The renter-landlord relationship is unique. While many tenants complain about tough landlords or landlords who are slow to make repairs, it’s easy to forget that owning and managing a rental property isn’t easy. Especially when those tenants are less than honest about important issues, such as additional roommates, pets, or even DIY repairs to their unit.
Mark Twain once said that “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” It’s a saying that renters who are considering hiding the truth from their landlords should take to heart. Truth be told, almost any “omission” to your landlord can backfire.
Rules differ from state to state. But whether you rent an apartment in Boston or Los Angeles, here are some of the ways that hiding the truth from your landlord to save a little money can hurt you in the long run.
1. Breach of lease
If your lease explicitly bans additional roommates or subletting, it’s simply not worth it to try to skirt the rules. Renters may think that if something is out of sight from their landlords, then it’s out of mind. But hiding things from your landlord affects everyone in ways that you may not realize.
It may seem that credit and background checks before move-in are a formality, but they actually help protect landlords from unscrupulous tenants. By reviewing your credit, criminal, and rental history, they’re hoping to ensure that you’ll be a responsible tenant who will maintain the property and pay the rent on time.
When you sidestep that screening process and sublet your apartment or rent it out on a short-term rental site, you put not just your landlord but everyone else in your building at risk. It’s a safety and liability issue that should be taken seriously. And if you break that trust? Be prepared to find yourself in breach of lease — and potentially even facing an eviction notice.
2. Added expenses
If your landlord discovers that you’ve installed a dishwasher or done DIY repairs to your unit, they may have legal recourse to fine you for any damages. Likewise, if you’ve been harboring a puppy in your studio apartment? The property management company could charge you a fine, bill you for back pet rent, and may even ask you to remove the animal. Even after you’ve settled up, they still may terminate your lease or even start eviction proceedings.
Oh, and the security deposit you were hoping to put toward your next place? Read the fine print on your lease carefully before you break the rules — or else consider that deposit forfeited.
3. Credit score
If the landlord decides to take action and evict you for breaking the terms of your lease, you may see a serious drop in your credit score. While the eviction itself won’t show up on your credit report (although it will likely appear on future tenant screening reports), the leasing company may choose to send any unpaid bills to a collection agency. Bills sent to collections do show up on your credit report and can sink your score by as many as 50 points.
4. Legal action
Usually, a landlord will deduct money owed for damages to a unit (such as that dishwasher) from your security deposit. However, the expenses may be higher than the deposit amount. If a tenant refuses to pay fines or bills related to violations of the lease agreement, the landlord may choose to take legal action to recoup additional financial loss. Some states, allow landlords to sue tenants in small claims court for damages or repairs incurred during their tenancy. Tenants have the option to countersue, but it can be a costly and time-consuming process.
5. Loss of references
Losing out on money, your current living conditions, and an attractive credit score are all serious factors to consider. But what about your reputation — something that money can’t buy?
If you hide things from your landlord or violate your lease, you can kiss that rental reference goodbye. Without a solid rental history and strong references from past landlords, tenants may find it difficult to secure a new place.