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Being a Successful Tenant

There are many things you can do to be a good tenant. Below are items to pay attention to:

Getting Along with Your Community

Rent payment plan

Nothing is more important to the landlord than getting the rent on time. Make sure you have a plan for how and when you will do so. Many landlords do not take a check, so you may need to get a money order or certified check. Have a plan for getting the money and for getting it to the landlord or the property manager. Make sure you get a receipt for your payment whenever possible. If you need supports for getting your rent paid, be sure that this need is part of your person-centered plan.

Getting Along with Neighbors

Some neighbors can become good friends. Some you may not get along with. If a neighbor is doing something that disturbs you, the best thing to do is talk with the property manager or landlord about the issue. They will know how to handle things. It is not recommended that you talk directly to the neighbor.

Getting Along with the Property Manager

Your relationship with the property manager is very important. He or she is there to help you and work with you to be successful. If you have questions about living in your new home, ask the property manager. If you have a concern, tell him or her

Getting Along with Maintenance Staff

The maintenance staff performs essential tasks for you and the rental community. They take care of the property, common areas, stairwells, elevators and things that are not working right in your unit. It is helpful to have a good relationship with the maintenance staff. It’s also important to report maintenance problems as soon as you notice them and to make sure that the area where they will be working is clear of items that may be in the way. Be sure to keep a written log of maintenance issues you have.

Requesting Exceptions to the Rules

As a person with a disability, you are entitled under Fair Housing Law to request changes in the rules that will help to address a disability-related need. This is called a “reasonable accommodation.” More information on laws protecting people with disabilities in housing can be found under the Fair Housing tab. Examples of reasonable accommodations related to the community rules include having someone else copied on all communication to you such as your family or case manager, having an alternative method of disposing of trash if you are not able to reach the dumpster door, having alternative pest control chemicals if you have a chemical sensitivity, having an assistance animal that helps you with tasks or provides necessary emotional support and having an additional key fob for staff or family.

Caring for Your Apartment

Keeping the Apartment Clean

It is your responsibility to keep your unit clean and free of debris. Regular vacuuming, mopping, wiping counters, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms and disposing of trash and other items you do not need or no longer use will make keeping your unit in good shape much easier. Your landlord or the property manager will inspect your unit periodically, including right before you renew your lease. In addition, when maintenance staff are in your unit, they will look for things that may be of concern and report them to the landlord. If you need assistance with keeping your home clean, it is a good idea to plan for staff support for this in your person-centered plan. This can include having someone clean your unit periodically, having staff remove trash and other debris or having family give you a hand with some chores.

For tips on cleaning your apartment, go to How to Clean Your House or Apartment Quickly and Effectively.

Caring for Pets or Assistance Animals

If you have a pet or an assistance animal, the expectation is that you will care for the animal and have it under your control at all times. This means that dogs must be on a leash and you must be able to handle the dog if it gets excited. You must have the dog on a leash when it needs to go to the bathroom and you must also clean up the waste right away. If you have a cat, you will need to make sure it does not leave your unit and that any smell from the litter box can’t be detected from outside of your apartment.

Reporting Insects or other Pests

If you see any pests such as ants, roaches, flies, gnats, spiders, centipedes, etc., you should report this to the property manager right away. Most apartment communities have pest control contracts and can have someone treat your apartment quickly. Some apartment communities have preventative pest control treatments applied periodically, usually every three months. You will receive a notice ahead of time that the pest control people will be coming. There’s no need to be home when the apartment is treated. However, you do need to allow the treatment to be done.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are serious concerns due to the possible health risks they have. If you see mold or mildew anywhere in your apartment, report it to the property manager right away. They will treat the problem so it is less likely to come back. Mold and mildew are most likely to occur in damp places like the kitchen and bathroom. They can also grow more often in window sills, corners of rooms and near HVAC systems.

Mold is a type of fungus that consists of small organisms found almost everywhere. They can be black, white, orange, green or purple. Outdoors, molds play an important role in nature, breaking down dead leaves, plants and trees. Molds thrive on moisture and reproduce by means of tiny, lightweight spores that travel through the air. You’re exposed to mold every day.

