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Off Campus Housing

 Housing Exemption Application Process:

All matriculating, full-time students are required to live on campus during their enrollment. Only seniors with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, and good social and academic standing, both on campus and off campus, are eligible to apply for an exemption to this requirement.

The number of students exempted from the requirement will be dependent upon projected occupancy levels of the residence halls.

    • Students should not plan to be exempted from housing until they are approved.
    • Application does not guarantee approval.
    • A signed lease is not acceptable as a reason for exemption nor for an appeal to a denied application. Students should not sign any lease prior to receiving approval. If a student has signed a lease and is not approved for an exemption, the student should then expect to pay both the lease and the campus housing and residential meal plan. 
    • Students who move off campus without approval can expect to be billed for on campus housing and a residential meal plan.
    • Approval of 1 member of a planned group does not guarantee the approval of other members of the group. Students should plan their housing groups after the approval process. 
    • Students over 23 at the start of the academic year in question and local commuting students living in their family’s permanent, primary residence are exempted first and any remaining slots are allotted to non-local approved applicants.A reasonable commuting distance is under 30 miles and does not include any location crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
    • Requests to waive the residency requirement will be reviewed by of Off-Campus Review Committee  and the decisions of that committee are final.

    Housing Exemption Application:
    Applications are not available for Spring 2021 at this time.
     
    Students approved to live off campus are required to provide the Office of Residential Life the updated contact information, including local street address, landlord name, and landlord contact information by the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. 
     
    Students approved to live off campus must follow the Off Campus Behavior policy. 

    Off Campus Behavior Policy

    Washington College students can contribute greatly to the Chestertown community when engaged in positive activities and respectful relationships with neighbors.

     As members of the Chestertown community, Washington College students are expected to comply with all town, state and federal laws and local ordinances. Students are also expected to demonstrate responsible citizenship off campus and behave in a manner that is considerate of their neighbors. Neighbors have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property and to protect their property investment. Any student who engages in disruptive, disorderly or destructive behavior off campus will be held accountable by Washington College.

     If a citation is issued or a nuisance call/complaint is made regarding an off campus house owned, rented or leased by Washington College students, the tenants of the residence will be held accountable by the Washington College Honor Code in addition to the civic authority. All tenants, whether present or not at the incident resulting in a police, Public Safety response or neighbor complaint, are responsible for behavior that takes place at their dwelling.

    Any off campus student who repeatedly violates community standards or is involved in a single serious incident may be required to move into on campus housing with all costs associated being the student’s responsibility.

    Students who already reside on campus will be held accountable for their behavior off campus.

    As of July 5, 2016, Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that adults (18 and over) who knowingly and willingly furnish alcohol to someone under 21 will be held culpable. Also passed, “Alex and Calvin’s Law,” a bill that has stiffened the fines and jail time for adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers.

    All students hosting a party, gathering or individuals either on campus or off should be aware of the presence of alcohol when guests under 21 are present, control access to alcohol provided by host, and take steps to ensure safety of underage guests.

    Hosts are strongly encouraged by Washington College to monitor the behavior of all guests and take appropriate action to minimize any negative behavior that will impact the host, the guest in question, other guests, and the neighborhood.

    Any off campus student who is a tenant of a house that is deemed a chronic nuisance property  by the town will be required to move into on campus housing with all costs associated being the student’s responsibility.

    In accordance with Chestertown Ordinance:

    59-4, Conditions Constituting Nuisance

    A disorderly house nuisance is a dwelling, as defined in this chapter, where any of the following has occurred within a 365-day period.

    • Two or more calls for police service that result in criminal arrests, criminal citations, criminal indictments, criminal warrants, criminal summonses, civil citations or civil summonses arising out of separate and distinct facts and circumstances (as defined by the statues of the state and/or the ordinances of the town or of the county) which occur at a dwelling or on property in close proximity to a dwelling;
    • Two or more violations of Chapter 45 of the Town Code relating to alcoholic beverages arising of separate and distinct facts and circumstances;
    • Two or more violations of Chapter 68 or Chapter 117 of the Town Code relating to nuisances, arising out of separate and distinct facts and circumstances;
    • Two of more violations of Chapter 54, Chapter 135 or 159 of the Town Code relating to property maintenance, arising out of separate and distinct facts and circumstances;
    • Two or more violations of Chapter 170 of the Town Code relating to zoning, arising out of separate and distinct facts and circumstances; or
    • A combination of two incidents from any of the above categories, arising out of separate and distinct facts and circumstances.

