape according to the landlord’s or HOA’s rules.

Related: Should a tenant be paid for doing yard work?

1. Water grass deeply in the morning

But water only once or twice a week. Frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow roots. Less frequent watering that moistens the soil to a depth of 6 to 12 inches encourages the grass to develop deeper roots and better withstand drought conditions.

2. Mow the grass at the recommended height

Remove no more than one-third of the lawn’s height at each mowing. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and return nutrients to the soil. In spring, dethatch the grass, mow, and then rake a thin layer of compost over the grass.

3. Remove weeds from the lawn

Weeds compete with the grass and plantings for water and nutrients. Landscape as soon as they appear. Rake and remove debris under shrubs and trees before adding mulch. Spread 4 inches of mulch over bare soil or landscape fabric, beginning 4 to 6 inches from the trunk to the outer edge of the canopy.

4. Wind soaker hoses through the flower beds and around trees

Do this instead of hand-watering or using a hose end sprinkler to save water. At the spigot, install a simple battery-operated timer set for early morning on the watering days set by the city or HOA.

5. Add compost to a garden

If your landlord approves a vegetable garden:

  • Dig several inches of compost into the garden bed to improve the soil and to increase its ability to drain or hold water, depending on whether it is clay or sandy.
  • Plant the fruits and vegetables at the recommended distances, or consider a square foot garden to increase productivity in a small space.
  • Add trellises to the north side of the garden for peas, beans and cucumbers to save space and keep the fruits off the ground.
  • Use soaker hoses covered with loose organic mulch between the rows to reduce water usage while keeping the soil moist.

Landlords can implement a range of water-saving measures or can completely renovate the landscape to reap the maximum benefits of xeriscaping. Meanwhile, tenants can reduce their water bills by adding easy water-saving steps to their weekly lawn maintenance routines.

A well-kept home with a thriving green landscape is an asset for everyone. It makes the property more desirable, and reducing water use is good for the environment and the checkbook—a win-win.

 

How to pick a good roommate

Written by Kathy Adams on . Posted in edited, For Renters, paid, Rent & Expenses, roommates, tenant

There’s an art to choosing a good roommate. The more responsible the person, and the better you get along, the better everything will work out for both of you.

Even though it may take a little time to find a great roommate, it’s well worth the effort to prevent unnecessary strain on your sanity and your wallet. Here’s what to do.

1. Advertise

  • Craigslist. Be prepared to be inundated with responses. Help weed out types you don’t want by providing information that’s important to you in a roommate, such as nonsmoker or even a vegetarian.
  • Facebook. Post your quest to your status. It’s up to you whether you make it public or send it only to your friends’ list. Making the post public nets more views, but sending it only to friends also has value, because bots and spammers won’t respond. Tag a few friends who may know of others seeking a new home. This way, you and the potential applicant have at least one mutual contact in common.
  • Roommate apps. These apps can be great places to find someone, but know that some charge for premium versions of their services. RoomieMatch.com, Roommates.com, Roomster, and the Roomi app work a lot like a matchmaking service, helping filter out seekers who don’t match your search criteria.
  • Online college-alumni boards. Great places to find roommates with similar interests and work schedules.

2. Ask questions

  • Do you have a steady income? Ask the other party for proof of income to determine whether they make enough to cover their share of the rent.
  • What other expenses do you have? Other bills such as student loans, medical expenses, or a car lease make a dent in monthly income. Make sure there’s still plenty left over to cover the rent.
  • Do you smoke?  If you don’t smoke, rooming with a smoker may not be a good idea, especially if they smoke indoors.
  • Do you have a pet? Since some rentals have restrictions on pets, it’s good to know upfront whether a potential roommate has any pets. If you have a pet, this is the time to mention it to applicants to see if they mind or if they have allergies.
  • What’s your work schedule? Work schedules are also worth discussing, as this could affect the other party’s sleep routine. If you work nights and they work days, their after-work Netflix sessions might impact your pre-work nap, for instance. If they work from home and spend time making calls, this could also impact your post-work relaxation time.
  • Are you dating anyone? While this may seem too personal, it’s best to know if they have a significant other and if they plan to invite them over frequently. This could be an issue if you don’t like houseguests.
  • Do you have any questions for me? Allow the other person to ask you questions.

