1. Read Your Lease. That’s right. Read it. Don’t skim it. Don’t presume you have the general understanding of it. Read it. It is a binding legal contract. It definitely is not up there with The Shawshank Redemption I grant you. But that was only a short story, so the few pages of the legalese in the lease will feel like it took you about the same length of time to read it. And it will prevent you from feeling like you are reading Misery later! Seriously though, the lease creates a binding relationship between you and your landlord. What did you agree to? If you don’t understand, ask questions before you sign it.
2. Pay Your Rent on Time. Many tenants believe they have a “grace” period. In fact most leases will not apply a late fee until after the 5th of the month. Some of the leases might make it the 3rd. However, if you read the lease, it does say without exception that rent is due on the 1st. So if you train yourself to have it paid on the 1st you will never run the risk of any glitches in rent arriving after the fees get applied. Also, depending on the landlord, if they are asked by your next landlord if you have paid rent on time, and you have always paid on the 5th, it will be at their discretion to state whether you were late every month on rent.
3. If You Do Not Know if it is Allowed, Get Permission. You moved in to your new house and decide that a room could do with a new exciting color of paint. Or “I’d love a new puppy”. How about “Let’s replace the light fixtures in the dining room”. They may seem like tasteful upgrades and that is of course true. That also makes them improvements to the home however. Which means you want to get the landlord’s written permission first. If the lease specifically says “DON’T” you must get any exception you might have agreed in writing (not just verbal) to make it a DO. Save the correspondence and keep it in a file with your lease. You may well need it later when you move out and your landlord has forgotten all about that conversation.
4. Put it in Writing. If you have a non-emergency request such as a leaky faucet, submit the request in writing (online counts). You can follow up with a phone call if you like. Getting it in writing means it is documented for both yourself and the landlord. While landlords appreciate being informed of maintenance related items right away please keep in mind there are some small issues that fall on you, the tenant, to remedy. For example, light bulbs, you’ll need a step stool and you will need to replace them yourself. Same goes for smoke detector batteries and air filters just to name a few. No need to bother the landlord.
5. Treat Others How You Expect to be Treated. Landlords do not like mediating arguments between tenants. Nearly all tenant issues can and should be resolved without the landlord. If there are problems with a neighbor, don’t be passive aggressive. Address the problem directly with the offending neighbor. The goal isn’t to try and argue or to prove a point, but to create an environment where both parties can live peacefully. Be a respectful and courteous neighbor and tenant.
6. Respect Your Home. You would think that this goes without saying. But keep your house in clean and sanitary condition. Live in it with pride. If you have pets, pick up after them inside and outside.