Landlord/Tenant Relations

Off-Campus Housing Services can help student tenants with questions ranging from community living, off-campus housing search services, landlord issues, and other off-campus housing needs.  Off-Campus Housing Services itself cannot provide legal advice or assistance, but we encourage you to use our compliation of Legal Resources to address your questions or concerns.

Working with Your Landlord

Moving In:
The best way to become an informed tenant is to carefully read over your lease before you sign it. Once you sign the lease, you are legally bound to everything written in the lease. Be sure to do a walk-through of the apartment or house with your landlord before you move in. Get him or her to sign a list of preexisting damages so that you are not later accused of creating those damages. If there is something in the lease that you do not like, you have the option to negotiate or go elsewhere to live.

As a tenant in a multi-family dwelling in Prince George's County, there are certain rights that you have that the landlord must disclose. According to the Tenants Survival Kit published by the University of Maryland Undergraduate Student Legal Aid Office, these rights include, but are not limited to, a warranty of habitability, prohibition against retaliatory eviction, and equipment/services provided by the landlord.

The Prince Georges County Housing Code "requires a landlord to provide a tenant with a safe, sanitary, and well-maintained apartment in compliance with local and state laws," according to the Tenant's Survival Kit. Basically, this warrants the provision of basic services such as heat, electricity, and hot and cold running water. The warranty, however, does not apply in those instances where utility cut-off is due to a tenant's failure to pay the utility bills.

Addressing Problems:

  • First, you will want to notify the landlord in writing about the problem or defect. 
  • Keep record of all written correspondence between you and the landlord. 
  • "The landlord has reasonable time after receipt of notice in which to make the repairs or correct the conditions," according to the Annotated Code of Maryland, RP 8-211. 
  • You may wish to file a written complaint with Prince George's County or the county in which you reside if your landlord does not respond in reasonable time.

One problem that tenants often encounter is an infestation of roaches or rodents. It is a good idea to ask the landlord before signing the leasing if a roach problem exists in any of the units. In addition, you may want to get a written statement from the landlord stating that the premises are roach and rodent-free. If you do confront a roach problem, your first step may be to try self-help remedies. If that does not work, immediately notify the landlord, as he or she is usually obligated to get rid of them.

Moving Out:
If your lease is up and you are ready to move out of your apartment, be sure to move everything out, thoroughly clean the unit, and have a complete walk-through of the apartment just as you did before you moved in. You can even request that the landlord sign a statement that no defects were found. One detail you do not want to forget is your security deposit. The landlord has 45 days after legal termination of the lease to return the security deposit to you. So, before you move out, be sure to notify the landlord, in writing, of your forwarding address. Once you have moved out, if the landlord is claiming any damages, an itemized list of damages should be sent to you within 45 days after the lease has legally ended. Some of the most common damages that a landlord may find are: broken windows, holes in the walls, and any other damages that exceed the usual and reasonable wear and tear of the living unit. If the landlord has held the deposit for reasons that are deemed unreasonable by a court, the landlord could be liable for up to three times the amount of the deposit, plus attorney's fees.

There are steps that you, as a tenant, can take to protect your security deposit. Some simple things you can do are:

  • Keep a copy of your lease 
  • Obtain and keep a receipt for your deposit 
  • Keep a copy of all written correspondence between you and the landlord 
  • Keep all cashed checks from rent payments 
Being a Good Neighbor: Living in an Off-Campus Community

Whether you're living alone, or residing with parents, partners, children, or other students, off-campus living options offer the wonderful opportunity of living in diverse environments. Wherever you live, at least one reality exists -- living with neighbors. "Neighbors" can be those living in the same household with you -- parents, fellow housemates (both friends and acquaintances), partners, siblings, children -- or literally the family next-door or fellow students down the street.

The conditions of your home and your lifestyle impact the neighborhood and those who live around you. Here are a few suggestions for being a good neighbor.

Know Your Neighbors: 
Relationship Building Techniques 

  • Show interest in your neighbors and housemates - meet them and learn their names. You'll find that your neighbors have diverse backgrounds, careers, and experiences. 
  • Greet neighbors and initiate conversations 
  • Appreciate and respect that community residents may have different lifestyles than college students 
  • Invest in your household and community 
  • Keep your apartment, home, and property clean 
  • Keep parked cars to a minimum 
  • Watch your noise levels 
  • Take care of pets 
  • Take responsibility for your guests 
  • Get involved with your neighborhood or block association.

Be Considerate 

  • Your schedule and that of your housemates and neighbors may differ considerably. The make-up of your household and community may vary from students, to parents with young children who require early bedtimes hours, to those who work full time. 
  • Be aware of community issues such as noise, parking, resident zoning laws, trash and property upkeep, and alcohol usage. 

Living With Others:
Whether currently living with roommates and family members or choosing potential housemates, nothing can ruin an otherwise enjoyable housing experience more than an incompatible or irresponsible roommate. Unfortunately, no set of rules can be offered for deciding your ideal housemate or roommate.

To aid the process of roommate living, it's often helpful to sit down with them and discuss your mutual concerns. You can reduce the likelihood of arguments by coming to some basic agreements about your living arrangements in advance.
Here are some basic issues to consider when living with others:

  • Ask yourself...
    • Good/bad roommate for me is... 
    • I can tolerate a housemate who is... 
    • I consider myself to be... 
    • I hope that others consider me as... 
  • Study habits: with or without music, morning or evening, at home or away? 
  • Habits: cooking, smoking, partying, socializing 
  • Concerns with cleanliness/tidiness 
  • Timeliness of contributions to rent and utility payments 
  • Privacy 
  • Borrowing/sharing one another's clothes, money, cars, stereos, and other personal belongings 
  • Hosting friends/overnight guests 
  • Alcohol/drugs 
  • Pets 
  • Housekeeping responsibilities 
  • Solving problems
    • How will you resolve differences? 
    • When I have a concern, I... 
    • When I am upset about something that (doesn't) directly concern(s) the roommate, I expect the roommate to... 
    • When my roommate is upset about something that (doesn't) directly concern(s) me, I will...

Living with others, whether within your household or in your community, takes some work in developing and maintaining a sense of community. Opening lines of communication between you and your household members and neighbors can help resolve issues that come with living in a community. It will also help you develop a better relationship with each other, making your living arrangement and neighborhood an even more pleasant place to be.