After going over the basics, discuss one another’s general habits, likes, and dislikes openly. This gives both of you a chance to find out if rooming together is a good idea. After all, you’ll both probably be named as tenants on the rental agreement.

3. Screen applicants

  • Meet in person. Once you’ve narrowed down the list of potential roommates, arrange an in-person meeting. This allows the chance for you both to make sure you feel comfortable around one another and to discuss furniture, pets, and potential move-in dates.
  • Order a background check. Just as a landlord screens tenants before moving in, due diligence on your part helps ensure you won’t get burned or stuck for the entire rent. Cozy offers a complete screening suite that looks through local and nationwide criminal records and sex-offender registries. It also notes any previous evictions, which comes in handy for weeding out potential deadbeats.
  • Ask for references. And call them. An employer can let you know whether the applicant really works where they say they do. A past landlord can tell you whether they’re a good renter.
  • Get proof. Ask to see several months of pay stubs or other proof of income.

4. Think twice about friends

It may seem like a good idea to rent a place with a close friend or three, but that’s not always the case. That old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” holds especially true for friends and family members.

It may be fun to hang out with your bestie on weekends, but not so fun when you discover they’re a complete slob or that they drink out of your personal jug of juice. A close friend or family member who falls behind on rent could be even more of an issue, since you care about them and may not want to kick them out.

The bottom line

The effort spent finding the perfect roommate is well worth it. You’ll both potentially spend a lot of time in the same space, and you deserve to be as comfortable as possible in your own home.

Rental application fees: what you need to know

Written by Megan Wild on . Posted in application fees, edited, For Landlords, For Renters, paid, Step 6 - Applications & Screening, tenants

Landlords hate to charge rental application fees as much as tenants hate to pay them. But these fees are necessary.

Experienced landlords, particularly those who’ve been burned by less-than-exemplary renters, screen future tenants to make sure they’re a good fit for their rental property. And that costs money. Thus, the application fee, which funds running background and credit checks on applicants.

Here’s what landlords and tenants need to know about application fees:

For tenants

Landlords can charge rental application fees

Landlords need to know you can pay the rent, act in a financially responsible way, and will treat their property with respect. Running a credit check helps them get a sense of your financial history, and a background check helps them see if you have a history of behavioral red flags.

The application fee covers the screening cost. 

Some landlords accept information directly from you and will give you a break on the application fee. If you bring your recent credit report and recent pay stubs, for example, some landlords will accept that in lieu of running your credit. Keep in mind, however, that landlords typically prefer to run their own credit check, as credit reports and pay stubs can be altered. 

Note that landlords typically charge an application fee to everyone on the lease. Did you hear that, roommates? 

Related: Who should fill out a rental application?

Don’t get scammed

There’s a reasonable and customary charge for rental application fees. They usually cost $30-50, but some landlords may charge you up to $100. You can expect to pay the larger fees in a hot real estate market.

Some landlords, unfortunately, try to take advantage of applicants by charging them exorbitant fees just to apply or, even worse, just for viewing the property. Landlords like this are trying to make the application process a moneymaker, a practice that scrupulous landlords don’t do.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from a landlord who seems to be making a money grab. In fact, some states limit the amount a landlord can charge for an application fee. If your state has those limits, let the landlord know. If your state doesn’t mandate fees, ask if the landlord will lower the fee, so they’re charging enough to cover the cost of screening and that’s it.

Ask if the fee will be refunded 

In some cases, your landlord may refund the cost of a rental application. This may happen if they had multiple applicants and rented the property to someone before they got to your application. In that case, not only will many landlords refund the application fee. Some states mandate they must refund the fee.

Be aware, though, you are not entitled to a refund just because you didn’t get the rental. If the landlord did the screening, they don’t have to refund the fee.

You can ask the landlord if they can put the application fee toward your security deposit, as a negotiation point. But it’s up to the landlord whether that will happen.

Related: Ask Lucas 012: Are Online Rental Applications More Secure than Paper Applications?

For landlords

Charge rental application fees only for the actual cost

Application fees are intended to cover the cost of running a credit and background check. Taking a hard look at an applicant’s credit history, employer, former landlord, and doing a background search on criminal records will give you a good sense of whether someone would be a good tenant. You can and should screen each person on the lease.

