Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QNW Washington: My roommates and I are leaving our rental house at the end of the month. The management company has told us not to cancel our utilities, that it will do it. We've had bad experiences with the company, so we're reluctant to leave this to it. (By the way, when we moved in, the utilities had been turned off and we were responsible for fees associated with setting them up.) Having the chimney and gutters cleaned was also included in our moving-out instructions. I can understand the gutters, but doing the chimney is insane because it was recently relined and clearly had not been worked on or cleaned in many, many years. Has anyone else received unreasonable move-out instructions? Are these unreasonable?
AI'll say that technically you are supposed to return the rental property to its original condition (excluding normal wear and tear). So if the chimney wasn't cleaned when you moved in and you never used it, or however you might frame the situation, your management company could be asking you to do unreasonable things.
Reread your lease, first of all, and see if there are any comments about moving out or utilities. It is not unreasonable for you to ask if you can shut off your own utilities or receive a written notice that your company will do so (in case it doesn't happen).
Silver Spring: This weekend, we were hanging curtain rods at what we considered to be a reasonable time in our new apartment (9:30 on Saturday night). We planned to stop at 10 p.m. Seems that one of our neighbors was upset by this and, instead of knocking on our door, called and filed a complaint. One person said we were having a party. I guess maybe a curtain-hanging party . . . anyway, if they had knocked, we would have stopped. Obviously, this makes us nervous that people in our building are really sensitive to noise. Can you get kicked out for noise complaints?
It would have to be an extreme situation. Usually, you have to be causing quite a stir frequently and at odd hours for management to take action. Remember that if your noise travels easily, then others' noise will, too. You might try talking to the neighbor who reported you -- first by apologizing, just to break the ice, and then asking why he didn't just come to you before filing a complaint. It's better to at least try to create good relationships with neighbors so you can avoid these kinds of situations.
Smokers: I just want to share my story about good building management. My upstairs neighbors throw their cigarettes out their window onto my terrace. One of them even lit my wicker chair on fire. I tried to be nice and went to them before complaining to management. Didn't help. I collected all their butts and left them in a pile outside their door. That helped for one month, and then they started again.
I complained to management, which left notes under the doors of all of the tenants, threatening them with fines. Still didn't improve, and management just fined them $1,000 and threatened to evict them. I haven't seen one cigarette since.
Wow. I probably would have never suggested collecting cigarette butts and leaving them outside the smokers' door. But I think everyone here will appreciate this story. Thanks.
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com.