QAlexandria: I have been renting my townhouse for about 11/2 years now. When my first year ended I never heard from my landlord (a private owner, not a management company) about renewing my one-year lease. Not wanting my rent to go up, I haven't said anything thus far. Do I just leave it alone and keep paying my rent like I have been? Do I need to have a lease?

AYes, you can just leave it alone. In most places, including Virginia, once you have paid that first month after the lease is up, you have entered into a month-to-month agreement. The lease you have continues to be valid, except for the termination date.

Rockville: Before I signed the lease or moved into my apartment, the owner stated that she would make some aesthetic improvements to the apartment. They are certainly not necessary for basic functioning or safety. However, it's been a month and she still hasn't made the improvements. Is there anything I can do to get this stuff done?

Have you reminded the owner about this, or at least asked about her plans? That's your first step. After that, if those plans were not put in writing, you may be out of luck.

Atlanta: I'm renting a house, and in the lease I am responsible for all the utilities and lawn care. My roommate and I also had to get a contract with a pest control company because we have lots of roaches and ants that come in through the cracks that an older home inevitably has. We keep the place clean and do all we can to deter the bugs. Is the landlord responsible for pest control, as part of keeping the place habitable?

A roach or ant infestation is something a landlord must deal with as part of keeping the place habitable. An ant here and there or a roach here and there is a bit debatable, but a landlord should take care of pest control if there are legitimate problems with insects that require regular professional help, assuming you did not cause the problem because of slovenly living.

Columbia Heights: I came home the other night to an apartment that reeked of gas. I noticed it, but didn't think much of it until my guy friend came over and went ballistic, opening windows and telling me to keep the lights off. Panicked, I called my property manager, who lives in the building but was 30 minutes away at the time. To his credit, he drove right over and fixed the "crisis" -- that is, the pilot light on my stove, which had gone out and was emitting the gas smell. My landlord seemed peeved that he had rushed all the way in for something so minor. I felt bad, but still, isn't it better safe than sorry? Should I have been especially apologetic?

No, you should not have been apologetic. Smelling gas is a serious problem, and you rent an apartment so that you don't have to take care of all these things yourself or even identify a problem before making that call to the landlord.

Re: Gas leak: If you smell gas, the first call should always be to the gas company. It can get there faster and it has the power to shut off the gas main line if it is needed. Also, I know other companies (can't speak for Washington Gas) can relight pilot lights, and this is all offered for free.

Yes, thanks for that. Always call the gas company when you smell a leak.

Do you have questions, comments or ideas about apartment life? Contact Sara Gebhardt via e-mail at or by mail, c/o Real Estate Editor, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.