I'm moving to a new city and will be renting a house from an individual I don't know. Why did the previous tenant move out? Does he make repairs in a timely manner? Will he return my security deposit when I move out? Any advise on how and where I can get this information would be appreciated.
I have been both a tenant and a landlord. While I do not know of a way to find out if the landlord repairs things in a timely manner, the general condition of the place when it is being shown for rent will give you some idea. If there are many things that you see that need repair, you may wish to look elsewhere. If he will not fix it to show it, then getting him to fix it after you are in will be a challenge.
Zack in Port St. Lucie, FL
Have the landlord put it in writing how he will handle repairs. The day that you move into the apartment, take pictures of each room, as well as anything that isn't in perfect condition (like a small hole in the wall or a chip on an appliance). Make a list of these things and have the landlord sign off on them, acknowledging the condition of the apartment when you first moved in. Give him a copy as well. Try to get the pictures developed as soon as possible and keep them with this list. If there is ever a dispute about damages, you will have it in writing and in pictures.
Most banks allow you to pull up and print copies of your cleared checks for a certain period of time after they clear, but later, they will charge you for copies. Take advantage of this by printing a copy of each rent check as soon as they clear and keep a file of them. If there is ever a dispute about unpaid rent, you will have your proof without having to pay the bank to print copies of your cleared checks.
Many of the questions you asked should be addressed in the rental contract you sign with your landlord. A good landlord will outline the re-payment of deposit, how much time it will take for a repair (or to come out and look at one), and the cost of repair. If your landlord does not address this in your rental contract, ask them to do so. Not only does it help the tenant, but also it helps the landlord as well. As for why the previous tenant moved out, you will have to ask the landlord directly. People move for many reasons.
Contact the previous renter. The more resistance you get, the more suspicious you should be. At the very least, you will learn something.
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