Well, despite how expensive housing has been getting in Baltimore, and despite the difficulty of navigating craigslist, my wife and I have found an apartment that fits our budget, and it’s right in Charles Village.
Now for the lease agreement. Time was, I was so disempowered and desperate for an apartment I would sign whatever I needed to in the name of securing shelter. But experience has taught me that when it comes to renting it pays to be a choosy beggar. So when my wife and I saw some odd clauses in our agreement, we spoke up about it.
If my reading of the lease agreement were adapted into a major motion picture, every weird clause would cue a flashback illustrating a relevant horrible experience with past landlords.
Possession—Owners shall endeavor to deliver possession to Tenants by the commencement date of this Agreement. Should Owners be unable to do so, they shall not be held liable for any damages Tenants suffer as a consequence, nor shall this Agreement be considered void unless Owners are unable to deliver possession within ten (10) days following the commencement date. Flashback to 2005. Bob moves into his efficiency apartment and finds no stove in the kitchen. He turns on the shower and leaky pipes flood the bathroom. Boring montage of Bob leaving the same message with his landlord’s secretary everyday for two weeks. Bob stops payment on his rent check. The landlord comes to the apartment and threatens Bob with legal action, eventually installs a stove and fixes the bathroom.
No. Owners shall be held liable.
Appliances—There are major appliances in the dwelling, such as a refrigerator and stove, the use of these appliances is included in the rent. Flashback to 2007. Landlord talks up the free washer and dryer. A week into the lease the washer and dryer stop working. (Close up of washer and dryer running fine while “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” plays in the background. Switch to super slow motion as appliances stop functioning. Song also slows down and stops.) Bob calls the landlord about the needed repair. Landlord informs Bob that the washer and dryer were not mentioned in the lease agreement, and he has no plans to replace them. (Cue heartbreaking violins.)
Umm how ’bout we actually write each one down?
Okay, so this is a crummy idea for a movie. But it has a happy ending. We emailed the landlords with seven proposed amendments to the lease agreement and every one was accepted.
If you’re apartment hunting in Maryland, I recommend reading the lease thoroughly and comparing it to Maryland standards. If something seems bizarre or unreasonable in the lease, it’s probably against the law.
In some cases, if a clause contradicts Maryland’s landlord/tenant laws, it’s void anyway. But it will be a lot easier down the road if it’s clarified in the beginning. For example, did you know that you are entitled to interest on your security deposit? It’s the law, but you absolutely will not get it if you don’t pipe up about it.