Renting an Apartment or House Due to Divorce
Key Points
  • Renting can be easier than owning, and often is the only option in a divorce. You are the tenant when you rent and you should always have a written lease.
  • If you have a verbal agreement that you can live in a place, a tenant at will, or you have a lease that has no specific dates, an expired lease or month-to-month lease, your landlord can require you to leave and only has to give you 30 days notice.
  • Most places you are looking at are probably asking for a security deposit. This requirement may or may not be negotiable. The landlord is trying to protect himself from any potential damage to the apartment or unpaid rent while you are a resident. If the landlord is asking for a security deposit of more than one month’s rent, you should ask for a breakdown of that amount. Landlords often try to keep all or part of the security deposit so they can make improvements once you move out. Make sure the apartment is clean and damage free when you move so the landlord has no reason to keep the security.

When you rent an apartment you are considered the tenant. There are typically three main types of tenants.

Tenants with written leases:

Most leases are set for a certain period of time, typically one full year. It is extremely important to know whether or not your lease is self extending, or whether you have the option to renew. If your lease is self-extending, you must give your landlord written notice that you want to discontinue or not renew your lease. Normally, you must deliver this information to the landlord one month prior to the ending of the lease. Otherwise, the lease will automatically be renewed for an additional year ( if that was the original lease agreement).

If your lease gives you an option to renew, than you are not required to give a written notice prior to the ending of the initial lease. You will have to give notice if you plan to renew.

Tenant at Will:

If you are living in your apartment without any type of written lease, but with the verbal permission of the landlord, you are a tenant at will. Under this type of tenancy and agreement, the landlord can require you to leave as long as he or she has given you 30 days prior notice.

A tenant at will means you may have an oral agreement, a written lease without date specifications, an expired lease, or a written lease that is month to month.

Tenants by Regulation:

If you are going to be living in an apartment protected under rent control, or if you live in a public or subsidized housing, you are a tenant by regulation. You may have additional protections and obligations under federal, state, and local laws.

Security Deposits

A security deposit is money that you give the landlord prior to moving into the apartment or house. The purpose of the security deposit is to protect the landlord for any damage to the apartment or unpaid rent while you are living there. The landlord is required to keep the security deposit in a separate bank account and deliver you the deposit plus five percent interest as long as the walk through at the end of your lease proves that the apartment does not have any extended damage or wear and tear. A security deposit typically should not be more than one months rent. It is not uncommon for landlords to attempt to keep all or part of the security deposit, because often times improvements will have to be made before another party is willing to rent the apartment.

Statement of Condition

Within ten days of moving, the landlord should deliver to you a signed statement of condition describing the condition of the apartment at the time of the move. The statement will appear as a valuation checklist of different items inside the apartment ( walls, windows, shades, appliances, etc.). The checklist will describe the condition of the items and it is your responsibility to review each item on the list to make sure it is accurate. The statement of condition should be disputed or signed and returned with in two weeks. Otherwise it will be assumed that you agree with the statement.

Last Month’s Rent

The last month’s rent is to protect your landlord in case you leave before the lease is over. This will give the landlord a months rent, until another tenant is found. The last month’s rent is often used as a security deposit. The landlord does not have to keep the last month’s rent in a separate bank account, but is required to pay interest on it if he or she plans to return it. Always remember to get a dated receipt for everything you give your landlord.

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