Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QFairfax: I live in an apartment community and I need to break my lease five months early because I'm moving out of the area. Should I expect the management company to hold me responsible for the entire five months of rent even though I won't be living there?ALook at your lease to see what the penalty is for breaking it. It is generally the case that you pay a set fee or are responsible for all the months in your lease term. However, your landlord is responsible for trying to re-rent the place as well, so you may not have to pay an entire five months. One way to avoid this is to negotiate with the landlord to try to help re-rent your place rather than pay penalties and rent.
Seattle: I live in an older building and, apparently, sound travels up. I know this because if I produce above a mouse squeak my upstairs neighbor bangs loudly on the floor (my ceiling). I've got hardwood floors. Would you recommend area rugs? Less-excitable neighbors?
You can control rugs much better than you can your neighbors. I would recommend rugs and large furniture pieces (bookshelves, sofas) to absorb sound. Your neighbors should do the same to counteract the seemingly poor design of the building.
Silver Spring: I'm having a problem with my neighbor: He parks his huge Dodge Durango in my designated spot, which happens to be a little bit bigger and more accommodating to his car. I've asked him about it and he says that I should just park in his space and that most residents disregard the parking rules anyway. I don't know whether this is true, but I don't want to risk my car being towed or management getting mad at me. What should I do?
Consult your apartment manager about parking regulations. If there are spots designated, your neighbor needs to abide by these rules. Just because he has a big car does not mean he can bully you. Your apartment manager can set him straight and perhaps also post a flier that reminds residents about parking rules.
Washington: What's the deal with landlords? Do you think they're all out to squeeze their tenants dry? I can't imagine why they'd get into the business if they were honest, because that's just been my experience living in apartments.
I think, as with all people and groups of people, there are good and bad landlords. There are those who are truly out for money and pursue this goal at the expense of their tenants. And there are those who care deeply about their tenants and try to make a good living environment for them (while making a profit, presumably). You have to look carefully to find the good ones, which is easier if you do not automatically assume they are all bad.