    Care and maintenance of a rental property is expected to be consistent with and blend in with owner occupied homes in the neighborhood. Since many student-rented houses are in the historic district, this is particularly important.

    • Use or possession of alcohol by underage students
    • Providing or distributing alcohol to underage students and non-students
    • Carrying open containers of alcohol on sidewalks and streets
    • Possession or use of fake id’s
    • Excessive noise, associated with service of alcohol to large groups

    Chestertown is a pedestrian-friendly town and the proximity of the College to the center of town and other amenities encourages walking. As students travel through the various neighborhoods in town, they should to conduct themselves in a manner that does not disrupt the area. Noise, littering, public intoxication and urination, etc. disturbs and creates an unsafe environment for residents.

    The following behaviors may be disruptive and/or illegal:

    • When people travel in large groups, they typically become louder. Excessive noise associated with travel in large groups ads to the nuisance level. Conversing with raised voices, yelling, and screaming at any time of day or night is disruptive.
    • Public urination
    • Littering: smashing of glass bottles is particularly dangerous to residents and pets/animals

    Students hosting parties at off campus houses are responsible for the size of the party, the activities occurring at and associated with the location, and the impact on the neighborhood, particularly in regards to noise, trash and vandalism.

    Parties at student houses can generate disturbances in the neighborhood and surrounding areas. In particular, excessive noise is often generated by people on the porch and/or in outside area of the house, and by large groups traveling to and leaving from the party.

    “Progressive” or “around the world” type parties involving alcohol can, by their nature, especially disruptive to neighborhoods. All houses participating as a host “stop” can be held accountable for planned excessive disruption to the neighborhood and surrounding area.

    • Students residing off campus as well as students who reside on campus but are visiting or traveling through a neighborhood must abide by all Chestertown ordinances regarding noise. Specifically:


    117-5: Noise generated from sources used for entertainment purposes or group noise purposes…

    (A)Prohibited Noise. (2) The noise created by groups or individuals in a building or other structure or outside a building or other structure on public or private property and the sound can be heard more than 50 feet away from the building or structure beyond the boundaries of the property surrounding such building or structure, whichever is greater or measuring above 65 decibels in the daytime or 55 decibels at night. Noise generate by altercations, parties, social events, rallies, meetings or other celebrations are included in this section to the disturbance of the citizens residing in the area.

    (C) Presumptions, (2): Where the source of the prohibited noise, as set forth in division (A)(2) of this section, is located in a building or other structure, the owner, occupant, resident, manager or other person in possession of the premises shall, if present, be presumed to have permitted the noise in violation of this section in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

    Students, either living off campus or passing through residential neighborhoods, are expected to follow town ordinances regarding garbage and litter. For off campus student rental or owned properties, it is expected that the residents will collect and dispose of garbage as required by the town and maintain a property free of loose garbage, recyclables, or litter. This includes storage of items on porches, yards or driveways.

    Ordinance 85-1, “Trash: Waste material or objects, including bulk trash and garbage, that has been discarded or apparently discarded by its owner and its existence on public and private property is subject to penalties prescribed in this and other town ordinances”

    • Cans, bottles, cups, food containers and food should be disposed of in trash cans or recycled as appropriate. Improper disposal of food waste, including pizza, wings, and their containers, invites pest animals to infest that home, yard and surrounding area.
    • Residents should not store trash on porches, including household trash and indoor furniture such as couches and recliners.