Depending on your state, you might only be allowed to charge what credit and background checks cost. You’ll want to check the local and state rules where the rental is located for specific regulations for rental application fees.

If you use Cozy to manage your property, tenant screening reports are free for landlords. The applicant pays $24.99 each for a background check or credit report, or $39.99 for both. Applicants order the reports and share them directly with you, so you both stay on the same page.

To collect your application fee, tenants can pay via cash, check, or card. An advantage of using Cozy is that tenants pay online, so you don’t have to deal with money at all. If you’re accepting payments yourself, make sure to provide a receipt, especially if you provide refunds for application fees.

Don’t use application fees as a profit center

Finding a tenant to rent your property can be a time-consuming task, and you may feel justified charging for your time. It’s important, though, not to overcharge or to use the application as a profit center. Some states, such as California, for example, mandate against overcharging, allowing landlords to charge only their out-of-pocket expenses.

You can ultimately profit from your rental by charging market rates; as a bonus, you avoid potential legal ramifications and damage to your reputation that can come from charging unnecessarily high application fees. 

Related: Should I increase rental rates every year?

Refund the application fee under certain circumstances

In some circumstances, particularly hot rental markets, you might end up renting your property to an applicant while you have the applications and fees of others still pending. If you have application fees from prospective renters and won’t be running their background checks, you should refund the fees.

Renters and landlords: know the laws in your state

State laws about application fees differ widely, so it’s important to know the rules in your state. Both renters and landlords should check into their state laws on this. California, for example, caps application fees at $47.22, and landlords need to provide the results to tenants if they request it. In Wisconsin, a landlord may charge the actual cost of a consumer credit report (up to $20).

There’s a lot to know about rental application fees, but you can master the best practices to make sure you’re charging and paying a fair rate.

How to avoid rental scams

Written by Laura Agadoni on . Posted in edited, For Renters, Leases & Legal, paid

What could be worse than paying a large sum of money to secure a rental property, packing all your stuff to move, getting excited about your new home…and then finding out that you really didn’t rent the place?

Now you’re out all that time, effort, and money—and you have nowhere to live.

Rental scams, unfortunately, happen more often than you might think. Because it’s easy for anyone to advertise an apartment or house they have for rent online, you might not know whether the poster is legitimate.

Scammers typically do one of two things, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

  1. They take the photos and description from a real ad, change the contact information to their own, and place the doctored ad on another website. You see the ad and call or email the scammer instead of the real owner or manager.
  2. They make up a listing that doesn’t really exist, or they list a property that isn’t for rent. You call about that nonexistent property.

The scam, in both scenarios, is designed get you to pay first month’s rent and security deposit. Once you do, the scammer is long gone, with your money. Here are some ways to avoid those kinds of rental scams.

Related: Skirting a scam

1. Don’t wire money

The goal of rental scams is to try to get you to give money before you see the rental in person. A scammer’s preferred method is usually to ask you to wire the money. Why? Because wiring money works the same as handing over cash. (Oh, and don’t give cash!) You can’t stop payment or reverse charges when you wire money.

Never wire money to strangers.

2. Do an internet search

Search the listing address. You should find the same name of the owner or manager on every site. If you find a random listing or two with a different name attached to it, you can probably assume the listing with the different name is not legit.

3. Be firm

Scammers can be persuasive. Their job, after all, is getting people to part with their money. So con artists involved in rental scams often use high-pressure tactics to get you to pay right away. They usually tell people that if they don’t act immediately, they will lose out on a great deal. It’s not always a scam to rent a place sight unseen, but the practice is risky. It’s best to see a property before paying any money.

4. Be suspicious of a low price

It’s always fun and rewarding to get a deal, so when you find what appears to be a great bargain on a rental property, you might be tempted to plop down your money fast before someone else takes it. Or at the very least, you might contact this ad just to see if it’s really true. Once you do, however, the scammer will try to get money or at least some personal information from you in an effort to steal your identity. Unfortunately, if the deal looks too good to be true, that’s a waning sign of a scam.

