Your Responsibilities as a Renter
Following a Lease
Now that you have learned how to read a lease, it is important to understand how to follow these guidelines as a tenant. Violating the lease may cause your landlord to file an eviction against you, which results in a poor rental history. This can make it more difficult to find another unit.
Common Lease Violations
- Not paying rent: Your landlord will expect you to pay your full rent on time every month.
- Damage to property: Whether done on purpose or by accident, causing major damage to an apartment or common areas (e.g. hallways, outdoor spaces, or a laundry room) can be grounds for eviction.
- Lack of cleanliness or disrepair: It is your responsibility to maintain your unit in a clean and orderly fashion. You may also be expected to complete certain minor repairs.
- Nuisance violations: Most lease agreements prohibit tenants from engaging in activities that interfere with their neighbors’ ability to enjoy their units. Some examples of these behaviors include noise complaints (e.g. parties or loud music/television), leaving personal belongings in common areas, and starting arguments with other tenants.
- Criminal activity: It is common for a lease to prohibit tenants from engaging in illegal or criminal activities, such as using illicit substances, getting into physical fights, or attempting to set up an unauthorized business in the residence.
- Smoking: A growing number of rental properties prohibit indoor smoking. If this is the case in your building, you will be required to refrain from any type of smoking in your unit.
- Be Aware! Although the use of recreational cannabis is now legal in New York State, many leases still prohibit any form of smoking that is done indoors.
- Unauthorized pets:If your lease specifies that pets are prohibited, you may be evicted if you are found to have an animal living with you.
- Know Your Rights! These rules do not apply to service animals (animals trained to help a person with a disability to complete at least one specific task) or emotional support animals (animals that provide comfort or support to an individual with a diagnosed mental health condition). You cannot be evicted for having a service or emotional support animal in your home, as long as you have the proper documentation.
One of your most important responsibilities as a tenant is to pay your entire rent on time each month. Paying your rent, along with communicating when you are having financial troubles, is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy landlord-tenant relationship. Late or missing rental payments can lead to late fees, conflict with your landlord, or having an eviction filed against you. It can also make it more difficult to find housing in the future, as your landlord may give you a poor reference.
Tips for Paying Rent on Time
- If you use a paper calendar or planner, write down a reminder to pay the rent a few days before it’s due each month. This will give you a chance to get the funds together and to send in your payment on time.
- If you use a smartphone, set up a monthly calendar item or reminder for 3 days before the rent is due. You can set up an alert notification for that calendar event.
- Better yet, set up an automated payment from your checking or savings account.
- It is important to note that these funds may take a few days to process – try setting up the automatic payment to transfer a week before the rent is due.
- If you mail a rent check, buy a box of envelopes and a book of stamps. Keep them with your other important papers. This way, you will never be in a bind to mail out your check.
- Ask your landlord if they can automatically deduct your rent from a credit or debit card.
What to Do If You Will Have Trouble Paying Rent
Despite their best efforts, some tenants will still experience a financial emergency that can impact their ability to pay rent at some point in their lives. It is a good idea to have a plan to handle this situation before such an emergency arises. If you think you may have trouble paying your rent in full and on time, contact your landlord as soon as possible.
These are some tips for discussing your situation:
- Be honest: Explain that you are having a financial emergency and that your rent may be late this month. Assure your landlord that paying the rent is a priority for you. Your landlord may be more willing to work with you if you are up-front about the problem and let them know in advance that you are having trouble paying rent.
- Offer to make a partial payment: Any amount of rent that you can pay now helps to show your landlord that are making an effort to catch up.
- Come up with a plan: Look for local rental assistance programs, and be sure to keep your landlord informed about your plans.
Local Resources for Emergency Assistance
These are some local resources that may be able to help with emergency rental assistance.
What is 211? 211 is a free, 24/7 hotline that helps connect people to important resources in their communities. You can call 211 for the most up-to-date information on rental assistance programs and other resources in the Albany area. You can also call 211 to learn more about local food pantries, utility assistance programs, and signing up for public benefits.
Taking Care of a Home
Most likely, your lease agreement requires you to keep your rental unit clean and in good condition. If you don't, your landlord may keep all or part of your security deposit when you leave. If the unit is in very poor shape, you may also be subject to eviction.
The 8 Healthy Home Principles
Following the 8 Healthy Home Principles created by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can help make sure that your home is safe for you and your family, and that you get as much of your deposit back as possible when you move out.
- Keep your home dry. Mold, mildew, mites, and many pests thrive in damp environments - this can cause or worse asthma and allergies.
- Keep your home clean. Keeping your home tidy and clean helps protect your family from pests and contaminants.
- Keep your home safe. Most injuries among children happen at home. Falls, injuries from objects, burns, and poisonings are all common among families in the United States.
- Keep your home well-ventilated. Having enough fresh air in your home can help you to breathe easier, improving your respiratory health.
- Keep your home pest-free. Household pests can carry a variety of diseases, in addition to causing and aggravating asthma and allergies in children. Unlicensed pest control treatments can also expose your family to toxins.
- Keep your home contaminant-free. Common contaminants in the home may include lead, radon (common in basements), natural gas, carbon monoxide, and secondhand smoke. These contaminants can accumulate and become concentrated indoors.
- Keep your home maintained. Homes that lack routine maintenance may suffer from issues with moisture and are at an elevated risk for pest infestations and safety hazards. Small repairs can easily become large problems over time.
- Keep your home thermally controlled. Homes that do not maintain stable temperatures can expose residents to extreme heat or cold.
Why Keep It Clean?
Even though most of us spend at least half of our lives inside our homes, our homes can also harbor hidden hazards that can affect our health and safety. Identifying household problems and fixing them promptly can help keep your family safe. Furthermore, keeping your home clean over has the following benefits:
- Lower risk of illness or injuries around the home
- Less wear-and-tear on your unit and belongings
- Keep more of your security deposit
- Fewer issues with pests
- Lower risk of a fire (fewer fire hazards)
- Spend less time looking for items
- Lower chance of Child Protective Services intervening because your home is unclean
How to Use Common Cleaning Supplies
NOTE: DO NOT COMBINE CHLORINE BLEACH WITH AMMONIA.
- Liquid dishwashing soap: Can be used for many cleaning tasks. Needs rinsing.
- Chlorine bleach: Can be used to disinfect surfaces. Good for removing mold and mildew (hard surfaces). May stain surfaces - test a small area before using. Needs rinsing.
- Baking soda: Has abrasive properties. Good for cleaning hard surfaces like sinks and countertops.
- Sudsy ammonia: Cuts grease. Can be used as an oven cleaner.
- All-purpose cleaner: Can be used on most surfaces. May need to be diluted with water.
- Other supplies to have on hand:
- Broom and dustpan
- Rags, scrubbing sponges, or scrub brushes
- Bucket and mop
- Toilet bowl brush (and plunger)
Home Cleaning Checklist
A Home Cleaning Checklist can be a helpful tool for anyone who is unfamiliar with caring for a home. This chart outlines a variety of household cleaning activities, and when they should be completed. A sample Home Cleaning Checklist is available to download above.