News‎ > ‎

Tenant Survival Guide

posted Jun 25, 2012, 7:32 AM by Kayla Reidel

South West Neighbors

Tenant Survival Guide

Mary Bueche

Community Organizer

South West Area Neighbors


How to find an apartment

-  Grand Rapids Press

-  Signs in yards

-  Word of mouth

What to consider:

-  Costs: Rent, security deposit, utilities, trash removal. Some services/utilities may be included in the rent. Find out before you sign on the dotted line.

-  Conditions: Check out the neighborhood, the grounds, the halls, the apartment. Once you move in, nothing will change. If you don't like what you see, you should trust your instincts.

-  Convenience to your job, school, transportation.

 Avoid Conflicts: Get it in writing

-  Apartment inventory checklist (of current defects): The owner must give you fill out and return it when you move in. Make a copy to keep.

-  The lease or rental agreement outlines who is responsible for what.

-  Security deposit payment receipt should be saved.

-  Rent payment receipts should be saved and/or keep good check records.

-  Shoveling/raking/hallway cleaning- check the lease or rental agreement.

-  Requests for repairs: Ask the owner who are you to contact for repairs/emergencies.

-  Give notice that you are moving and your new address: You must give at least one rental period notice. Give your new mailing address for return of security deposit. With a long-term lease period.


-  Talk to the owner to work out the problem.

-  Follow up with a letter to the owner to confirm the discussion/decisions.

-  Call South West Area Neighbors for information and referrals (456-9190).

-  Call Housing Inspections (456-3053) to report housing code violations.

-  Call Dispute Resolution Center (772-0121) for free mediation services for rental owners and tenants. Call the Legal Assistance Center (632-6000).

 How to get your security deposits back:

            1. Do no damage and pay the rent. Security deposits are to pay for damage beyond normal wear-and-tear or for unpaid rent/utilities—only. A securuty deposit is not a cleaning deposit. You do not have to pay for cleaning. If you did no damage and do not owe rent/utilities, you should get your security deposit back.

            2. Make sure to the owner your new mailing address in writing within four days of moving out. Better yet, do it before you move. Leaving your mailing address on his/her answering machine is not enough.

             3. The owner must provide a list of damages and cost of each repair, or list upaid rent, and send a check for the remainder of the security of the deposit within 30 days  of your move.

            4. You must respond to this list within 7 days of getting the list. If you cannot work out a problem with the owner, you may have to take the owner to small claims court.

-  Owner/manager entry into your apartment: Owners must give reasonable notice unless there is an emergency to life or property.

-  Repairs not done or poorly done: See “Conflicts” section above.

-  Withholding rent: Under certain circumstances this is legal. Check out the State of Michigan's free Guide for Tenants and Landlords available at the South West Area Neighbors office.

-  Eviction or lease breaking: You need legal advice. But you can check out the Guide referenced above for general information on this topic. Call the Legal Assistance Center to set up a half-hour appointment with an attorney. The fee is $25.00. They have lots of information on rights.

-  Problem when a roommate moves out: What do you and the owner do about the roommate's part of the security deposit and the rent? Plan ahead for this type of situation.

-  Rent increases: If you have a month-to-month rental agreement, the owner must give you the notice for the rental period. If you have a long term lease, the owner must wait until the lease is up to increase the rent.

-  Proving your case in court: This is where all those copies of rent payment receipts and lease/rental agreements come in handy. Clear and close-up photos of code violations or of your clean and clear apartment are also helpful to proving a case if you end up in court.

            Apartment Security and Personal Safety:

-  Main door security: Be concerned if the front or rear door to the building is not locked when go to see the building.

-  Apartment door security: Doors into your apartment must have a deadbolt. Use it.

-  Windows: You must have a lock, and those on the first floor must have pins and a window stop.

-  Basement/laundry room: If there is an exterior door, it should be locked at all times.

-  Interior and exterior lighting: Common halls and exterior exits must be lit. Check at night to see if the building has exterior lights turned on.

-  Parking area: Parking areas at the rear of buildings are safer if lighted.

-  On the street: Your mother was right. Don't talk to strangers. Don't give them money if they come to your door. If you are on the street and feel like trouble is coming, go up and knock on a door, and ask the person who answers to call the police for you. You have my permission!

            What to do about crime: Don't hesitate to call the police.

-  Call the police right away for anything that is “in progress.”

911 for emergencies (for suspicious activity that is in progress or for a crime in progress: prowler, noise of someone kicking in a door, fight in progress, etc.)

456-3400 then hit 1 again for non-emergencies (barking dogs, loud music, car break in discovered hours after it happened, etc.)

-  Call your neighborhood association to let them know about the problem.

-  Call the Crime Prevention Coordinator in Grand Rapids at 456-3363 to find out if you are covered by a neighborhood association.


Compliments of South West Area Neighbors