5. Be suspicious of no screening

You know who’s interested in looking at your rental application, background check, and credit history? Real landlords who want to make sure you can pay the rent. You know who isn’t? Scammers who just want to take some of your money upfront and run. If you aren’t required to fill out an application and don’t need to agree to a background and credit check, be leery.

The right way to find a rental

  • View the property.
  • Apply, if you like the property. (Note that you can apply for a property before you visit it in person. You might need to do this in a competitive rental market. But the application fee is the only money you should pay upfront.)
  • Meet the landlord or property manager.
  • Sign a lease.
  • Pay move-in fees, which are typically the first month’s rent and security deposit. Look up your state’s laws to find out whether your state has limits on move-in fees.
  • Meet with your landlord or manager and get the keys.

Bottom line

Although you can reduce the chances of being a scam victim, you can still be scammed. If you are, call the police. You can also report what happened to you to the FTC.

And please share your story or any tips you have to avoid scams in the comments.

How to get your landlord’s approval to sublet

Written by Laura Agadoni on . Posted in edited, For Renters, paid, Rent & Expenses, Rental Advertising, Screening, Security Deposits

Permission to subletYou just found out you need to be away from home for an extended time. But you’re still in the middle of your lease period. Subletting your rental would be the perfect solution … but what will your landlord think?

Related: A renter’s guide to subletting your apartment

When you sublet, although you’re still a tenant, you act as a landlord by leasing your rental unit to someone else—a subtenant. Whether you’re allowed to sublet your rental is usually addressed in the lease, and you typically have one of three options:

  1. You are not allowed to sublet—game over, end of story. Don’t do it!
  2. You are allowed to sublet. Go for it—you have free rein!
  3. The norm—You are allowed to sublet only after obtaining written consent of the landlord. (Landlords typically want to screen subtenants.

But what if the lease doesn’t say anything about subletting?

A rarity, but if your lease is silent on the issue, check to see whether your state has any laws on the books about subleases. And more important, just ask your landlord.

Keep in mind that your landlord can refuse your request to sublet your rental, particularly if they have a good reason. With that said, there are ways to help ensure you get your landlord’s approval to sublet.

1. Find a suitable subtenant

It’s best to ask someone you know and trust. A dependable person you can rely on both reassures the landlord and gives you peace of mind that this person will uphold their end of the bargain—paying the rent on time, taking care of the property, and following all other lease terms.

If you don’t know anyone who wants to sublet, you can still find a suitable subtenant.

  • Tell everyone you know that you’re looking.
  • Post on social media and Craigslist.
  • Ask if your roommates will do the same—they’re the ones who’ll be living with this person, so it benefits them to find someone.

If you do post the unit online, make sure you list the benefits (basically whatever it is that you like about it). Also include photos, and of course, your contact information.

If you’re having a hard time finding someone, lower the rent or offer to pay utilities. Even if you need to subsidize part of the subtenant’s rent, it will be cheaper than paying all the rent and probably cheaper than breaking the lease.

2. Screen potential subtenants

You can sign up with Cozy as a landlord and have your subtenants apply. (If you are already signed up with Cozy as a tenant, you’ll need to use a different email address.) Request that applicants allow a credit and background check. This lets you know whether they have a criminal record and how they handle finances.

Ask for references, and call them. Ideally, you will speak with their employer and their current landlord.

3. Get your roommates on board

If you have roommates, make sure they’re okay with your subtenant. You don’t want to cause any drama before you leave by surprising your roommates with a stranger suddenly living with them. If your roommates approve your subtenant, have them sign a form stating so.

4. Draw up a lease between you and the subtenant

A written lease makes everything clear, protects both parties, and eliminates your-word-against-theirs types of scenarios.

Here are some must-haves to put in the lease:

  • The dates the subtenant will be renting the unit from you
  • The amount of rent they will pay
  • Whether they will pay the rent to you or directly to the landlord
  • Who will pay for utilities

Also provide your subtenant with a copy of your lease so they will know all the particulars of your rental situation.

A note about rent: You can continue to pay the rent to your landlord even if you have a subtenant, and your subtenant would pay you. This way, you know that rent is being paid. You can also choose to let your subtenant pay the landlord directly. But if your subtenant doesn’t pay, the landlord could evict you (unless you pay rent pronto plus any late fees).

