Legal Questions Answered

When you're dealing with landlords, leases, roommates and neighbors there is a good chance you will come across a situation where you think: "Is this legal?" At Apartments.com, we try to help you through these tough situations. Below you'll find some common legal questions answered by our experts. If you have any additional legal questions, leave them in the comments below!

Legal Questions


Dear Apartments.com,

I just moved into a new apartment and I share my yard with the residents of the two other floors in the building. I was sitting at the table in back when three terrifying dogs came running at me and I feared they were going to attack me. I was able to get away but I soon realized that this was going to be an ongoing issue when they came charging at me again as I was leaving for work in the morning. At night, they can bark for hours on end. I have confronted their owner but she said she has lived here for years and so have her dogs. The dogs weren't around when I signed the lease and I wasn't warned about them by my landlord. Is there anything I can do to at least get the dogs on a leash? Can I move out because of this?

Thanks,
Attacked in Anchorage, Alaska

Dear Attacked,

You can try to speak to your landlord but if the resident has lived there for years it is unlikely that you will get any help. Unless you are actually attacked by the dogs, you’re going to have a hard time moving out without breaking your lease and incurring fines for doing so. The next time the dogs are running loose, call your local animal control and report the issue. They can help determine if the dogs are dangerous and help convince the owner to keep them on a leash. Depending on the laws in your city, your neighbor could be fined for allowing the dogs to bark for long periods of time. There might even be a leash law that your neighbor is not following. When the dogs create problems again, call the police non-emergency number. If your neighbor gets a ticket for a noise violation, or failure to control the animals, it may inspire her to keep a closer eye on her dogs.

Dear Apartments.com,

I am about to move across the city from one apartment to the other. In the past I have always been able to move in a day early since one lease usually ends on the last day of the month and the next lease starts on the first day of the month, leaving one night in between. This time, neither landlord is willing to compromise. My current landlord said that if I am not out by midnight on the last day of the month, I will be charged the rent for the next month. The new landlord said that I can’t move in until their office opens on the first. That means I have nowhere to put my things (or myself) for the night. Are the landlords allowed to do this?

Yours truly,
Stuck in Shreveport, Louisiana

Dear Stuck,

Unfortunately, this does happen to many renters. Landlords can give a “verbal agreement” stating that you'll be able to stay an extra day in your old apartment or move in a day early to your new one and then might back out. If you don’t have anything in writing then there is very little you can do. You should try to be out by midnight, as it is legal in some states to charge you the next month’s rent or keep your security deposit if you don’t move out on time. I would suggest renting a truck to store your belongings overnight. If you need the help of movers, you can hire them to move your items into the truck on the 31st and then into your new place on the 1st. Find a hotel to stay in and relax—you deserve it.

Dear Apartments.com,

I decided to renew my lease for a second year but I want to make a few changes. For one, I want my landlord to give my pet deposit back since I no longer have my dog (he’s with my boyfriend). I also think that the carpets should be cleaned as well as a few other routine maintenance things that would normally be done when a new resident moves in. Does the landlord need to take care of these things or can she pass the responsibility on to me?

Sincerely,
Renewing in Roxbury, Connecticut

Dear Renewing,

You have the option of “renewing” but this means you are keeping the same lease for another term. It sounds like you would prefer to sign a new lease in the same apartment. You do have the right to negotiate points in your lease but your landlord can refuse to re-sign your lease as well. If maintenance issues are not in the written lease, you have no legal right to require your landlord to fix anything other than those problems that are a health or safety concern. Negotiate what you want done and get it in writing before you sign a new lease.

Dear Apartments.com,

One of the reasons I chose my apartment is because it has laundry facilities right next to my unit. But since I've moved in I've only been able to use the washer and dryer once because it’s always occupied. I tried to do laundry one night and even skipped my workout to start early. Even though I started at 7 p.m., I wasn't done until midnight because I had to keep waiting for machines. I think this is unfair because the use of the facilities is included in my lease. Is there anything I can do?

Thanks,
Waiting in Webb City, Missouri

Dear Waiting,

This is a very frustrating problem indeed. Your lease may guarantee you the right to use the laundry facilities but probably does not specify how much time you are guaranteed with the machines. Your best solution is to ask your landlord to post a laundry policy that specifies how may machines may be used and for how long. You may not be able to get everyone to comply but this will encourage some residents to be more courteous in the laundry room.

This post was updated April 2, 2013.