Renters should take precautions in working with their landlords if they hope for an amicable departure.
With so many Lawrence leases running August to July, hundreds of people are spending this week buying furniture, planning housewarming parties and seeking the perfect corners for their stereo speakers.
They also should take a moment to plan for next summer when landlord and tenant will see each other again, said Braxton Copley, staff attorney with Kansas University's Legal Services for Students.
Reading the lease and making a list of damage to the unit now will cut down on the number of landlord-tenant disagreements over deposits and termination dates then, Copley said.
Copley said 20 percent to 30 percent of the thousands of cases his office sees each year have to do with landlord-tenant disputes.
The Kansas Residential Landlord Tenant Act, he said, holds limited protection for renters.
The landlord is required to ensure that the building is safe and that its utilities are in working order.
But the market is no longer dominated by handshake agreements with mom and pop, Copley said. There are more management companies, which tend to be more savvy about the law and less responsive to tenant complaints, he said.
That puts added responsibility on the renter.
Copley's best advice is to read the lease.
He said more landlords are adding extra clauses, requiring written notices of move-out dates or that carpets be steam cleaned.
Copley also encourages tenants to do a thorough inspection of their new digs.
Legally, landlords are supposed to do a check-in inspection within five days of the move in, Copley said.
That doesn't mean they always do.
Copley said tenants should sign and date a list of any damage and give a copy to the landlord. Photographs should be taken as well, he said.
Lois Schneider, who owns J&L Enterprises along with her husband, is a big proponent of check-in inspections. By her own admission, hers is more thorough than most with diagrams of floor scratches and lists of burned-out light bulbs.
"If I'm really thorough in the check-in, then the tenants understand what damage is, and they are not as likely to do careless things," she said.
It impressed Melissa Shimkovitz, a 21-year-old KU student who recently moved into one of Schneider's rental homes.
"She counted the cuts on the counter top," Shimkovitz said. "I wouldn't have thought twice about cutting on the counter top."
On the other end of the spectrum is Tony Fuemmeler, a recent KU graduate, who said his new landlord hasn't dropped by.
"It's kind of hit and miss," Fuemmeler said of Lawrence landlords. "You never know what you are going to get."
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