Landlord or Slumlord?

 

When you move into a new place, there are certain expectations that you generally have: The place should be cleaned in advance, everything should be working properly, and it should, hopefully, be vacant before you get there. This is part of the contract you make with whichever apartment complex or landlord you give your hard-earned money to. However, reality often fails to meet this expectation.

I personally have had to deal with my intended apartment being filled with rolls of carpet on move-in day, going a year without heat or air conditioning, and having a giant engine-grease stain in the middle of the floor that evidently wasn’t my landlord’s problem. Sadly, these situations are fairly commonplace.

This begs the question, what exactly does an apartment owe us as tenants? I mean, we give them our hard-earned money in order to have a roof over our heads, a bed to sleep in, and somewhere to watch Netflix in relative comfort. At the very least the housing overlords should make sure that we have working appliances (no heat or AC for a year!) and a clean place upon moving in.

Yet more than just the general cleanliness of an apartment is at stake here. I talked to one student who had to deal with the local complex security guard accusing him of stealing a phone and searching through his room without consent. Now, without having seen the contract that this student signed, I can’t say whether or not an implied consent clause would have been included; however, this still raises some important concerns about our right to privacy. If this security guard were a cop, he would have needed either consent or a warrant. Shouldn’t we have the same protections against private security?

Another glaring issue is the general length of time it takes for most apartments to take care of work orders. Another student I spoke with was having issues with his bathroom ceiling leaking. After he reported this, it took his complex three weeks to send someone to check on it. Then it took another three weeks to go about fixing the problem (the upstairs tenant didn’t have a shower curtain) and repair the water damage. For the duration, he was out of a bathroom. It should go without saying that this is a problem.

Sadly, these kinds of situations are neither unique nor uncommon. So how is it that these sorts of issues are so widespread? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First off, many tenants do not read their lease agreements carefully. It’s the basic issue of “Terms and Agreements”, you just agree because nobody has time to read all of that crap. But this can get you into quite a bit of trouble as literally anything can be put in there. So make sure to read and understand every line. It sucks, but it’s important.

Secondly, many of us aren’t aware of our tenant rights, or are even aware that there is such a thing. Had I been aware of my Repair and Deduct right, I could have saved myself a few freezing nights last winter. For a general overview of Utah renting rights, cruise on over to http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/overview-landlord-tenant-laws-utah.html.

So what’s the moral of the story? Know what you’re entitled to as a legal tenant and don’t be afraid to ask that things get taken care of in a timely manner. In my personal experience, threats of legal action do wonders for getting some motivation in an otherwise lazy landlord.

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