Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This is especially true in the world of tenant advocacy.
Tenants need to be proactive by ASKING QUESTIONS before signing a lease, such as:
How much is the rent?
When is the rent due?
To whom and where should the rent be paid?
Is a security deposit required?
To whom should problems and repairs be referred?
Will the lease be oral or in writing?
How long is the lease?
Who is responsible for utilities (electric, water, gas, etc.?)
What are the rules and regulations?
This is a vital part of the leasing process. Knowing the answers to these questions can prevent issues from arising, and the tenant should make sure that the answers given are included in any lease agreement.
Tenants also need to be proactive and INSPECT any potential rental property prior to making a lease agreement and prior to moving in to the property. Landlords of rental units are required to provide a working stove and refrigerator. Tenants should inspect to see that:
Kitchen appliances are in working order
Water pressure is strong, and plumbing is without leaks
Electrical outlets and wiring are working and in good condition
Walls and ceilings are painted or papered without cracks
Floors and railings are in good condition
Bathrooms are in working condition
Fire escape is easy to use
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are present and working
Stairs are safe and well-lit
Rodents or insects are not present
Ventilation, air conditioning, and heating system is in working order
Windows and doors are operable and weather-tight, and screens are provided.
Tenants should not rely on promises from a landlord to correct issues prior to moving in to the property. Ensure that any issues are corrected prior to signing a lease agreement. During the inspection note any damage to the property and, if possible, take pictures of the damage. If the tenant decides to rent the property, note the damage on the lease so that the tenant is not charged for the damage at move out.
An extremely important part of the leasing process is to READ THE ENTIRE LEASE if you have a written lease. In the age of Google, it is easy to download leases off the internet, but that does not mean that they are good leases. Both the tenant and the landlord should understand the terms in the lease prior to signing because the lease should outline the rights and responsibilities of each of the parties. Tenants can always contact the Berks County Bar Association, (610) 375-4591, which offers residential lease/rent-to-own lease reviews by attorneys for persons of limited means for a small fee. Tenants can also visit City Hall’s Property Maintenance Division to make sure that any potential property is in compliance with city ordinances and has proper rental permits. If the property is not in compliance or does not have proper permits, do not rent.
By advocating for oneself as a tenant and following Ben Franklin’s advice about prevention, a knowledgeable tenant can work to improve property conditions in the City of Reading and prevent landlord/tenant issues from occurring.