     

    • Trespassing into or through neighboring properties, threatening or intimidating neighboring residents. 
    • Vandalism to public and private property: Students who engage in vandalism of public or private property off campus will be held accountable.
    • Vehicles: Students living in or visiting need to follow all parking restrictions. Students should be aware that parking in some neighborhood streets is for residents only. Even on streets without such restrictions, students should be aware that the vehicles of their guests regularly parked on the street may be problematic for their neighbors. Also, at no time can one or multiple vehicles impede traffic or be parked in such a manner as to block the passage of another vehicle, including emergency vehicles.

    Ordinance 160-5 (A) All vehicles within the town shall be driven and parked on the right-hand side of the street, unless a street or avenue is designated by a sign to be for one-way traffic. At any time that it shall become necessary, the Mayor and Council may mark and designate areas which may become congested for parking restrictions, banning parking altogether if necessary. No automobile or other vehicle shall stop in any street, avenue, or highway in a manner so as to hinder or delay traffic or passage, and the Police Department is empowered to enforce this provision by impounding the vehicle.

    Helpful Information for Off Campus Students

    Tenant Rights Quick Info
    Maryland Tenant Rights Q&A
    Chestertown Information: Off campus residents can find information on the Chestertown website.

Off Campus Housing Guide: Helpful Information When Looking to Rent

This guide is meant to serve as an introduction for students to living off campus. It does not contain all information regarding state or village laws regarding this matter. Since some off campus housing is located in an owner-occupied dwelling, some regulations are different than for a separate apartment. Students should consult the Maryland State Tenant’s Rights Guide and the Maryland Landlords and Tenants, Tips for Avoiding Disputes for more detailed information regarding their specific situation.

 To begin with, it is very important for you to understand that you, as a legal adult, will be held responsible for any lease or contract you sign. You must use common sense when finding and obtaining an apartment. For example, when you make a payment to a landlord, get a receipt from the landlord. If the landlord doesn’t give receipts, use a check or a money order to pay because these can be verified and traced. Whenever you are asked to sign anything, especially contracts or leases, make sure you have read the whole thing, understand everything in it and have a copy for yourself. Once you sign it, you are legally responsible for everything in it; not your parents, not your guardian. You and you alone are legally responsible.

 If a landlord or apartment company requires an application to rent, you must understand that an application is not a lease and it is not binding (i.e. you do not have an apartment simply because you filled out an application) until confirmed by a lease.

 If you pay a security deposit with an application, you may lose the deposit if you decide not to rent the apartment after you are approved or the landlord agrees to rent it to you. Giving the landlord notice that you do not wish to rent the apartment before you are notified of approval should justify return of the deposit unless specifically denied by terms of the application or oral notice. A landlord also may, and can legally, check your credit. An administrative fee may be charged for a credit check and would be nonrefundable.

 Remember: When you move off campus, the Office of Residential Life can no longer assist you with off campus housing issues nor is the office responsible in any way. All issues and complaints need to be resolved by you and the landlord. It is also good to remember that your behavior as an off campus resident is still subject to the Student Code of Conduct.

Renting without a lease is common but it changes your legal rights, leaving you with little help if things go wrong. If nothing is in writing, it is very difficult for you to prove anything that the landlord verbally agreed to. This includes such things as the amount of rent, when it is due, the rules for living in the there, etc. A lease signed by both you and the landlord can provide proof of            what you agreed to and did not agree to.

Yes! Take your time and read the lease very carefully.  It is a legally binding document that carries the weight of law that describes the relationship, obligations, and prohibitions of a relationship between a landlord and a tenant. A lease should not be entered into too quickly or without understanding it. Each party (you and the landlord) should read, understand, sign and receive a copy of a lease.

 People who do not read their lease are putting their credit, comfort and safety at risk for no good reason. By signing a lease, you are agreeing to important terms about rent, fees, pets, parties, parking and even overnight guests. If you violate the lease, even if you didn’t know because you    didn’t read the lease you signed, the law courts will side with the landlord. It is your responsibility as an adult to understand what you sign and agree to. Because you are no longer a minor, your parents can not assume responsibility for your actions.

Even if your parents sign the lease, it is your behavior that determines whether or not the lease is violated. You need to know what you can and can’t do in order to stay in the apartment or house.

