The relationship between a landlord and tenant is a common, yet complex one. Beneath the surface of the exchange of money for a place to live are a series of transactions, promises and rights that are not always acknowledged at the start of the landlord/tenant relationship. For example, some landlords and tenants rely on a spoken lease sealed with a handshake. Of course a written lease may be a better option for both landlord and tenant as it puts each person on notice as to what there respective rights and responsibilities are. For tenants, make sure you understand all the terms in the lease. Typically, the landlord presents the lease to the tenant and most terms may be in his or her favor. Pay particular attention to clauses that set forth such things as responsibility for maintenance, what happens if the apartment is damaged by fire, how disputes are to be handled, and how much notice is required before a tenant can move out. These are topics that may not be an issue at the time a lease is formed, but can become critical at a later date.
The security deposit is another important aspect of the lease. The law may limit the amount a landlord can charge as a security deposit, how the money is handled, and when it must be returned.
One special responsibility placed on a landlord is to provide a living space fit for the tenant to live in. This is called the Implied Warranty of Habitability and it ensures that basic systems such as heat and electricity are in working order and operate safely. This duty cannot be waived by a tenant.
Lastly, landlords often require that tenants provide references. If a tenant is planning to rent from an individual landlord instead of an apartment complex, it may be a good idea for the tenant to do some research too. Getting a reference or two can help you avoid a situation where one of the parties does not fulfill the duties and responsibilities of the landlord-tenant relationship.