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List: Posted: 01/28/11
When you are renting a house or apartment, you expect your rented unit to be in reasonable condition when you first move in. The appliances should all work, the electricity and wiring should be up to code, and in general the home should be fully functional and habitable.
But what about as the months or even years go by? When you are renting long term, this means that things such as your paint and carpet should be maintained regularly. That begs the question of how often your landlord is obligated to paint or replace the carpet, or visit the hardware store to update your electrical fittings and fixtures.
The surprising answer to this question is that they don’t have any obligation. If you have lead paint in your home or toxic substances such as asbestos that may create a heath hazard, the landlord must take action to have it removed, but there is no law stating that your apartment or home must be painted at any set interval, whether you rent it or not. Unless it is part of your lease, your landlord can go for decades without painting if he or she chooses.
The same is true for the carpet, furniture and ventilation fixtures. Unless he or she promised in the lease to replace it, and you get his promise on paper, there is no obligation for them to do so.
It is worth knowing that most landlords prefer to do all renewal work including painting, re-carpeting etc once you move out, before the next tenants move in. This can seem like a pre-set trap, especially for long term renters, because it means that the carpet and all interior items will obviously show much more wear than when you moved in. This gives your landlord an excuse to use some or all of your deposit to replace it. If your landlord was totally honest with you, he'd tell you that the whole point of you giving a deposit is to give him decorating money to fix up the place once you move out!
The simple fact is that renting comes with only the promise of habitable living, no more. Anything beyond that, unless stated in your lease, is extra. Apartment rental comes with financial risks, but asking for lease amendments in the beginning can keep you protected in the event of rental furnishings being damaged or worn out while you are leasing the apartment.
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