A lease specifies what you have to do (and not do) to receive or retain possession of the apartment (i.e. live in it). Leases can be complex or they can be simple, depending on the landlord. Both you and the landlord should have a copy of the written lease. A lease is a legally binding contract- if you sign it, you, and only you, are legally responsible for all the terms and conditions. You need to keep the lease in a safe place where you can get to it if you need to.

 Be aware that in general, nothing verbally said or verbally agreed upon changes the written lease unless it is in writing and signed by both the tenant and landlord. Again, the lease is a legal contract, which once signed by both parties, binds both parties to the terms of the lease.

 Before signing a lease, read it carefully and make sure you understand all the terms within the lease. You may want to have an advisory agent (i.e. parent, guardian, lawyer) review the lease and clarify any information that is unclear to you. If there is something in the lease you do not agree with, you need to discuss this with the landlord before you sign it. If both of you agree to modifying the lease, the lease should be altered and the agreed changes written on the lease. After you are certain of the terms of the lease and feel confident in the contract, then it may be the time to sign.

 It is very important for you to understand that your signature will legally bind you to the terms of the agreement exactly as it is written. Landlords can take legal action to enforce the lease and you, as a tenant, need to be prepared to go to court if necessary. As an adult, you (and not your parents) will be held accountable for what you have agreed to under the terms of the lease and your behavior.

Identification should include the street address and apartment number. You should inspect the specific apartment/room that you are renting before you sign the lease. You may agree to take another unit but the lease needs to be changed to reflect the updated information. Be aware that you are not obligated to accept any apartment or room other than the one identified in the lease.

If nothing is stated about repairs to the property, the landlord may deduct costs from your security deposit in order to pay for repairs. Check for a clause dealing with repairs. If one is not stated, discuss who will be responsible for certain repairs and under what conditions will repairs be approved by the landlord.

The amount of rent due should be clearly specified and the due dates specified as well. Find out the penalty for late payments. Payment information should include how much, when (date due), where the rent is to be paid and how the rent is to be paid, (mail, in person, check, money order, etc.) and a late date after which payment is not on time and violates the lease terms. Find out if there will be any rent increases during the time of the lease.

The dates of the lease period should be specified.

The landlord may have regulations about noise, parties, pets, guests, cleaning standards, garbage storage and removal, security, parking, hallways, lights, energy usage, landlord access and others regulations that will impact your lifestyle. These regulations can be a problem between the landlord and the tenant if the tenant does not understand or chooses not to follow them. Be aware! Tenants can be evicted for not following the rules specified in their lease. Also, rules and regulations can be changed, added, amended by a landlord without your approval if the lease allows it. You must read the lease very carefully!

This amount should also be clearly stated. Discuss with the landlord the conditions for the return of the deposit. Ask when it would be returned to you after you move out.

Check to see what utilities are included in your rent agreement. It should be specified who pays for what utilities. If you must pay utilities, it is your responsibility to contract directly with the utility companies (cable, phone, heat, etc.) Utilities can mean water, electricity, sewage, gas and garbage removal. Any appliances included in the property (fridge, stove, microwave, etc.) should be mentioned in the lease.

Some leases may allow the landlord and/or property manager to enter the premises at any time. Protect your right to privacy by adding a clause to the lease stipulating the landlord give at least 24 hours notice to have access to the premises, if your apartment is a separate building from the landlord’s house. If you are renting a room in the house that the landlord’s lives in, the landlord may have the right to access your room at anytime, with or without your permission.

Read this section of the lease carefully (it might be under the other rules but it might be specificied). Violating this could lead to eviction. Check to see if there are any additional restrictions that may be difficult for you to live with.

In addition to the standard lease, many landlords may add additional terms to the lease. These are also legally binding.

This will help protect you from any surprises that may come up. Once again, as an adult you must understand everything in a lease before signing or moving in (if your parents are signing)!

Both tenants and landlords have rights that are guaranteed in state and local law. Landlords are    required by law to adequately maintain their properties. However, tenants have to follow the terms of the lease as well. The lease protects both tenant and landlord. For more information, go to the Office of the Maryland Attorney General website.  

