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Renter's Rights - Memphis, TN

Know Your Role as a Tenant & When to Call the Landlord

As a tenant you know to pay your rent on time and abide by the lease but what happens when the tap in your bathroom starts to leak, or your sink becomes clogged? Do you try to fix the problem yourself or do you call your landlord? What if you repair something in your apartment and get penalized at the end of your lease? The question really is, how do you know what your role is as a renter and when it is necessary to speak to the property manager or the landlord about a concern or repair?

While your apartment lease serves as an important guideline for your responsibilities, what happens when you come across a problem that it doesn’t address?

The purpose of this guide is to explore the common rights and responsibilities of tenants but to also understand when it’s the right time to have your landlord or property manager step in to handle a rental issue.

Two "for lease" signs in front of an apartment building.
Before you move make sure you know your rights.

Why is it Important to Know Your Role as a Tenant?

When you sign your lease, you are committing to the terms and conditions that are presented in the contract. After all, it is a legal document, and every complex has its own set of rules and regulations. These terms also differ between cities and states but what it all comes down to is playing your part so you can maintain the lease, avoid eviction, and ultimately get your security deposit returned.

But your role as a tenant is much more than this! When you can resolve problems quickly and you are confident in your home, it makes for a happier and healthier tenancy. You deserve to enjoy your apartment and with our guide, you’re sure to become a confident renter!

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities: The Basics

Every city & state has its own lease with clauses and conditions, but we’ll cover the basics or the most common terms that tenants are expected to abide by.

What is Your Role as a Tenant?

Paying Your Rent

As a tenant, you are expected to pay your rent on time every month. If you cannot pay your rent by the due date, always notify your landlord well in advance. While this doesn’t give you a free pass, it may help you better plan your payments and prevent penalties or eviction warnings. Most landlords are more accommodating than you may think so if you ever have a problem, be open, honest, and communicate with them.

Stick to the Community Guidelines

Some apartments have “quiet hours” or general rules against noise disturbances, so being considerate of your neighbor can prevent unnecessary warnings or penalties issued by management.

Illegal or Business Activities are Not Allowed

Apartments can only be used for residential purposes. If you were considering running a business from your unit, it could end up in an eviction.

Illegal activities are not permitted in any complex and if you are found guilty, the landlord has the right to end the tenancy.

Stick to the Number of Occupants Allowed

If your lease agrees to tenants having 3 people living in the apartment, then a fourth individual is out of the question. Don’t risk the terms of the agreement especially with it being so hard to find apartments to rent and get approval.

Maintaining the Apartment

As a renter, you’ll find a breakdown of what you can and can’t do in your apartment, but it is your responsibility to keep the apartment in good condition. This means keeping it clean, eliminating clutter, and reporting any changes in condition such as wear and tear.

Renters cannot damage the property of course, but you also can’t make any alterations. So, adding fixtures such as floating shelves, changing the light fittings, or removing wall-to-wall carpets are considered a no-go! If you really need to change something to make the apartment more practical, you can approach the landlord with your idea. They can give the go-ahead or they may think it unnecessary. Either way, the apartment has to be restored to its original or “move-in” condition by the time your lease expires. Landlords will perform a “move-out” inspection so any damage or changes will be recorded.

What are Apartment Maintenance Services?

During your tenancy, you’ll have general maintenance performed by a professional team or technician hired by the property manager or landlord. It is important to ensure that you have fixtures such as the air conditioning or plumbing maintained by the crew. Your landlord should give ample notice as to when these professionals or maintenance members will need access to the apartment to provide the necessary service. If you cannot be available on the day or time listed, find out whether you can reschedule. The maintenance team should not be allowed to enter your apartment without your knowledge or authorization unless an emergency or severe damage has occurred.

A man standing in fronf ot a house in a construction vest with a construction hat on.
Apartment maintenance can prevent costly problems in the long run.

Why Apartment Maintenance is Important?

If for whatever reason, the apartment is not up to standard, you could be sacrificing your security deposit! For example, if you’ve spilled a glass of red wine on the carpet and you couldn’t get rid of the stain by the end of the lease, your landlord could hold you liable for the replacement of the carpet or for the cost of a carpet cleaning service.

Ultimately, maintenance is needed to keep the apartment in its original condition which ensures its value is upheld. This is why it is so important that rented units and the complex itself remain in superior condition during the tenancy.

When Do You Call Your Landlord for Repairs or Replacements?

You walk into your apartment only to hear the sound of running water. As you get closer to the bathroom, you notice the floor is flooded and water is gurgling out of the toilet bowl! What do you do? Do you grab the plunger and try to figure out what’s causing the blockage, or do you contact the landlord?

In this scenario, you need to get on the phone with your landlord immediately! A plumbing emergency, electrical fault, or related issue is not only damaging to the apartment but a risk to you as the tenant!

A beautifully decorated living room covered in water from what looks like a flood.
Don’t wait for a disaster before you call the landlord.

It is always a good idea to ask the landlord for emergency numbers for plumbing, power, and other maintenance, or security issues. This way, you can get in touch with the right people at the right time especially if you cannot get hold of the landlord.

Another risky situation that is common in apartments is related to electricity. Landlords are obligated to repair exposed wires, flickering lights, or poor functioning appliances. If you have a power problem in the apartment don’t hesitate to contact the landlord. It could pose a fire hazard and should be dealt with immediately.

A yellow and black warning symbol with the electricty sign.
Don't risk your safety, call the office!

Some of the more common electric safety tips for an apartment include:

  • Replacement of frayed or worn cables and extension cords

  • Avoid running cables under carpeting

  • Turn appliances off at the switch when not in use

  • Don’t overload sockets or multi-plugs

These are simple ways to protect your apartment and your belongings. Because you never know if an accident might happen, it is a good idea to buy renters insurance to protect your property.

Pest Problem? It’s One of the Most Common Apartment Complaints

Pests are common in homes and apartments but if you notice a rise in the number of roaches entering your property or the mouse that made its way into your kitchen isn’t a once-off occurrence when is the right time to speak to the landlord?

A rat trap with a large piece of cheese on the trap spot.
Use safe traps or baits for the odd pest.

It is your right as a tenant to have access to a safe and hygienic living environment. While you can use store-bought traps and control measures in your apartment, it is always better to bring the problem to the landlord’s attention. You may use bait only for the neighbor’s cat to consume it and there could be repercussions! So, speak to property management and find out what you can do or what’s being done about the issue. Sometimes the odd pest could be limited to your apartment, or it could be an issue in the apartment complex.

How to Approach the Property Manager and Landlord

You should call the landlord with your concern, or you can send an email. It is usually better to follow a verbal conversation up with an email, so you have the report or request in writing. Remember that you need to give the landlord a reasonable time within which to get to the issue. If your bathroom tap has a slow leak, don’t expect the plumber over in a few hours. Your management team will advise on the time for inspections of the problem and getting the right professionals in for repairs or replacement.

If weeks go by without communication from the landlord, then you can give them another call to follow up and find out when the matter will be resolved.

Should you notice any wear and tear such as scuffs on the floor or a faulty light switch, report these and get it in writing. You don’t want to be responsible for wear and tear and compromise your security deposit.

Awareness is the Key to Successful Tenancy

Stay on top of your rental and you’ll find it easier to maintain. You’ll also know when to contact management to check out a problem and have it fixed!

4 emoji balls, the first is sad, the second is happy, the third is mad and the fourth is confused.
Ensure a successful tenancy by knowing your rights.

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