(TNS)—I get many rental-related questions where the answers are too short to write a whole column about—but they are important questions. Here I answer several of them.
Q: I have rented part of a house for several years, paying monthly without a written lease, and recently the landlord significantly raised the rent. Can he do this?
A: Yes. If you don’t have a written lease, your rent is locked in for only the term equal to how often you pay. If you pay weekly, your lease is for a week; pay monthly and it is for a month, and so on. Since your lease is month to month, you can be asked to leave, with 15 days’ notice, after just a month. Similarly, the terms of your lease, including the rent amount, can be changed just as frequently. Fortunately, if you are not happy with the change, you can also bail out with the same short notice.
Q: I have a written lease, and the landlord now wants me to pay the water bill, too. The lease states it is his responsibility. Do I now have to pay the water?
A: No. The terms of the lease are enforceable by both the landlord and the tenant and cannot be changed unless both sides agree.
Q: We pay our rent on the first of the month. The landlord just sold the apartment on the fifth. Does the previous landlord need to pay us back for the rest of the month?
A: No. The proration of your rent is between the old landlord and the new one. The prior owner should have turned your rent and security deposit over to the new landlord, who is now responsible, since he is your landlord now. Your lease does not change just because the home’s owner does. Everything should remain the same except for whom you write the check to.
Q: I rent a couple of apartments. How long should I keep the old paperwork for when a tenant moves out?
A: Both landlords and tenants should keep lease records an absolute minimum of five years after move-out. Seven years is better. Same goes for homeowners.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.
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