It’s a good idea to ask your subtenant for a security deposit. A usual amount is half or a full month’s rent.

5. Put in a written request to your landlord

Let your landlord know that you are taking this matter seriously by mailing (or at least emailing) them about your sublease proposition at least 30 days in advance.

Here’s what to put in the letter:

  • Your reason for needing to sublet
  • The start and end dates of the sublease period
  • The proposed subtenant’s name and current address
  • Your address (or a way of contacting you) during the sublease period
  • A copy of the sublease agreement and any roommate approval form

6. Wait for your landlord’s response

If your landlord doesn’t respond in a week or so, follow up. If your landlord won’t respond or refuses your sublease proposal for no good reason, you may need to contact an attorney or legal aid.

7. Understand what you’re getting into

You are ultimately responsible for your rental unit.

If you choose a subtenant who is irresponsible and skips out on rent, damages the rental unit, or becomes a nuisance to the point of violating the lease terms, your landlord can come after you for the money.

Make sure you have a clause in your lease with your subtenant that states they will be responsible for unpaid rent or damages they caused. That way, if your landlord sues you or keeps your security deposit to pay what’s owed, you can then come after your subtenant or keep part or all the security deposit if you requested one.

Note that the expectation is to return your subtenant’s security deposit. If you do keep all or part of their security deposit, you need to provide a reason.

A subtenant could save you from paying rent for a place you won’t be living in or from having to break your lease. If done correctly, the arrangement could work out well for all parties involved: your subtenant, your landlord, and you.

If you have tips for subleasing, please share them in the comments!

When can you withhold rent?

Written by Sarah Block on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, For Renters, Leases & Legal, paid, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationWhen a tenant withholds rent, it’s the last resort in a situation where they feel out of control. In this case, tenants do the only thing they can control: withhold pay.

But this can be a very risky move for tenants: it can result in eviction. There are better alternatives for dealing with a landlord who is ignoring complaints and not making fixes.

Here are the steps tenants can take to deal with a landlord who isn’t doing their job.

1. Make a list

Walk through your unit and make a list of all needed repairs. Break this down into two lists: legally required repairs and other. Legally required repairs would be anything that affects the structural integrity or habitability of the home. For instance, a leaky roof or broken heater affects the habitability. While an off-track closet door—not so much. Send your list to your landlord by mail, email, or text.

Landlord’s perspective:  As a landlord, I require all tenants to conduct their own pre-move-in inspection with pictures. They share the inspection and pictures with me. Now, we both know and agree on the condition of the unit upon move-in, and I become aware of any issues that may have gone unnoticed before.

Related: Record a video of the move-in/move-out inspection

2. Notify the landlord of the repairs needed

Inform your landlord in writing of the needed repairs. If legal action is needed, the first written notice begins the process. In your notice, tell the landlord what repairs are needed and why.

If you have previously asked for the repairs to be done verbally, make sure to note in writing each time you have discussed those repairs. If the needed repairs are cause for concern and make the property uninhabitable, be sure to note this in the letter. Tenants have the right to live in a habitable, safe, and healthy space.

Landlord’s Perspective: Welcome this process. It is best to fix the repairs as quickly as possible (they are also tax deductible). By receiving a list of needed repairs, you can fix them before they become unmanageable. Consider speeding up this process by using Cozy’s maintenance request app.

3.  Review your tenant’s rights by state

Every state has different laws regarding tenants and landlords. Make sure to review your state’s law to legally deal with the situation. Here are two examples:

California: Tenants are legally entitled to housing that is safe, healthy, and structurally sound. Housing also needs to be in good repair. Tenants can legally withhold rent, make repairs themselves and deduct from their rent, call the building inspector, sue the landlord, or move out without notice.

Texas: Tenants only have the option of “repair and deduct.” However, before a tenant can use the “repair and deduct” method they need to review the local laws. Most repairs do not qualify.

Local tenant’s laws also provide information on how long to wait before you can move to the next step.

California: Landlords have 30 days to make the repair (unless it poses danger).

Texas: The tenant needs to wait seven days after the written request before moving to the next step.

Landlord’s perspective: Know landlord/tenant law in your city and state well. This helps you maintain a proper tenant/landlord relationship and ensures you’re running your business legally.

