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In talking with renters certain questions come up again and again. We've selected 10 of the most common ones to list here. Click on each one to learn what we think is the answer. Please note: Many of the questions below do not have a simple, unqualified "yes" or "no" answer. Please read the full response!

  1. I want to move out of my apartment but my landlord says I'll have to pay him two month's rent. Can I just leave?
  2. Can I refuse to pay my rent because my landlord hasn't repaired my air conditioning?
  3. Is my landlord responsible for damages to my possessions from a fire in the building?
  4. Can my landlord keep my security deposit if I don't clean my carpet when I move out?
  5. Can my landlord make me move because my neighbors say I play my stereo too loud?
  6. I want to get my locks changed but my landlord says I'll have to pay for it. Can he do that?
  7. I put a sun shade on my balcony to keep out the sun. Now my landlord is saying I have to take it down. Do I?
  8. Our landlord just sent us a notice that says we have three days to pay our rent or move out. Does this mean we can move out and not have to pay?
  9. Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have two children?
  10. Can a landlord keep my application deposit if I never sign the lease and do not move in?

I want to move out of my apartment but my landlord says I'll have to pay him two month's rent. Can I just leave?

No. If your lease specifies that you will occupy the place for a certain span of time you are obligated to pay the rent for that span of time. In most states, if you breach the lease by moving out early your landlord can charge you for rent until another resident moves in and for his costs in re-renting the place. On the other hand, your landlord has an obligation to diligently attempt to re-rent the place so he can't just let it set empty. Some landlords will allow a resident to move out early by paying a "termination fee". This can be a good way out if you don't want to have to worry about how long the place will sit vacant.


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Can I refuse to pay my rent because my landlord hasn't repaired my air conditioning?

No. In most states, a tenant's remedy in a situation where the landlord will not make necessary repairs is either to move out or to pay for the repair and deduct it from the rent. Usually, refusing to pay your rent is frowned upon by the courts. BEWARE! There usually are explicit procedures that you will have to go by if you are going to withhold rent! Check your lease and, as always, consult an attorney before you take action.


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Is my landlord responsible for damages to my possessions from a fire in the building?

No. Most leases specify that you are on your own when it comes to damages to your personal possessions from fires, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters. You may be able to recover something from your landlord if you can show that the damage was due to his negligence.


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Can my landlord keep my security deposit if I don't clean my carpet when I move out?

Most states have statutes that govern the disposition of security deposits for rental property. While the situation varies from state to state, landlords typically are only able to deduct the actual cost of repairs for damage over and above normal wear and tear from a security deposit. So, at most, your landlord can only charge you for the actual cost of the carpet cleaning and may not be able to charge you for even that if there was no damage (beyond normal wear and tear) to the carpet. What is considered "normal wear and tear" varies from state to state, however, and is not always what the average person might think it is.


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Can my landlord make me move because my neighbors say I play my stereo too loud?

Yes. Most leases contain a "quiet enjoyment" clause that basically says you can't disrupt your neighbors. If you do you could be in violation of the terms of your lease. If you do not rectify this breach, your landlord could very well go to court to evict you.


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I want to get my locks changed but my landlord says I'll have to pay for it. Can he do that?

Yes. Unless the existing lock is defective or in violation of a building code, in most states a landlord is under no obligation to replace it. Some states have statutes that govern the placement of locks and the type of locks required in rental housing. Check with a local landlord or tenant's group to get details for your location.


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I put a sun shade on my balcony to keep out the sun. Now my landlord is saying I have to take it down. Do I?

Yes. Most leases prohibit the tenant from making modifications to the premises without obtaining the approval - usually in writing - of the landlord in advance. Putting up blinds could be considered an unauthorized modification. You're probably out of luck if the landlord says you have to take it down.


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Our landlord just sent us a notice that says we have three days to pay our rent or move out. Does this mean we can move out and not have to pay?

No. Sorry, it's not that simple. What you received was basically a "pay or perform" notice which is a legally required notice to you that you are not doing something required by your lease (like pay your rent). If you move out you will still be obligated to pay whatever charges are specified by your lease which could include such things as a lease cancellation fee, a charge for inadequate notice of your intent to vacate and a cost of reletting.


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Can a landlord refuse to rent to me because I have two children?

No. Federal fair housing law prohibits discrimination in the provision of rental housing on the basis of familial status. In plain English this means that the fact that you have children can not be used by a landlord to deny you housing.


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Can a landlord keep my application deposit if I never sign the lease and do not move in?

Yes. Most professional apartment management companies ask potential renters to sign a "rental application" agreement before they will reserve an apartment. The rental application will likely contain a provision allowing the landlord to keep all or a portion of any up front money you have paid if you cancel after a certain span of time - frequently 72 hours. Most states allow this type of agreement.


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