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Renting an Apartment? Know Your Rights - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Renting an Apartment? Know Your Rights

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So far this year the Fargo City Inspector has looked into more than 300 complaints from renters and inspected almost 10,000 individual units. Many of the claims are minor and have little to do with the landlord's responsibility. But you have to know your rights as a tenant.

Valley News Live investigated one property that's raising some questions.

"From the outside of the building it looked really nice, but from the inside it looked shady as if he wasn't maintaining it." Says a former tenant, Derrick Smith, of his previous home downtown Fargo at 68 1/2 Broadway.

"It took me a year to get my heater fixed, it was a tough winter. I had to use my stove for heat." Says a current renter, Tom Matous, as he jokes about why he hasn't moved just yet.

Many folks renting have gripes with their landlord. But when we went to check out this apartment, owned by Gill's Investment off of Broadway in downtown Fargo. We saw things that just stood out.

Former and current residents explain."Such as the mailboxes, I asked why aren't there any covers over the mailboxes?" Asks Smith who used to live here.

"My toilet wasn't working then it leaked down stairs so he fixed it."  Matous explains adding that it took months for it to get done.

While dim hallways and unprotected mail might be a nuisance for residents, Ron Strand, the Fargo city inspector says that doesn't necessarily mean that the tenants safety is in jeopardy. "I walk in and the light doesn't work... Is that a safety feature? No it isn't. Is it a common complaint? Yeah... Could it be a violation? You bet."

It's when safety is compromised that the city is forced to step in. But it won't happen overnight and it won't happen if people don't make the complaint. Strand says these problems for tenants aren't always a violation but they'll do their best to determine that, once a report comes in. "You start at the front door. The door doesn't lock. Does it have too? Yeah it does have to. You have to provide security at the unit." Says Strand.

The city of Fargo hasn't inspected this apartment since 2010 and at that point there were only minor violations. After showing Strand the video Valley News Live shot at the establishment, he seemed surprised, "this was not the way it looked in 2010 I'll tell you that."

They're going to make another inspection early 2013. But they say most importantly, before calling authorities your first step should be addressing your issues with your landlord. But when we tried to chat with him, it didn't seem like he was ready for that conversation. He told us to get out after we asked if tenants complaints about dirty, unsanitary, unsafe conditions were suggested to us.

Bottom line, when zero complaints are filed, which is exactly what happened here. These issues never see the light of day. Tenants, landlords, even the city all play a role in the housing standards of 68 1/2 Broadway.

Something that tenants often overlook when moving into an apartment is documenting the conditions when they first move in. If you want to get your security deposit back, it's always a good idea to snap photos of what the place looks like when you first get there. If you have concerns about your current apartments conditions, give the Fargo city inspector a call or send an email.

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