Related: 2 basic renter’s rights included in every lease

4. Review your lease

Your lease might provide you with the information you need. Determine what repairs your landlord is required to make and what they are not.

Tenants should be aware that in most states, withholding rent will result in their eviction. A landlord is not required to make all repairs. What they are required to do is provide a habitable home. If the repair needed makes the home uninhabitable, and the landlord is refusing to fix it, the best course of action is to sue.

Landlord’s perspective: Make sure your lease covers all situations and is legal, using your local landlord/tenant laws. While your lease is there to protect you, it is also there to protect your tenant.

In conclusion

Withholding rent is a last-ditch effort to regain control in a situation where you may feel powerless, where you are living in a home that is not up to par. However, withholding rent is illegal in most states and difficult to walk away from without an eviction and mark on your credit score.

The best course of action is to follow these steps and know your rights. The always-legal option, in lieu of withholding rent, is to sue your landlord for not following through on their obligation: providing a safe, healthy, and habitable house.

Cleaning and repair rules when you move out

Written by Kathy Adams on . Posted in edited, For Renters, Maintenance & Renovations, Move-in/Move-out, move-out, paid, Security Deposits, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationThe last thing you probably feel like doing as you move out of a rental is cleaning the place. Like it or not, though, you’re expected to leave it just as nice as it was when you moved in.

If you leave a dirty place for your landlord, they can hold back the cost to clean up from your security deposit. After all, it is your mess. But the security deposit is your money. You want as much of it back as possible, right? So just what are your responsibilities?

Related: How to get your security deposit back

Read your lease

Besides typical cleanup duties such as washing the floor or vacuuming the carpet, the landlord expects you to do a thorough job of getting that rental back into shape. Move-out expectations vary, so check your rental agreement or lease to see what the landlord wants you to do.

Common cleanup duties

Common cleaning requests include wiping down baseboards, doorknobs, and light switches; dusting ceiling fixtures; washing the windows; and thoroughly cleaning appliances. Some landlords may expect a professional carpet cleaning as well. It’s definitely worth your time to read every move-out detail in your agreement, as some landlords levy extra fees if you don’t take care of an item on the list or if you don’t do it within the specified time frame.

Repair damages

Even minor damage to the rental must be repaired before you hand over the keys. A couple of nail holes may not seem like much to you, but if you don’t repair them, the landlord has to. That means they can bill you in the form of a deduction from your security deposit. Here’s a checklist of things to do:

  • Patch nail and tack holes with a small amount of spackle.
  • Erase scuff marks on walls and floors with a melamine foam eraser, aka a Magic Eraser.
  • Rub a walnut over scratches in wood floors, or fill them in with a wood marker that matches the floor color.
  • Replace anything you may have temporarily removed, such as cabinet hardware you swapped out for something that suits your own style.
  • Go through each room and closet, replacing any light bulbs that no longer illuminate.

Cleaning not your thing? Hire someone

If you choose not to clean and repair everything on the move-out list, there’s still hope. Hire a cleaning company to tackle your checklist. Just make sure you’re available to inspect the space afterwards to make sure they took care of everything. The same goes for repairs. If you broke a handrail off in a stairwell, for instance, and don’t have time to repair it, hire a handyman or contractor to take care of the problem.

Tell your landlord about any damages

Inform the landlord of specific items you can’t fix on your own, such as a broken handrail. Your landlord may ask to see the damage and assess whether they can repair it easily. If so, you may be off the hook. If not, expect a repair bill.

Informing the landlord of potential damage or cleaning concerns is always better than just skipping out and leaving the work for your landlord. If you completely bail on your responsibilities, you’ll probably not get some—or all—your security deposit back.

You might be charged extra for damages

If the damage is beyond minimal, such as missing floor tiles, mold on the shower surround, or massive stains on the carpet, the landlord could charge you more than the amount of your deposit. For instance, if your security deposit is $900 and it will cost $1,200 to repair everything in your unit, you may owe $300 to cover the difference.

Rules for holding back a security deposit

Whenever a landlord withholds any money from your security deposit (including charging you extra), you are entitled to a detailed breakdown of charges. Check your state laws to ensure the charges are legitimate. Common sense also applies; for instance, a $250 charge to fill in three small nail holes is extreme and likely would not hold up in court.

