If you ever kept mum as a child rather than fessing up about breaking something, you’re not alone! But those moments offer a lesson for later in life: Confess and deal with the consequences of your actions—you’ll usually be found out anyway! Renters sometimes have a similar instinct when something goes awry in their rental—whether or not the mishap was their fault. The idea of telling your landlord about accidentally clogging the kitchen sink might sound dreadful, but there are certain things you need to be transparent about.
6 Things Your Landlord Needs to Know
You adopted a pet.
Maybe you didn’t have a pet when you signed your lease, but after you moved in, you ran into a pair of puppy-dog eyes you just couldn’t resist. Sneaking in pets because they aren’t allowed in the rental or to avoid paying extra fees at your pet-friendly apartment could get you evicted (really!) or slapped with a hefty fine. Pets can damage property, and landlords who allow pets usually require a pet deposit or fee—or charge a slightly higher rent. Still not sold? If your landlord doesn’t know about your furry companion, you could be putting your pet in danger.
You moved someone in.
Landlords screen tenants before renting to them by conducting a credit check and, sometimes, a background check. If you bring in a roommate after signing your lease, you haven’t given the landlord the chance to screen this person, and that could get you evicted. Even you’re trying to help out a close friend, you’re reliable for any damage he or she might cause. More occupants also mean more wear and tear on the property and, depending on the property and its jurisdiction, there may be restrictions on the number of occupants allowed to live in the unit.
The toilet’s clogged.
Or there’s a leaky faucet, or there’s water backing out of a drain. You could ignore those problems, maybe by using another bathroom, or you could try to fix the problem yourself—but both approaches would be wrong. Many tenants don’t report plumbing problems, afraid they’ll be charged for the repair. (And yes, typically, if a plumbing problem is your fault, you’ll need to pay for the fix.) But the landlord is responsible for fixing all other plumbing problems.
However, if you don’t report a plumbing issue right away, and a small problem turns into a big, expensive disaster, you might be on the hook to pay whether you caused the problem or not. And you can bet the plumbing bill will now be much bigger than it would have been if you had reported the problem immediately. Who pays for rental repairs typically depends on your lease and on state laws.
There’s a new water stain on the ceiling.
A water stain on the ceiling might not seem like a big deal, and it may not be … yet. But unusual water stains often mean a leaky roof. Like a plumbing issue, the problem will continue to worsen every time it rains. A small leak that’s left unattended can become a major problem. Water can seep into the ceiling and damage insulation, wiring, and framework. And that’s why you need to report a water stain to your landlord right away.
You have bedbugs.
Some tenants don’t want to report bedbugs because they’re afraid they’ll have to pay for the extermination costs (unfortunately, renters insurance may not cover the cost to remove them). Often, the landlord pays for extermination costs anyway. The only time you pay is if there’s proof you brought in the bedbugs. And unless you brought in a mattress you found on the side of the street or have bedbugs crawling all over your suitcase from your recent trip abroad, it’s difficult to prove fault.
You lost your key.
Okay, your landlord will probably charge you to replace your lost key. But the fee for doing this should be minimal. If you’re worried that someone might find your key and use it to enter your property, you’ll need to pay to have the locks changed, which will cost more. But unless your address was attached to the key, the odds of someone knowing which door the key unlocks are slim.
Originally published November 28, 2016. Updated November 15, 2017.
What secrets have you told your landlord? Are there some you’re still keeping? Share your stories in the comments!