Many apartment dwellers want to know how to keep peace with their landlord after the lease has been negotiated and when they have taken possession, so that their apartment stay is not only enjoyable but free from aggravation and nagging problems.
The wise landlord seeks to accomplish the same thing. Most difficulties arise from a lact of intelligent and meaningful communication between the parties. Not infrequently, for example, a new tenant finds it difficult, it not almost impossible, to secure copies of the legal documents regarding his tenancy.
At the outset, the landlord should provide copies of the lease, as well as all rules and regulations affecting the premises. The landlord should also at all times comply with the applicable federal, state, county and local housing codes and regulations. It is not the obligation of the tenant to point out defects or code violations. Rather, it is the duty of the landlord to confrom to and abide to each of them.
The landlord should at all times maintain and keep the building safe, well lighted and clean, not only for those living but for their friends and guests as well. The tenant must know whom to contract if a problem arises and the landlord or his representative should be responsive and helpful.
If possible, each tenant should be advised in advance if repairs are to be made in his unit or in the event there is to be an interruption of any usual service provided.
No landlord should threaten to evict a tenant who makes legitimate complaints, who contacts a regulatory agency as a last resort, or who chooses to join a tenant group or association.
Tenants also have obligations. First, don't move into any apartment unless you have read, understand and are willing to abide by the terms of the lease and any rules and regulations imposed upon all tenants. Second, don't move into any apartment unless you are fully-capable and ready to pay the rent each month and when due. Third, be a concerned and considerate neighbor. You might be surprised at how smoothly things will go if you and others who share a common building, common areaways and common problems, will merely think of the needs and desires, likes and dislikes of each other.
If you think your neighbor is creating a nuisance, tell him before reporting him to management. Often, the problem can be ironed out by suggestion and accomodation. Always keep your apartment, entrance ways and trash areas clean and free and from dirt and debris. One poorly kept apartment can go a long way to running down an entire building and make many people uncomfortable and unhappy.
Also, if you have children, try to keep them from running down the hallways, jamming the elevators, playing games in the lobby.
Good communication between landlord and tenant, and among tenants, is essential to a harmonious and successful apartment life. One must, sense, and sometimes even anticipate, the needs of others. When fault occurs and a resolution is not found, further steps should be taken by either party as may be necessary and appropriate.
During the cold of January, a young woman reported to me that her rented house, in which three people lived, was without heat for 10 straight days due to a broken furnace, necessitating each to find temporary quarters elsewhere.
The landlord had been notifies at the outset, but he did nothing until threatened with legal action. At that time, he was advised that the rent was being placed in an escrow account until repairs were made and that rent for the 10-day period was being deducted.
Needless to say, he lost his tenants.
Donald R. Brenner, an attorney in the District, is also an associate professor in business administration studies at American University.