Related: What to do if your landlord wrongfully kept your security deposit

All in all, taking care of a minor aggravation—cleaning your old place—is well worth your time. Besides, you agree to do it when you sign your rental contract. Once you’ve refreshed your old abode, you’ll get your deposit money back, as well as peace of mind, knowing you’re leaving on good terms with your former landlord. On to a fresh start!

New! Share your rental documents

Written by Lucas Hall on . Posted in For Landlords, For Renters, General, Step 9 - Manage Lease & Collect Rent

We’re excited to announce that now you can share documents, lease agreements, move-in checklists, and more with your tenants in Cozy!

At Cozy, the company behind Landlordology, we build tools to make life easier for our customers and we listen to their feedback. Landlords have been asking us to make it easy to store and share essential rental documents with their tenants, so they can be better organized and more transparent. Now they can.

Quick and convenient

It’s easy to add and share rental documents in Cozy. When you set up payments, you can upload any related documents, which will be there for your tenants when they login to Cozy.

Every time you share a new document, all the tenants on that lease will be notified by email. Then they can access the shared documents from any device. Tenants will conveniently have the lease at their fingertips, so they won’t have to ask you for it again and again.

State law requirements

Every state has its own landlord-tenant laws. Some states have laws to ensure that tenants always receive a copy of the lease. For example, California Civ. Code §§ 1962(4) says that a landlord must provide a copy of the lease to the tenant within 15 days of its execution. In Delaware, a landlord must provide a written copy of the agreement, free of charge (§ 5105 (b)).

Cozy makes it easy to share a lease with your tenants securely and for free.

To learn more about what state laws require, check out our state law rental guides.

Your tenants will thank you

Most tenants want to be self-sufficient. They don’t want to ask you multiple times for a copy of the lease, or find a place to store a stack of important rental documents.

By using Cozy to send and store these documents, you’ll help foster trust and transparency with your tenants. It’s a great way to start a relationship with a new tenant, that hopefully will help pave the way for a long-term resident who treats you and your property with honesty and respect.

Foundation for success

At Cozy, we make renting easier for everyone. Hundreds of thousands of landlords have built their rental business with Cozy, and now they have another tool to make their lives easier. Document sharing in Cozy is one more way you can create a better, more efficient, and more profitable rental business.

If you’re not already using Cozy, give it a try. All our core features are free for landlords, including collecting applications, screening tenants, and collecting rent online.

How to get the rental you want

Written by Guest Author on . Posted in edited, For Renters, General

communicationLearn how to impress any landlord or property manager to get the perfect rental, just by following some simple tips.

If getting into a good rental in your area is as competitive as getting accepted to an Ivy League school, learn some tips to get ahead of the pack. When you’re prepared, knowledgeable, and professional during the application process, you’ll stand out from the rest.

Here are five tips and tricks that will make you—and your application—grab the attention of any landlord or property manager.

Related: What are the traits of a high-quality tenant?

1. Have all your info ready

Many rental companies and landlords accept applications online, but sometimes you’ll be asked to fill out a paper application at the time of the showing. Make sure to bring all the information listed above so you can fill out the application as thoroughly as possible. If there is a link to an online application in the rental advertisement, filling it out before the showing can be a great way to “cut in line.”

Rental application fees are typically non-refundable, so be sure this is really the rental for you, or be prepared to forfeit the application fee. If a property manager is still using paper applications, be sure to ask how they plan to secure your sensitive information to mitigate the risks of identity theft.

In most cases, you’ll need only a handful of items to apply for a rental property. These include, but aren’t limited, to:

Employment history

Not only will you need contact information and payment history for your current position(s), but likely for the past two years, as well.

Pay stubs or other proof of income

Most landlords require you to prove your income. Be sure to check the income requirements for the particular property. Some require you to earn at least two times (and sometimes three times) the monthly rental amount.

Rental history

Gather all your past addresses and previous landlords’ contact information (phone number and email). Your potential landlord needs to check your rental references to ensure you’ve paid your rent on time and haven’t had any disputes with past landlords.

