Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.

QARLINGTON: My boyfriend and I are on a lease together and he has decided to start dating my former best friend. He makes more money than I do, so making the rent in our Ballston apartment is going to be difficult by myself. Can my landlord either let me out of my lease or offer a lower-priced, smaller apartment?

ASounds like a bad situation. First, check your lease to find out the penalty for breaking it. It may be worth it for your former boyfriend and you to split whatever the penalty is and go your separate ways. Also, explain to your landlord that you may need to move out but want to ask about renting a smaller apartment. You might be able to cut a deal that saves you from all the lease-breaking penalties.

ANONYMOUS: I have been living in the same place for almost five years now, and I'm curious to know whether landlords are responsible (or willing) to do any sort of sprucing up for long-term tenants. I mean the things that would normally get done if the apartment turned over -- painting, cleaning carpets, etc.

The rugs are looking pretty dingy, and they need a wet vac. I checked into renting one, but then realized I can't move all the furniture on my own. So I checked into having the carpets professionally cleaned. It would cost $100. I was wondering if landlords typically handle this sort of thing for current tenants.

The same question for painting: The paint has flaked off on my windowsills -- not because of anything I did, just wear and tear. Can I get the landlord to repaint for me or is this something I have to do myself or live with?

It depends on your landlord whether these things get done, but you definitely have the right to ask. Peeling paint, dingy carpets, etc., are the landlord's responsibility. You have to inform your landlord that parts of your apartment are falling apart. A landlord can only act on it if he knows about it.

SILVER SPRING: What does a person do when management just does not respond appropriately to maintenance requests (i.e., letting standing water from a broken appliance sit for days)? I've tried talking to the property management company, and the woman there essentially called me a liar and suggested I move. I just moved in! I don't want the inconvenience and expense of moving again, but I don't have any other suggestions. (I know better than to think they would cut me a break on rent.)

If you can identify the woman's supervisor or a person high up in the chain of command of the property management company, this is who you should complain to next. See how they handle your next maintenance request. If they are leaving you in an unhealthy environment, then you can file a complaint with your local housing office and have it them check out the situation.

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 2 p.m. Nov. 11.