Tenants have responsibilities in their behavior and conduct both within the building and on the    property and in their care and use of the facility. Below are some:

  • Pay rent and security deposit punctually.
  • Avoid damaging premises.
  • Inform landlord of needed repairs.
  • Avoid disturbing neighbor’s environment.
  • Use dwelling only for residential purposes.
  • Pay utility bills that are the tenants’ responsibility.
  • Use utilities in a careful manner. (i.e. conserve energy)
  • Leave apartment clean and in a similar condition that it was at the beginning of the lease.
  • Conduct themselves and instruct guests to act in a manner that does not interfere with neighbors or other tenants’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.

Landlords also have responsibilities and some are listed below:

  • Provide facilities for hot water, heat, gas (if needed) and electricity. (ex. the gas tank, outlets, wiring, etc.)
  • Maintain the facilities both inside and the grounds.
  • Provide a premises that is approved for occupancy.
  • Comply with town ordinances and housing codes.
  • Provide for the quiet enjoyment of the premises by the tenant.
  • Have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that comply with Fire Code.
  • Maintain the dwelling free of infestation from rats, mice, cockroaches, etc. Common bugs like flies, ladybugs or spiders are not considered a threat and are not included as an infestation.
  • Give tenant the rules and regulations for the use of the unit, consistent with applicable law and with the terms of the lease.

Whenever you pay money to the landlord, you need to have a receipt from the landlord. The        receipt should state the payment date, the amount, the period for which the rent was paid, and the location of the apartment or house. This receipt is proof that you paid. Without a receipt, there is no proof you paid the landlord anything! If the landlord does not give you one, you must ask and insist for one. A receipt not only proves you paid but that you paid on time and paid the person who should be collecting payment. If the landlord still refuses to give you a receipt, paying by check or money order then leaves a record should you need to have proof of payment and who cashed the check.However you pay, make sure there is a "paper" trail proving it. 

You should expect to pay a security deposit when you sign a lease. This deposit should be returned to you after you move out unless you have caused damage to the apartment/room and it needs repair. The landlord can rightfully decide to use your security deposit to fix the damages you have done instead of returning it to you.

Before you move in, it is very important for you to do a condition report of the apartment/room with the landlord. Everything should be looked at and recorded. Both you and the landlord should have a copy. When you move out, you need to make sure the apartment is in as good condition as it was when you moved in. It needs to be cleaned and any minor damage you can fix, you need to fix. It would be a good idea to go over the condition report with the landlord when you move out.

 If you have not damaged the apartment, you should expect the deposit back within 45 days of moving out. (p. 5-6, Tenant’s Rights) If you do not receive it, you need to ask the landlord for it. Do not assume someone else will take care of this- it is your responsibility to make sure you receive your security deposit back if you didn’t cause any damage.

 Don’t forget- no one else pays for your damages. Your security deposit will be used for repairs. Take care of the apartment/room, document everything properly and you will have your security deposit returned to you.

A tenant may not assign or sublet the lease (the physical space you are renting) without the landlord’s written consent. A sublease is when you, the primary tenant, lease the property to another person. In other words, a friend of yours agrees with you and not the landlord to take your place by moving in and paying the rent but isn’t on the original lease. Agreements on who is living in the location must always be with the landlord. 

Eviction is a legal process by which a landlord reclaims his or her property from a tenant who has violated the terms of lease or the law. Another way to put it is that if you, the tenant, have done something either once or repeatedly that is specifically stated in the lease that you can’t do or is illegal; the landlord can begin the legal process to reclaim his or her property. And although you, as the tenant, have rights, the landlord has rights as well. For example, if your lease prohibits parties or pets and you violate this by having parties or a pet or you violate the law by smoking marijuana on the property, your landlord has grounds to begin eviction proceedings against you. It is very important that you do not violate your lease or the law.

 Please note that it says, “a tenant with a lease is protected…” If you do not have a lease, you are not protected. You must insist on a written lease with your landlord!