In small amounts, mold spores are usually harmless, but when they land on a damp spot in your home, they can start to grow. When mold is growing on a surface, spores can be released into the air where they can be easily inhaled. If you’re sensitive to mold and inhale a large number of spores, you could experience health problems.

It’s impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores in your home, but because mold spores can’t grow without moisture, reducing moisture in your home is the best way to prevent or eliminate mold growth. If there is already mold growing in your home, it’s important to clean up the mold and fix the problem causing dampness. If you clean up the mold but don’t fix the problem, the mold will most likely return.

Bathroom Tip: Places that are often or always damp can be hard to maintain completely free of mold. If there’s some mold in the shower or elsewhere in the bathroom that seems to reappear, increasing ventilation (running a fan or opening a window) and cleaning more frequently will usually prevent mold from recurring, or at least keep the mold to a minimum.

Tenant Responsibilities for Damage

You are responsible for damage that happens to your unit that is beyond “normal wear and tear.” Normal wear and tear includes small holes that were made to hang pictures, marks on the walls and floors, worn carpet, etc.

Other damages – Any damage beyond normal wear and tear that happens to your apartment that is caused by you, your guests or your staff is your responsibility to fix. This includes large holes in walls, floors and carpet, holes in window screens, cracked windows, broken window blinds, etc.

It is important to have any damage that may occur fixed as soon as it is noticed. If the damage is not fixed by you, your landlord will deduct the cost of repairing the damage from your security deposit when you move out. This could result in a poor reference from your landlord.

Determining if a Maintenance Issue is an Emergency

A maintenance emergency should be reported immediately. Maintenance emergencies are problems that cannot wait to be reported because they are a safety hazard, are causing damage to the unit or can have a negative effect on your health. Examples of maintenance emergencies include:

  1. Fire
  2. Water leaks and flooding.
  3. Exterior door lock that is not working.
  4. No heat when temperatures are very cold.
  5. No air conditioning when temperatures are very hot.
  6. No running water.
  7. Smoke detector does not work when tested.
  8. No electricity.
  9. Stopped-up toilet in a unit with one bathroom.
  10. Broken window glass.

The community rules will often have information on what the landlord considers to be a maintenance emergency. There may also be a separate emergency maintenance phone number. If there is, you should write this on a piece of paper and put it on the refrigerator with a magnet or tape it to the inside of a kitchen cabinet door to keep it handy. You can also store it in your cell phone contacts list.

 

Reporting Non-Emergency Maintenance Issues

Non-emergency maintenance issues should be reported as soon as they are noticed, but can wait until the next business day if you notice the problem when the management office is closed. Examples include a dripping faucet, noisy air conditioner, hole in a window screen, burned-out light bulb in a ceiling fixture, toilet that doesn’t stop running, stopped up toilet in a unit with more than one bathroom and a dishwasher that doesn’t turn on.

Routine Maintenance

Smoke Detectors

Many newer rental communities have centralized smoke detector systems. Often, these systems use a different type of battery. The maintenance staff will take care of replacing the batteries when needed. However, you should test the smoke detectors every month by pushing the button on the detector. You may need to use a broom handle or other long object to reach the button. If the smoke detector does not work, this is a maintenance emergency.

If your smoke detector is not part of a centralized system, you will need to replace the battery every six months. A good way to remember this is to change the battery when time changes in the spring and fall.

If you are not able to change the battery yourself, you can ask the maintenance staff to help you. You could also ask your staff, family or a friend.

Learn More about Smoke Alarms

HVAC Filters

Most homes have some sort of furnace or heat pump. Many of them (especially newer ones) have combined heating, ventilation and air-conditioning or HVAC systems. Each type uses some type of air filter or screen to prevent larger airborne particles from entering the system and clogging sensitive machinery. A system that has a dirty filter has reduced air flow, or “blowout,” resulting in no air infiltration at all. Any of these conditions can cause the system to work harder to keep the home warm or cool. Any mechanical component that has to work harder to run efficiently puts undue stress on the whole system, which can lead to premature failure, resulting in repair or replacement.

