5 On Your Side


Posted August 20, 2018 7:57 p.m. EDT

College students are back in the Triangle. As they move into apartments and student housing, tenants should be aware of their rights.

Dirt, even mold, left behind by previous tenants is often not enough to legally cancel a rental contract.

While landlords are required to provide a "fit and habitable" living space, those terms typically refer to things such as working plumbing, safe electrical systems, and smoke detectors. A landlord also has a duty to keep units structurally safe and free of rodent and bug infestations.

That includes bed beds, which were found in a local student housing complex last year!

Lawyers say "cleanliness" issues – as gross and unfair as they may be – are usually considered a "cosmetic" issue. Walking away from a lease because of them, could cause a tenant both legal and credit problems.

The first step to resolving a rental dispute is to notify the manager in writing.

Renters should document all complaints: Take video and photos, and keep written notes of conversations with the landlord or property representative.

If renters pay for cleaning, they should save receipts and keep track of time spent. That data can be used to argue for reimbursement or a rent discount.

It's important to document the condition of any rental both when you move in and when you move out.