 You must pay attention to any paperwork you receive from either your landlord or the courts/town. You have to check your mailbox often. (the address that you gave the landlord as your permanent one).. Even if you ignore the court papers sent to you by your landlord, you will still be held accountable for them. If you do not show up for court, a judge will likely rule in favor of the landlord. The excuse of “I didn’t know because I didn’t check my mail or I threw it away” is not accepted in the court of law. As an adult, you are responsible for responding to legal papers you receive in the mail.

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Landlords of buildings with three or more apartments must keep the apartments and the buildings’ public areas in “good repair” and clean and free of vermin, garbage or other offensive material. Landlords are required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating and ventilating systems. Any appliances installed by a landlord, such as refrigerators or stoves, must be kept in good and safe working order.

Landlords are prohibited from harassing or retaliating against tenants who exercise their rights. For example, landlords may not seek to evict tenants solely because tenants (a) make good faith complaints to a government agency about violations of any health or safety laws; or (b) take good faith actions to protect rights under their lease; or (c) participate in tenants’ organizations. Tenants may collect damages from landlords who violate this law, which applies to all rentals except owner-occupied dwellings with fewer than four units.

 Tenants have the right to privacy within their apartments. A landlord, however, may enter a tenant’s apartment with reasonable prior notice, and at a reasonable time: (a) to provide necessary or agreed upon repairs or services; or (b) in accordance with the lease; or (c) to show the apartment to prospective purchasers or tenants. In emergencies, such as fires, the landlord may enter the apartment without the tenant’s consent. A landlord may not abuse this limited right of entry or use it to harass a tenant.
 Before you begin moving in your stuff, take pictures of the apartment/room. You will want pictures of each wall, floor, everything in the place. Pictures should be saved with you and a copy with your parents/guardians or at your permanent home address. Fill out a list of repairs that need to be done and give a copy of it to the landlord, dating on your copy and theirs when you gave it to them. Remind the landlord regularly of the work that isn’t completed, keeping notes on when you called or if you email, copies of those emails and any responses you receive. Although some landlords are good about keeping their property in repair, some make a habit of procrastinating or minimally fixing something, knowing that eventually students give up on having something fixed.
 If the building is sold and the new owner wants to continue renting the space, you need to contact the new owner immediately. The new landlord may accept the old lease you signed with the old landlord or they may require a new lease to be signed with them. You should have a new lease with the new landlord to avoid any complications, even if the only difference is the signatures.
 It is strongly recommended for all students, living on campus or off, to purchase renter’s insurance to protect your personal property. Read your lease very carefully! Most landlords who rent to students include a “waiver of liability” clause in which they deny any responsibility for your belongings if they are damaged or any injury to you or your guests. Sometimes, landlords stipulate that a tenant must purchase renter’s insurance as a condition of occupancy. This is not punitive- it will help protect you! If you do not purchase renter’s insurance, you will be personally responsible to pay the costs of damage (either to your items or the property if you were part of the cause), personal injury liability, and the legal expenses involved with these kind of events. It is possible you will not be able to collect damages from your landlord, even if they are partially responsible.

 
If your lease says you must buy renter’s insurance, you must buy it and give the landlord a copy of the documentation as proof. Renter’s insurance is a good idea no matter what kind of stuff you have or its value. Most students can’t afford to replace all they have, whether it is new or second-hand. In case of fire or theft, it is very expensive to replace everything you own, such as clothes, text books, tv, music systems, game systems, sporting goods, bike, jewelry, eyeglasses, etc.

There are many insurance companies that offer renter’ insurance.

Let’s briefly review both your responsibilities as a tenant and your landlord’s responsibilities.

