Beware Sketchy Landlords

According to Forbes, now is a pretty great time to rent. The housing crisis means that tenants can haggle with landlords for lower rent and in May the federal government passed a law allowing tenants of foreclosed homes to stay put for the remainder of their lease. So you don't have to be worried about ending up on the street (at least right away) if your landlord is foreclosed on). But, you still need to make sure your landlord isn't trying to scam you. Here are a few things to watch out for.

Check Your Landlord
With 1.8 million homes falling into foreclosure in the first half of 2009, some crooks have been breaking in, changing locks and signing up tenants then running off with their security deposits. Make sure to consult your local Registry of Deeds to confirm who who owns the property. And to be save, check your landlord-to-be out with the local housing authority or department of consumer protection.

Avoid Losing Your Deposit
Make sure you take photos of the condition of your apartment when you move in so you don't get stuck paying for damages that already existed. Put damages in writing and get your landlord to sign in agreement.

Roommate Penalty Charges
Don't let your landlord charge you for taking in a roommate. Federal housing statutes prohibit it. You're allowed up to three roommates in a one-bedroom.

Exorbitant Late Fees
Read the whole lease to see what the penalty is for late rent. State laws vary but make sure it's not unreasonable and consider negotiating if it's more than 15 percent of the rent.

Illegal Spaces
Know that if you rent an illegal apartment you could get evicted if it's found out. You can check with city housing authorities or local title insurance companies to confirm that the apartment meets zoning requirements.

Eviction Scare
If you're landlord files and eviction notice know that you won't have to leave until your case is heard in court so hire a lawyer immediately.
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