Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QArlington: I have to move next month, and I think I've found another place in my building, a condo. I have seen similar units rent for $100 less than what my potential landlord is asking. What's the best way to negotiate? I'm not very good at it.
AFirst, before beginning negotiations, decide whether you're willing to forgo the condo. If you are, you really will have nothing to lose and can talk confidently about why you should not be paying $100 more than for similar units in the community. Ask the landlord to reconsider the rent based on the apparent market value, and offer good recommendations from your former landlord to show you will not be a problem resident. Your landlord may have reason to rent your place for more, perhaps because of upgraded amenities, but you have to at least ask in order to get a better deal. Remember, landlords are salespeople and may be asking more than they really expect to get, hoping someone will bite at the high price.
Springfield: What are some of the differences in services and amenities between renting a condo and renting an apartment? For instance if I lived in a rented condo and the fridge broke, would I call the owner or building maintenance?
The basic difference is you are paying an individual owner rather than a management company, unless your unit's owner has hired a company to manage her place. The bottom line is you will rely on the owner to take care of any problems, just as you would an apartment building landlord. The owner will then coordinate maintenance work for you, because most condo communities do not provide maintenance for problems confined to a specific unit, such as broken appliances.
The general idea of renting from a condo owner and in a large apartment building are similar; in both situations, you are a renter who relies on a landlord to look after your well-being and respond to concerns you have.
Austin: I am moving out of a condo next month after living there for a year. My landlord never got around to having a lease for me to sign. There was also no security deposit or any extra money exchanged. I am wondering if there is any way he can charge for anything after I leave. The carpet has lots of normal wear-and-tear stains, but also a stain from a spilled drink. Do I need to worry about him charging me to replace it?
I say don't worry about it. Without a lease or any documentation of how the carpet looked before you moved in, the landlord doesn't have much to go on.
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 Aug. 4 at 2 p.m.