 

Tenant Obligations

  • Maintain the apartment/room in a safe and sanitary condition by regularly cleaning it and removing trash in addition to not damaging the structure, walls, ceiling, floor, etc.
  • Dispose of trash in a proper manner, i.e. in the container or area that the landlord tells you to. Trash can not be left in the hallway, stairwells or on the lawn.
  • Keep plumbing fixtures as clean as possible. This includes kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet, shower/bathtub, drains, etc. These items need to be cleaned regularly, at least once a week, in order to keep them in good condition.
  • Use electrical and plumbing fixtures properly. For example, the toilet is not a trash disposal nor can you plug all your electrical items into one outlet making a “tree” from extension cords.
  • Comply with housing, health and safety codes that apply to tenants.
  • Do not damage the premises or permit guests to damage the premises. Remember, you are responsible for the actions of the people you invite over. If your guest does not pay for the damage, you will have to.
  • Keep all landlord-supplied appliances in good working order. Microwaves, ovens, fridges, etc. all need to be kept clean and used properly.
  • Conduct yourself so that you and your guests do not disturb your neighbors. Don’t forget, you are living in a neighborhood now as an adult. Your behavior can not disturb the people living around you.
  • Permit the landlord to enter your apartment if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given. Although you are renting the apartment/room, it is not your property. A landlord has to take care of the property and look out for it.
  • Comply with state or municipal drug laws in connection with the apartment and require other household members and guests to do likewise. Again, you do not own the property. If you violate the law, a landlord has every right to protect his/her property and evict you in addition to you having to face the law court.

 Landlord Obligations

  • Maintain the premises (apartment or room) in a fit and habitable condition. This does not mean cleaning! This means the landlord needs to take care of the structural issues like the walls, windows, roof, etc.
  • Keep all common areas in a safe and sanitary condition.
  • Comply with building, housing, health and safety codes.
  • Keep electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems and fixtures in good working condition.
  • Provide running water and reasonably hot water and heat, unless the hot water and/or heat are supplied by a direct public utility hook-up under contract or agreement with the tenant.
  • Give 24 hours notice, unless in an emergency, before entering a tenant’s unit, and enter only at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner.
  • Evict the tenant if informed by law-enforcement officers of drug activity by the tenant or a guest of the tenant in or otherwise connected with the tenant’s premises. In other words, if the landlord finds out that you or a guest have been using illegal drugs, marijuana or any other kind, they have every right to evict you.

Arrears: overdue rent
Assign: transfer the unexpired portion of the lease
Cause of action: specific situation that may become cause for lawsuit
Civil: non-criminal matter
Covenant: a promise
Default: to lose by omission to perform a legal obligation
Demised Premises: the place of rent
Enjoyment: possession or occupancy of land
Enure/Inure: to take effect
Eviction: depriving a person of occupancy
Goods and Chattels: personal property
Grace Period: the amount of time past a due date when no legal penalties apply.
Indemnify: to free from any responsibility or liability
Lease: a type of legal agreement establishing a tenant-landlord relationship
Lessee: the tenant
Lessor: the landlord
Liability: responsibility
Notice to Vacate: notification from the landlord ordering the tenant to lease the premises
Parties to Lease: those who agree to the provisions of the lease
Possession: lawful occupancy and use of property and land
Term of Lease: the length of time that a lease shall be in effect
Waiver: agreeing to give up something you are entitled to

Anyone seeking to rent an apartment or space should be asking many questions of the prospective landlord. Some questions need to be answered by visibly inspecting the location yourself.  These are some of the questions that need to be considered when looking for an apartment. Visit the apartment with more than one person so that your evaluation of the unit is varied. It helps to have the other person have the checklist too so that while you are talking with the prospective landlord, your friend can be visibly inspecting for other items on the checklist. Multiple perspectives on an apartment can shed new light on issues that may have been overlooked by just one person alone.

