Some things I learned about renting from asking Student Legal Services about my renting issues
1. I don’t like my current place and am thinking of leaving. I don’t want to give notice because I don’t want to give the landlord a way of billing me or finding me after I leave, to make me pay for the rest of the lease. Can I just leave and have them come to find an empty apartment?
This is called abandonment and it can cause problems because, without notice, the landlord can always play dumb and act like “I didn’t know it was abandoned” (despite not receiving rent and seeing an empty, unlocked apartment). Then they could take their sweet time in renting it out again, all while collecting rent from you.
But with notice of your leaving, in most places, the landlord is required to make a good faith effort to re-rent it (i.e., even if it is a pain in the ass, it is their job). It would be “nice” for you to find your replacement, bu, ultimately, you paid to live there, you were not paid to live there, and it is not really your job to find your replacement. In a major city, posting an ad on something like Craigslist or the ad page of your local weekly paper should be enough to at least drive people to your landlord. When your landlord gets some inquiries, it will be clear to him/her that they should focus their energy on the place and leave you alone (to hate your new place, of course).
Will leaving a terrible apartment (just abandoning it, not even formally breaking the lease, as described above) affect my credit history even if I only have debit/checking and no credit?
Yes. Landlords look at credit histories before accepting you as a tenant even if you have no credit cards. Each time you rent an apartment, it can be considered like opening an account. Thus, landlords can see how your renting prior apartments can count toward your credit score. You should check your credit report once a year even if you have no credit cards.
Thus, as said above, just leaving the apartment, even if you think you are “teaching the landlord a lesson,” is not recommended. Always give written notice, even if it is not the optimal amount of notice. You don’t want to be held liable for more money than you have to be.
Breaking a lease just for leaving early (not for being behind in rent–assuming here that you are all paid up) will usually not show up on the credit report.
Sould I ever try to get evicted so that I can get out of a lease without being held liable for paying for the rest of the lease?
No. Finding apartments after being evicted is virtually impossible, because virtually no landlords ever want to rent to someone who was evicted, for any reason, even if the apartment was terrible.
[My interpretation: we’re in a “free society” that punishes nonconformists, and doesn’t give people second chances. So you have to just know these things, and conform from the get-go. Heaven forbid you should not have the parents or friends who would be teaching you these unsaid norms–where do you go for simple, unbiased information? Heaven forbid you like being a lone wolf–how do you survive?]
A problem that I’m having is that a lot of places have one-year leases and I don’t plan on staying in this city for one year. How can I get shelter? Should I just lie in order to get into a place? “Sure, I’m fine with staying one year.”
While it is possible to always “just lie,” you will have the same problems with leaving before the end of your lease–be prepared to accept financial responsibility for 1-2 months at least while your landlord attempts to find a new tenant.
Obviously, try to find a lease that’s shorter if that’s what you need–6 or 9 months or month-to-month.
[My interpretation: The laws exist to protect the landlords, not the tenants. The landlords are practicing usury in the renting of their apartments, and heaven forbid they should lose even 1/2 month or a month of income. They don’t provide people with shelter–they just have an income-generating operation. They don’t care how many times people have to uproot themselves in their lives, because they never do it.]
The apartment “manager” won’t give me the contact information of the owner. She says the owner has a lot of buildings, is very busy, doesn’t want to hear from tenants, etc. I’m not happy with the “work” the manager does and do wish to have direct contact with the owner. Is this kosher? While I realize seeking out the owner might not make me the most popular tenant, how can I find out who the owner is?
You can look up the owner on the Internet. Try the local city department of buildings, and cross your fingers.
I’d love emails on how to go about renting more intelligently or how to enrich this post. This information should be public so that landlords can stop intimidating hard-working, rent-paying tenants. The laws should change to be in better favor of the tenants, but until they do, tenants have to pool their intelligence and experience and help each other.