Your rights as a homeowner or tenant

by Admin | May 24, 2011

   Whether they are homeowners or tenants, all seniors at home deserve a certain level of safety and security where they live.  While age can bring the freedom to make new and potentially exciting choices in your life, you want to be sure that whether you are considering buying a new home, moving into a retirement village, or renting an apartment or home that you look carefully at the home before you sign the paperwork.

Make sure to try and have the seller or landlord take care of any issues you see that need to be corrected prior to move-in day.  You will want to think about what stage you are at in your life and whether you currently need assistance for everyday living matters—or expect to in the near future when choosing your new home.

Whether your intended residence is a home, townhouse, condo or apartment, consider how close it is to relatives or friends whom you would choose to be near. This is a potentially important consideration because while it is one thing to buy a retirement home in the “sun belt” as a secondary residence when you are healthy and fit, the time may come when you are more dependent on the care and support of others. Seniors at home need to consider not only the present but the future when purchasing a home, renting, or moving into an assisted living facility or retirement community.

Tenant Rights for Seniors at Home

Seniors at home should keep in mind that the rental agreement between yourself and your landlord is a legally binding contract, and though most leases are written down, the law does not require this, meaning a lease can be a verbal agreement. However, a verbal lease agreement is not recommended in case there is a future legal dispute between yourself and your landlord. Verbal agreements don’t carry much weight in court, since there’s no proof of what was agreed to. Always get a lease or rental agreement in writing. You may have a month-to-month rent or lease or it can be for a specific time frame.

How Seniors at Home Can Report Problems or Hazards

Seniors at home are entitled to a safe living environment in their rental home, therefore if you have a problem or a safety issue, it’s a good idea to report it directly to your landlord, preferably in person. Follow up your verbal request with a polite, signed and dated letter to keep for your records. Take photographs of any damage or hazards, and if your persistence has not paid off and your landlord refuses to make the necessary repairs, you may have no choice but to contact an attorney or resolve the matter in small claims court.

Seniors at home do have other options, depending on the state they live in; one option is to hire a licensed contractor to make the necessary repairs, deducting the cost from your next rent check. You cannot repair and deduct if the repairs you deem necessary are not required either by your lease agreement or by state or local law. If the damage was initially caused by you, your family members or guests, or by your failure in some way to act, then you cannot deduct the cost of repair from your rent.

When the Laws Do Not Apply to Seniors at Home

Finally, this law does not apply to senior living in public housing, a mobile home park, a condominium, or if your landlord also resides on the property and rents out six units or less. The amount you can deduct is usually proportional to your monthly rent, so check with an attorney or with your local housing laws.

Seniors at home who are dealing with non-repair issues should never withhold rent pending the repair work completion. In most states you do not have the right to withhold rent payment no matter what state of disrepair our residence may be in. In other words, you could find yourself evicted should you choose this option.

Report housing code violations to the Housing Code Enforcement Department in your city should your landlord refuse to take care of the problem.  No matter where you live, you will want to ensure your elderly safety and security over the long haul.

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