WEB EXTRA: Factfinder – know your renter’s rights

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Before you sign a lease, there are things you need to know about renting.

FILE – In this April 23, 2018, file photo a for rent sign denotes the availability of another existing home in Jackson, Miss. Millennials are delaying homeownership and staying in leased housing longer than previous generations, studies show. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – With the fall semester beginning at universities across the Mid-South, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance believes many students will become first-time renters of houses and apartments.

Before you sign a lease, you need to know your renter’s rights to avoid potential issues. 

Because a lease is a legal, binding contract, when issues arise, it’s important tenants fully understand each section before signing it. 

One common misconception about your rights as a tenant is that you can withhold rent because of a maintenance or repair issue. 

The TDCI Division of Consumer Affairs suggests putting repair requests in writing. In a blog post (FOUND HERE), the agency noted repairs should be fixed within 14 days. If not, the agency recommends tenants reach out to an attorney or Legal Aid Society. 

The agency also recommends:

  • Walkthrough the actual unit you will be renting. If the landlord won’t let you see the unit, think twice. Remember: Renter beware!
  • Make a list of repairs. If important things don’t work, ask the landlord to fix them before you sign your lease or move in.
  • Keep a copy of the requests you made.
  • Take photos before moving in. 
  • Carefully read your lease before you sign and make sure all things owed to you prior to moving in are properly documented. 
  • After you sign the lease, keep the paperwork somewhere safe!
  • Pay your rent on time. If late, the landlord can charge up to a 10% late fee. 
  • Make sure that a working smoke detector is installed. Tennessee Law requires smoke detectors in one to two-bedroom dwellings. 

The Better Business Bureau suggests checking with bbb.org and looking for online reviews of apartment complexes. If you have experienced a problem with your landlord, or any business, you can file a complaint at bbb.org.

Also, don’t forget about renter’s insurance. While a landlord or property owner may be insured, it will not cover your items. 

©TEGNA Inc. 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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