Credit score

It’s valuable to know what shows up on your credit report before you apply to any rental property. If there are any inaccuracies, you’ll have time to dispute the issue with the credit bureau. And, if you see any potential red flags, you can tell your potential landlord right away so there aren’t any surprises when they check your credit report. You can check your own credit report for free at annualcreditreport.com, the only source for federally authorized free credit reports.

Check your credit score and credit history before beginning the application process. While an application won’t ask you directly for your credit score, you can be sure that at some point during the application process, the landlord will check your credit score. There are a handful of credit resources online (including annualcreditreport.com) that allow a free credit check every 12 months. Be aware of the credit requirements for the rental property; it may not be worth having your credit pulled if you know you don’t meet the requirements. A soft credit inquiry won’t negatively affect your credit score.

Rental references

Most potential landlords will want to interview your former or current landlords. They’ll want to know if you paid rent on time and kept your place clean. Be sure to leave on good terms, and ask your former landlords if they’d be willing to give a positive reference.

Personal references

Most applications require you to list at least two personal references. These people can be previous bosses, friends, roommates, or people you trust who’ve known you for a long time.

2. Keep your word

Don’t be that applicant who makes an appointment but never shows up or who fails to email or call back when they say they will. If you’re serious about seeing the property, show up. And be on time.

So, you made it to the showing appointment, love the apartment, must have it, and promise to fill out the online application as soon as you get home. It’s in your best interest to actually fill out the application as soon as you get home (or somewhere where you can fully fill out the app).

If the landlord is using Cozy, you can fill out an application from your phone before you even leave the property. If the landlord is still using paper applications, you can still share your Cozy renter profile, which gives them more info and helps set you apart.

Most competitive rental situations generally operate on a first-come-first-serve basis for qualified applicants. If the next qualified person to view the unit gets their application in first, and they’re approved, you’ll probably lose the apartment.

3. Treat a rental property viewing like a job interview

First impressions count, even when applying for a property. Just a little preparation will make a big difference.

Make a good first impression

Dress professionally (or at least like you didn’t just roll out of bed), be on time, and be courteous. Don’t show up wearing pajama pants or with alcohol on your breath to view rentals. Landlords notice these things.

Know your stuff

Be as knowledgeable about the rental property as you can. A good rental advertisement includes details like the rental amount, security deposit, lease duration, which utilities are included, and the screening criteria. The more you know, the more it shows that you’ve done your legwork and are serious about getting the place.

Ask good questions

These include things that you’d have no way of knowing from the rental ad, like how the landlord prefers to handle maintenance issues or for details about the “vibe” of the building.

Let them know why you’re moving

This is a touchy subject because not everyone has a positive reason for a move—and by no means do landlords expect you to divulge extremely personal information—but what landlords really want to understand is your motivation. Show a landlord you’re ready to move, and prove why you’d be a great tenant. Do you have a history of staying long term at past rentals? Do you play well with others? Are you easygoing and responsible?

4. Don’t try to hide your past

Life happens. Every landlord and property manager is a human who has the capacity to understand that we all make mistakes. Sometimes it just takes an explanation and their understanding for you to get a second chance.

Disclosure is key. If you have a DUI on your record, less than stellar credit, or even a negative rental history, fess up. It’s better for the landlord to receive an explanation from you upfront than to uncover your background while researching your application. Landlords might then assume you were trying to hide information, which is not a good way to begin a landlord/tenant relationship.

Some landlords forgive credit blemishes if you are willing to pay an additional security deposit. Timing matters, too. Is your poor credit score because of problems five years ago or five months ago? Most landlords weigh student loan and/or medical debt differently than a year of missed credit card payments.

Some landlords may let you have a cosigner who is typically a relative (but can be someone else as well). This person should be willing to vouch for you and take on rental payment responsibility.

It can be tough to find a rental if you have poor credit or an eviction on your record, but it’s not impossible. Do your best to be upfront about any issues a landlord may find during the application process, and ask if they’d be willing to work with you. This will save everyone time, and more often than not, you’ll be rewarded for your honesty.

5. Be yourself

It may be a cliche, but the more you let your wonderful self shine while viewing the rental, the more you’ll get an idea of whether the property is right for you. A happy tenant makes a happy landlord, and there’s nothing better than a happy landlord.

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