BEFORE SIGNING A LEASE
When you are looking for a rental home, don’t just rent from anyone. Make sure you do the following before signing a lease:
- Know who manages the apartment community or rental home. Professional property management companies will proudly display their management company sign at the apartment community and on their website, and the staff will gladly share this information. Find out if they are a member of the Tulsa Apartment Association (TAA). Members of the TAA are required to adhere to bylaws and a code of ethics which include abiding by “all local, state and federal housing laws”, operating apartment communities “in a fair and honorable manner”, and providing “better value and quality of life” for residents.
- Do your research. With a quick internet search, you can typically find out a lot about the apartment community, management company or owner. Look at multiple sources for reviews – Google, Facebook, Yelp, and apartment search websites like Apartments.com and Rent.com.
- Visit the apartment community in person. While shopping online is convenient, it is recommended that you put your own eyes on something before you sign a lease. Not only will you have the opportunity to see the entire apartment community, but you will also have the opportunity to meet and interact with the staff. Liking the staff is just as important, if not more important, than the physical rental home.
- Ask questions. Make sure you ask questions about the services that are important to you. For example, what is the average time it takes the maintenance staff to complete a service request? It is also important to understand the terms of your lease and any fees in addition to rent you will be required to pay for. If there is something you don’t understand in your lease, ask about it before signing the lease.
If you are currently in a lease and having challenges, here are some tips to help:
- Communicate with the manager. Make sure the manager is aware of the issues you are having with your rental home. If you have spoken to the manager and still not gotten the results you desire, then you should contact the supervisor or the management company directly.
- Document. To protect yourself legally, put every interaction with your housing provider in writing. If the interaction was verbal, then document the interaction and include the date and time. If your situation escalates into a legal matter, you will want to make sure you have all your communication documented.
- Continue to pay rent. If a housing provider is failing to make repairs or is unresponsive to your complaints, you should seek legal counsel. It is critical that you continue to pay rent while in the complaint process. If you don’t pay rent according to your lease agreement the housing provider can file for an eviction based on non-payment of rent. There are certain instances that involve health and safety when a resident can make repairs and deduct up to one month’s rent or they can break their lease agreement, but it would be best for the resident to consult an attorney before taking those steps. There are free legal resources available, and we would recommend you connect with the Housing Solutions Landlord Tenant Resource Center to find them. You can also seek out free mediation services in Tulsa County through the Early Settlement for Mediation Center.
- An eviction notice is not an eviction. If you get an eviction notice, that does not mean you have to move out of your rental home at that moment. Only a judge can grant an eviction, which means you have the opportunity to appear in court to explain your situation. We highly recommend that you communicate with your manager and/or management company even after you receive the eviciton notice. Keeping communication lines open is important and may help you resolve the issue before you get to the courtroom.