Avoid Negative Marks on Your Report
Ever checked your credit report only to be horrified by a new collection from a previous apartment you rented? You then pick up the phone and call the apartment manager only to hear that the charges are for damages and a clean-up fee? If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
Here are some tips to protect yourself now and in the future:
- Schedule a walk through. Request a walk through of the apartment when you give written notice of your plans to vacate. Schedule it a day or two before your move. Include in your request that the manager brings a checklist for each of you to sign. It is imperative that the apartment is cleared out completely and thoroughly cleaned before the walk through.
2. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Once you’ve cleared out the apartment and cleaned up, your best proof will be pictures (and video). Take pictures of the walls, carpet or flooring, and common areas such as the kitchen and bathroom. Be sure to take pictures and record the condition the apartment AFTER you’ve cleaned up. Clean all cabinets, faucets, and scrub all appliances and disinfect countertops and toilets. It is also a good idea to have photos with the date shown. This provides proof that the pictures were taken when your tenancy was up and not when you moved in.
3. Provide your forwarding address. To eliminate surprise collection accounts, give the apartment manager your forwarding address. This way he/she may contact you in writing. Feel free to include it in the same written notice of your intent to leave. This is also a good idea for receiving your security deposit in a timely fashion.
Protect yourself by being proactive
4. Review state laws. Review the Landlord Tenant laws for your state. Determine if you are responsible for damage caused by normal wear and tear (carpet, paint, etc). Also, review the laws for repairing damages that are not caused by wear and tear. You may need to get a written agreement from the landlord giving you permission to repair damages in the apartment yourself.
5. Pay your last month’s rent. Some lease agreements clearly state that you cannot use your security deposit as your last month’s rent. This can trigger collection activity for any damages or clean up because there was no security deposit to deduct the fees from. Plan and budget properly to pay your rent on time each month including the last month.
Remove Negative Marks from Your Report
1. Contact the apartment complex directly. Talk to the apartment manager and advise him/her that you have proof that the apartment was left in good condition.
2. Dispute. If that doesn’t work, dispute the collection directly with the credit reporting agencies. Attach your proof.
3. File a complaint. If you are still having trouble, submit a complaint against the apartment complex. Do so by going to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) website and send your pictures as proof.
In summary, plan your move carefully. This will help you to avoid unexpected collection activity. Also, keep in mind that these collections can make it difficult for you to secure future housing.
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