Moldy walls. Garbage-strewn sidewalks. Water leaks. Rats. Not the sort of features that get mentioned in the "for rent" ads.
Metro Atlanta is built for the mobility generation. Hundreds of apartment complexes, thousands of units offered for rent to people who aren't ready to buy or just prefer what they imagine will be a carefree life of leasing.
But even with a lease, some renters can find themselves in a messy dispute with their landlord. In fact, it's one of the largest categories of complaints we get in the FOX 5 I-Team.
Often these disputes fall into one of three categories. Read on to make sure you don't make the same apartment mistake.
Rule #1: Look Before You Lease
Joi Ford and her family agreed to lease a Mableton apartment without ever seeing it. Sure, they looked at the model apartment. But when they showed up with their furniture to move into their actual unit, they say they had no idea it would be in the back of the complex, through a dirty entrance way that bordered the woods. A few weeks later they say they began to notice the mold building up on their shoes, the baby's car seat, even sprouting from inside the wall of their bedroom.
The apartment provided a dehumidifier for a few days, but the mold grew back. The property manager said Joi needed to run her AC more. She said she shouldn't have to run it 24/7.
The complex agreed to let her break the lease but wouldn't give back her deposit. She says she never would have put herself in this predicament if she'd only followed Rule #1. Look before you lease.
Rule #2: Get It In Writing
Amanda Duncan claims her Lawrenceville landlord agreed to return her $400 deposit if she left her apartment clean. She says she did just that. But a month later, the property manager sent her a letter saying the deposit was forfeited because of trash, food and a dirty diaper left behind.
Amanda had pictures showing a clean apartment, but the landlord produced one showing some cigarette packages on the toilet. Because she didn't get the deposit refund promise in writing, there was nothing Amanda could do.
Whenever you have a serious complaint with your landlord, put it in writing. And whenever they make a promise back to you, especially one that involves money, make sure you follow Rule #2. Get it in writing.
Rule #3: It's the Landlord's Job
The landlord can't make you responsible for repairs. That's the landlord's job. Also, they can't make you pay for services without working it out with you first, preferably in writing. Neil Morrison says after four years of living in a Cobb County apartment complex he discovered the complex had been making him pay for the security light over the parking lot. Somehow the light had been wired into his power box. Georgia Power says on average that would be an extra $30 on his monthly power bill, or $1440 over the four years he lived there.
After he complained, the complex decided not to renew Neil's lease when it ran out. They have that right. They offered him $876 credit for the past power bills.
If your landlord is not making proper repairs, housing legal experts say you can do the work yourself and deduct the cost from the rent. It's called "repair and deduct." You must first give the landlord notice in writing and a reasonable amount of time for the complex to address the problem. The term "reasonable" is not defined. Keep all receipts and written notices in case the landlord takes you to court for failing to pay all the rent.
Remember Rule #3, though. Any repairs you make, any security lights you pay for, it's really the landlord's job.