Also, a dirty filter that’s exposed to condensation can become damp, which can lead to mold growth that can be spread throughout the home by the HVAC system. This can lead to serious health consequences, not to mention a compromised unit that will likely require servicing and may require replacement, depending on the severity of the moisture problem.

The filter of the unit, especially if it’s an HVAC unit that will tend to get nearly year-round use, should be changed by the homeowner at least every three months, but possibly more often.

 

Maintaining the Toilet

Stopped-up toilets are the number one maintenance issue by far. If you can prevent the toilet from becoming stopped up and clear it if it does, you will be helping the maintenance staff in your community as well as yourself! The information below will be helpful in keeping your toilets working.

 

Using Appliances

The best way to get information on how to use the appliances in your new home is to ask the property manager, landlord or maintenance staff. In this section, you will find general information on using home appliances.

Thermostat

Many new apartments have programmable thermostats, which can allow you to set the temperature to automatically go up or down at certain times of day. These thermostats can also be adjusted manually, whenever you want the temperature to be higher or lower. You can also change from heat to air conditioning manually. It’s a good idea to ask the property manager or maintenance person to teach you how to use the thermostat in your home.

For general information on setting a thermostat, go to: How to Set a Thermostat: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

For tips on programming a thermostat, go to: Programmable Thermostat: How to Use & Set for Every Season

Refrigerator Temperature Settings:

Keep your refrigerator temperature at or below 40° F (4° C). The freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). Check temperatures periodically. Appliance thermometers are the best way of knowing these temperatures and are generally inexpensive.

For tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on storing food safely, go to Are You Storing Food Safely? | FDA

Stove

Your apartment will probably have an electric stove and oven. If you need help to use your stove, it’s best to ask the property manager or maintenance staff. They will know how to work the particular model of stove that you have.

If you have a gas stove, be sure to ask the property manager or maintenance staff for information on how to use your particular model. Be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector if you have a gas stove or other gas appliances.

Oven Cleaning

It is very important that you know whether you have a self-cleaning oven. If you do, NEVER use any oven cleaners in your self-cleaning oven. Doing so can cause a fire. Simply turn on the self-cleaning feature and let the oven do the work. It will heat to a super high temperature and turn any food that has dripped onto the oven to ashes. Be sure to remove anything you keep on top of the stove, next to it and towels that you hang from the oven door handle before you set the oven to self-clean. When the self-clean cycle is done and the oven is cool, you can wipe the ash out with a damp paper towel.

Dishwasher

Most apartments are equipped with a dishwasher. You can use it or you can wash and dry your dishes by hand, whichever you prefer. For tips on using a dishwasher, go to How to Use and Load a Dishwasher the Right Way

Garbage Disposal

Your apartment may have a garbage disposal. This is a machine that grinds up foods that you wash down the drain. You will need to use a switch to turn the disposal on and off. You only need to have a disposal turned on for a few seconds to clear the drain of debris.

It is best to only put foods in the garbage disposal that you are able to cut with a fork. This will help to ensure that the garbage disposal continues to work well and that the plumbing system does not get clogged. Tougher food items like bones, shells, potato peels and stringy vegetables like celery should go in the trash can.

Be sure to prevent silverware or other small non-food items from going down the drain. If something has gotten into the garbage disposal by mistake, it will make a very loud noise when you turn the garbage disposal on. If this happens, turn the garbage disposal off immediately, wait a couple of minutes to be sure it has stopped turning and use tongs or pliers to remove the item in the drain. Don’t reach in with your fingers because you could be cut by the sharp blades. You can also ask for help with this from maintenance staff, friends or family.

For more tips on caring for your garbage disposal, go to: 9 Tips for Using a Garbage Disposal Correctly.

For a list of items to NEVER put down your garbage disposal, go to 15 Things Never to Put Down Your Garbage Disposal.

Microwave

Most apartments will have a microwave, either installed above the stove or placed on a countertop. Different microwave brands will probably have different control panels. It’s a good idea to ask the property manager or maintenance staff to help you learn to use your new microwave.