7 secrets you can't keep from your landlord

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If you ever kept silent as a child instead of fessing up to your parents after breaking something expensive, you're not alone! But those childhood secrets offered a lesson for later on in life: it's important to confess and deal with the consequences of your actions (especially because you'll usually be found out anyway!).

Renters sometimes have a similar reaction when something goes awry in their rental unit — whether or not the mishap was their fault. Although it might seem OK to be quiet about losing the key or security fob to your New York, NY, apartment while on the subway or you dread reporting that leaky roof, you really must reveal some issues to your landlord right away.

Here are seven secrets you should never keep from your landlord:

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7 secrets you can't keep from your landlord

1. You adopted a pet

Maybe you didn't have a pet when you signed your lease, but after you moved in, you just couldn't resist a (literal) pair of puppy-dog eyes. It's no surprise that some tenants sneak in pets, either because they aren't allowed in the rental, or they are hoping to avoid paying extra fees. But sneaking pets into your apartment could get you evicted (really!) or slapped with a hefty fine, so you should never bring in an unauthorized animal. Pets can damage property, and for that reason, landlords who allow pets typically require a pet deposit or fee or charge a slightly higher rent. Still not sold? If your landlord doesn't know about Fido or Fluffy, you could be putting your pet in danger. Imagine a fire breaks out in your building, or heavy rains cause a flood. If you aren't home and you have an undocumented pet, your landlord won't know to inform firefighters to help your critter to safety.

2. You moved someone in

Landlords usually screen tenants before renting to them by conducting a background check. If you bring in a roommate after signing your lease, you haven't given the landlord the chance to screen this person, and that could get you evicted. "An unscreened tenant could be a violent criminal, a pedophile, or maybe just someone who's dirty and careless and doesn't treat the property very well," says Brian Davis, director of education at SparkRental.com. But even if none of those traits apply to your new roomie, "More occupants also mean more wear and tear on the property," says Davis. Also, depending on the property and its jurisdiction, there may be restrictions on the number of occupants even allowed to live in the unit.

3. The toilet's clogged

Or there's a leaky faucet, or water's backing out of a drain. You could ignore those problems, maybe by using another bathroom, or you could try to fix the problem yourself — but both approaches would be wrong. Many tenants don't report plumbing problems, afraid they'll be charged for the repair. (And yes, typically, if a plumbing problem is your fault, you'll need to pay for the fix.) But the landlord is responsible for fixing all other plumbing problems.

However, if you don't report a plumbing issue right away, and a small problem turns into a big, expensive disaster, whether you caused the problem or not, you might be on the hook to pay. And you can bet the plumbing bill will now be much bigger than it would have been if you had reported the problem immediately. The determination of who pays for rental repairs typically depends on your lease and on state laws.

"Plumbing issues are one of the worst things a renter could keep quiet about. Not only can plumbing problems damage the walls, floors, and ceilings, but they can also create a health hazard if mold starts to grow," says Rick Drew, market leader of Renters Warehouse in Miami, FL. "Landlords and property managers want — and need — to know about plumbing issues so we can fix them before they become an even bigger and costlier problem."

4. There's a new water stain on the ceiling

A water stain on the ceiling might not seem like a big deal, and it may not be ... yet. But water stains oftentimes mean a leaky roof, and if ignored, the problem will continue to worsen every time it rains. "Even a small leak, if left unattended, can become a major problem," says Drew. "The water can seep into the ceiling, damaging insulation, wiring, and framework." That's why you need to report a water stain to your landlord right away.

5. There's mysterious water on the floor

There are places for water to be inside a house — the sink, shower, etc. — but when water veers outside those spots, it's never a good thing. "I once had a tenant who found a large puddle in the middle of the living room. His response was to throw a towel on it," says Lucas Hall, founder of Landlordology. "He didn't mention anything to me for two days — after he noticed that the towel, which was still on the floor, wasn't drying out on its own." What happened? It turned out the tub was leaking, and because of the delay, Hall also had to deal with damaged hardwood floors.

6. You have bedbugs

Some tenants don't want to report bedbugs because they're afraid they'll have to pay for the extermination costs. So, they might try to get rid of the nasty critters themselves. But DIY methods often fail, resulting in an even worse bedbug problem with the passage of time. Bedbugs need to be dealt with immediately and properly. Most times, the landlord pays for extermination costs anyway. The only time you pay is if there's proof you brought in the bedbugs. And unless you brought in a mattress you found on the side of the street or have bedbugs crawling all over your suitcase from your recent trip abroad, it's difficult to prove fault (and, unfortunately, your renters insurance won't cover the cost to remove them).

7. You lost your key

Truth: Your landlord will probably charge you to replace your lost key. But the fee for doing this should be minimal. If you're worried that someone might find your key and use it to enter your property, you'll also need to pay to have the locks changed, not just for a replacement key, which will cost more. But unless your address was attached to the key, the odds of someone knowing which door that found key unlocks are slim.

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What secrets have you told your landlord? Are there some you're still keeping? Share your stories in the comments!

The post 7 Secrets You Can't Keep From Your Landlord appeared first on Trulia's Blog.

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