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*The Application

*Waiting, waiting, waiting

*The Final Decision

Recently, I had a discussion with my husband on the topic of landlords and references. Some of the items he mentioned reminded me of how a prospective job searcher crosses their fingers in the hopes that a prior employer will give them a rave review about their work ethics so that they may progress their career. To be honest, there is a fear factor involved. What will my employer say? Will it impact my advancement opportunity? Is there something that will come back and haunt me later on? We sit in anticipation while we wait for the final outcome.

Applying for a new rental home can be much the same way. We fill out the application, provide our details, succumb to a background check and wait for the decision. While we may feel that we were terrific renters, long-term stay, took care of the property very well and reported all of the issues that needed maintaining right away so that there was no long-term damage done to the property, will the landlord feel the same way?

One of the best tools we have as a renter is the move in and move out inspection. Bring a camera if you feel you need photos to back it up. You could even use your cell phone if it has camera capabilities. Make sure you note EVERY item, down to the smallest of details. Is there a scratch in the linoleum? Do the counters have cut marks from the previous renters? Are there stains around the toilet? Do you see holes in the walls from pictures that were never filled? Are the window tracks clean or dirty? I found out the hard way that they are a pain to clean and it is costly to have the landlord bring in a cleaning company to finish up what you leave behind. Were the flower beds immaculate and weed free? Have you let them become overgrown? Better get to it and clean them up.

As a renter, you are obligated to leave the property in the same, if not better condition than when you moved in. While normal wear and tear (traffic areas on the carpet for example) are not something the landlord should be charging you for, the other items will add up faster than you think. While there is no standard for what should be considered wear and tear, keep in mind that the average lifespan of a carpet is 10 years, paint is 5-10 years and so on There is a great chart available at http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advice/life-expectancy.shtml if you’re interested in the averages. So, if you’re in a rental for 2 years and it needs repainting, you will most likely have at least some of the cost passed on to you – I used to prorate as a property manager, most landlords don’t.

You do have some means available to you if you disagree with the move out inspection or a reference you have been given. Just remember, you may be burning bridges for future references if you choose to go this route, so pick your battles accordingly.

– You can take a prior landlord to small claims court and plead your case. Tell the judge how long you lived there, admit to the damages that you feel were correct on the final assessment and argue the ones you feel are in error. While there is always a chance that you may not win, it is well within your right to challenge false or overzealous charges, especially if it is a large sum of money they are asking you to pay for.

– If you feel your “fair housing” rights have been violated, you can file a complaint at http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/online-complaint.cfm  Or, you can call toll-free 1 (800) 669-9777. You can also print out a form , complete it, and drop it or mail it to:

Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Room 5204
451 Seventh St. SW
Washington, DC 20410-2000

Best of luck to you no matter which search arena you’re in.

Do you have an interesting job or housing search story or experience you would like to share? I would love to hear it!

Lori Hartjoy is the owner of Blue Mountain Rentals, established in 2011. As well as being a devoted mother of 3 toddlers, she provides over 20 years of clerical experience to her clients. Her background includes processing employment, tenant screening, background checks and working as a property manager and payroll clerk for a major telecommunications corporation.

The information contained on this blog and from any communication related to the Blue Mountain Rentals website is provided for informational purposes only. All information you choose to use is at “your own risk”. Please visit www.bluemtnrentals.com for more information on how Blue Mountain Rentals can provide a win-win solution for your housing needs.

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