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ask to have all the items repaired. Be sure to keep a copy of this list yourself. If the landlord promises to fix the items, get the promise in writing (or, better yet, refuse to sign the lease or give a deposit until the items are repaired to your satisfaction). Finally, it is wise to check out the landlord before you agree to rent or put down a deposit. If the city has a tenant association, better business bureau, or consumer protection agency, call and find out if other people have complained about the landlord, complex, or management company. Ask if the landlord owns any other rental properties. If so, check into those too.


Some landlords may charge you a nonrefundable application fee to pay for the costs or screening your rental application, and/or they may ask for an application deposit which is refundable to you if you are rejected as a tenant. When you are provided with the application, the landlord must make available to you written notice of the selection criteria that will be used to determine if your application will be accepted or denied and will state that if you do not meet the selection criteria or provide incomplete information, your application may be rejected and your application fee will not be refunded. These selection criteria may include criminal history, previous rental history, current income, credit history, or failure to complete the information on the application. If the landlord rejects your application, but did not give you notice of the selection criteria, she must return your application fee and any application deposit. Also, if you request a refund of your application deposit, the landlord must mail you a refund check at the address you provide. If a landlord acts in bad faith by failing to refund your application fee or deposit, she may be liable for $100, three times the amount wrongfully retained, plus your reasonable attorneys’ fees.


The importance of the lease cannot be overemphasized. Your basic rights and duties, as well as those of your landlord, will be found in the lease. If you violate the lease, the landlord may have the right to ask you to move and hold you liable for future rent payments and other damages. Many people sign the lease without carefully reading it. Often the lease consists of a long form which the landlord will say is the "standard" form that everyone signs. Do not sign a lease until you have read it and feel you understand it. A lease is valid as soon as you sign it, and you usually cannot back out if you change your mind. See "Consequences for Terminating Without Excuse."

You can modify a lease before you sign it. The law permits you to make almost any change in the terms of the lease, as long as the landlord agrees to the change. Do not be afraid to propose changes in the lease. Make the changes in ink and make sure that you and the landlord initial the changes. Do NOT leave the manager's office without a copy of the final lease agreement. If you get into a dispute with your landlord, you will find it difficult to rely on verbal promises that have


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