  • Where is the landlord’s permanent residence? Are they nearby in order to respond to issues?
  • Will the apartment be ready for occupancy at the start of the lease?
  • Is my security deposit refundable and what are the requirements for a full refund of my security deposit?
  • Who do I call in an emergency? 
  • Will you put any promises or commitments in writing?
  • Will there be a lease/rental agreement that I can sign and have a copy of? (all renters should insist on having a written agreement and having a copy of it for their own records.) 
  • How many bedrooms are in the apartment? Will tenants have to share rooms?
  • Are there limits to the number of occupants permitted in the apartment?
  • Are there any restrictions regarding guests, parties, etc.? 
  • Is parking available and if so, is there an additional fee? How many parking spots are available?
  • Is a kitchen included in the apartment or the use of the building kitchen included? If it is a shared kitchen, what are the regulations and expectations of its usage?
  • What type of heat does the apartment have? Gas or electric?
  • Who pays for the heat and what is the average cost?
  • Who controls the thermostat?
  • When is the heat turned on?
  • Is there a source of heat in each room? 
  • Is the apartment air conditioned? Who pays for it? If it is not a window unit, who controls it? 
  • Is the apartment/room equipped already with existing telephone, cable or internet lines? Or will you have to pay for installation/start up? Who pays for the other utilities? (telephone, cable, internet, etc.)
  • How many bathrooms are in the apartment/building? How big are they and do tenants need to share them? 
  • Does the landlord provide regular exterminating services?
  • Can I hang pictures on the walls without being penalized? 
  • Are draperies, curtain rods or blinds included?
  • Are pets or children allowed? Is there an additional charge? 
  • Do tenants have to mow, shovel snow or cut foliage? 
  • What do I do if I lose my key? 
  • Is the rent price consistent with the value of surrounding rentals? (i.e. you need to compare prices yourself to know this)
  • What is the reputation of the landlord? (ask prior occupants, local businesses, or nearby neighbors)
  • Are the interior rooms and building common areas reasonably clean?
  • Are the walls in reasonably good condition?
  • Is the carpet or flooring clean and in good condition?
  • Are the appliances in good condition?
  • Is the refrigerator clean and in good condition?
  • Is there sufficient lighting?
  • Do the light fixtures work?
  • Will I need to provide additional lighting?
  • Are there enough electrical outlets?
  • Are there sufficient phone jacks?
  • Does the toilet flush properly and not leak?
  • Do the hot and cold water faucets function and not drip? Is there enough water pressure?
  • Do the sinks, shower and tub drain quickly?
  • Are there any signs of water damage around the water fixtures or on the ceiling?
  • If the apartment is furnished, is the furniture in good condition?
  • Will my furniture fit comfortably in the apartment?
  • Is there sufficient closet space?
  • Are there any signs of rodent or insect infestation?
  • Are there laundry facilities in the building? If not, where is the nearest laundromat?
  • Is there any storage space available in the building?
  • Are the exterior grounds maintained in a reasonable condition? (grass/shrubs trimmed with no visible debris)
  • What is the condition of the walkway?
  • What is the state of the stairs (both indoors and outdoors)? Who maintains outside stairs during the winter?
  • Are there proper containers provided for trash disposal with clear instructions? (pick-up schedule, pick-up location, recyclables, etc.)?
  • Who lives in the adjoining apartments and the neighborhood?
  • How close are grocery stores, shops, restaurants, entertainment and public transportation? (If you're not in Chestertown!)

  • Is the main building entrance door sturdy, locked, and is there an intercom or doorbell for guest access?
  • Is there a private mailbox (preferably lockable) for each apartment?
  • Is the building number visible and readable from the street?
  • Is there exterior lighting sufficient?
  • Does the building have a security system?
  • Does the building have a fire escape? If not, where is the nearest emergency exit?
  • If there are emergency exits, are they kept clear and do they open outward without a key?
  • Is emergency lighting provided?
  • Are the hallways well lit?
  • If it’s a multi-unit building, are there fire extinguishers available and identified on each floor?
  • Are there handrails on the stairs?
  • Is the apartment door in good condition? Does it have a deadbolt lock and a security chain?
  • Are there smoke detectors in each sleeping room of the apartment?
  • Are the windows unbroken, functioning and lockable, especially on the lower floors? (Bars or other security features are recommended for ground floor windows).
  • Are screens for the windows provided?
  • Does each bedroom have a minimum of one functioning exterior window? Are there screens on every window? Are there holes in the screens?
  • Is there a fire extinguisher near the kitchen?

 

  • Is the heating system in good functional condition?
  • Are electrical outlets in bathroom and kitchen GFCI type? (a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). It's there to protect people from electrical shock. See image to right for an example.)