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Rent And Security Deposit Issues

A lease by its very nature requires payment by the tenant, usually on a monthly basis, of a rent or fee. In any rental situation, a potential tenant is also asked to provide a security deposit when first entering into a rental agreement or lease. Of course, matters are not always simple and disputes often arise between a tenant and a landlord regarding rent and security deposits. If you are caught in the midst of a dispute over rent or security deposit issues, an attorney specializing in real estate law at Baritz Law Associates LLC, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, can help steer you toward a fair resolution.

Rent Issues: How Much, How Often And How Late

Although it is generally legal for a landlord to require that rent be paid at other times, or at other intervals, rental payments are usually due to a landlord on the first day of the month. A landlord can only raise rent in a lease agreement (an agreement that is not on a month-to-month rental) if the lease expires, if the current lease provides for such an increase or if the tenant agrees to the change.

In a month-to-month lease, the landlord can generally raise rent by providing the tenant with proper written notice, which is often a 30-day period. In most situations, the “sky is the limit” for how much a landlord can charge for rent or for how much they can raise the rent. In a very small handful of communities, there are rent control laws that limit the amount of rent a landlord may charge for any particular property. These laws tend to exist in large urban areas such as New York City and San Francisco.

If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, a landlord may generally terminate the rental agreement. In most states, there is no law that establishes a “late period” for rental payments, although that is something that a landlord could certainly offer as part of a rental agreement.

Security Deposits: Making The Most Of Yours

A security deposit is required in virtually every lease and is essentially designed for two purposes: to ensure that the tenant will pay rent and to protect against any damage done to the property, other than normal wear and tear, during the rental period. If no damage occurs, a tenant is generally entitled to have his entire security deposit returned.

In some states, a security deposit may only be equal to one month’s rent. In other states, a landlord may charge two month’s rent or may have a “scale” for security deposits that fluctuates depending upon whether the apartment is furnished or unfurnished and whether the tenant has pets.

The laws requiring the return of a security deposit also vary greatly from state to state. Generally, a landlord is required to provide an old tenant with written documentation showing why a portion of a security deposit is being kept. A landlord may only “charge” a tenant for damage to a property, not for normal wear and tear.

Normal wear and tear are usually considered to include such things as faded paint and normal tread marks on carpeting. Damage to a rental property, something for which the tenant is usually liable, may include such things as broken windows, holes in walls, and broken or missing blinds and curtains. Remember, a landlord is generally only entitled to keep the portion of the security deposit that is considered reasonable for making the required repair. Thus, to repair a $20 hole in your wall the landlord is not entitled to keep $200 of the security deposit.

How To Keep Your Security Deposit

The easiest way to ensure that you will receive all, or at least most, of your security deposit back is to make a record of the condition of the property, both when you move in and when you move out. Go through the property before moving in and make a written list of everything visible, from cracks, frays and scratches to bigger problems. This is often referred to as a “walk-through” and it is a good idea to request that the landlord or owner to be present during the walk-through. If possible take pictures (which you should later write the date on) or make a video-recording of the property to preserve evidence of all defects. Requesting that the landlord review the list, photographs or movie and “sign off” on it does much to protect your rights later on. Perform the same walk-through when you leave property at the end of your lease or agreement. In some states, a landlord is required to provide a written checklist for a walk-through. If you do not live in one of those states, you can easily create your own checklist to use when moving in and out.

At the end of your agreement, when you are moving out, it is also important that you return all keys to your landlord and provide them with a forwarding address so that they will know where to return your security deposit. If they don’t have that information, or you still have keys to the property, there may be a delay in returning your deposit.

Speak To A Landlord-Tenant Lawyer

Rent and security deposit issues frequently arise in rental relationships and may involve arguments over how much money is due, when it is due or why money is not being returned after the end of a rental period. If you have issues concerning rent or security deposits, an experienced real estate law attorney at Baritz Law Associates LLC, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, can assist you in protecting your financial rights.

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