Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QArlington: Who do you suggest as a mover that will pack boxes and move us across town without spending a fortune?
AI suggest you and your family and friends pack boxes and move across town. It will cost you some pizza and beer, or whatever other token of appreciation you can give. Of course, most people hate moving and would rather someone else do it, but I cannot comment on specific moving companies. Ask around and get referrals from people you trust, and then do some comparison of the companies to figure it out.
Washington: My house was recently cited by the District for "rat harborage." Do you think there are really rats or just lots of garbage?
Is this an existential question? Are there really rats? Yes. I have seen them, both in my line of work and in my personal endeavors. Do I think there are rats in your house? I am not sure. Have you seen droppings or heard scurrying little feet when the lights go off? You should ask whoever made the citation to tell you why he made the citation. Lots of garbage breeds rats, and even if the garbage is outside, the rats get cold (or maybe even curious) sometimes and find a way into buildings.
Moving Out: I am moving out of my studio rental after six full years. The heavy white drapes are dingy, the carpet has gotten pretty hammered in high traffic areas (dingy, some stains/pulls), the screen on the balcony door has several rips (so I took it off the hinges), the kitchen folding door came off the hinge, and the dishwasher is broken. In my six years, the landlord has never repaired anything, nor have I asked her to. It was an unspoken rule that I didn't complain and she didn't raise the rent.
I plan to clean up after I move out, but beyond that, should I get my month's rent deposit back, or do I kiss it goodbye because of the flaws, none of which were my fault? I want to also point out, the apartment is very dated, all appliances are decades old.
The rule of thumb in handing back security deposits is usually that you should get it back as long as the only damage to your apartment qualifies as "normal wear and tear." Now, stains and pulls in a carpet are probably not considered normal wear and tear. If you didn't break the dishwasher and it just broke down because of its age, that is normal wear and tear. The distinction is that if you just existed and lived in your apartment and things got worn or broke because of age, you didn't do anything wrong. In this case, though, because you never asked for it to be repaired, the landlord may assert otherwise. Write a letter stating how everything came to be in its current shape, and ask for your deposit back. You could also ask to go along on the move-out inspection to make your case in person for getting at least part of your security deposit back.
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com. The next chat is scheduled for Sept. 2 at 2 p.m.