Tennessee Renters Encouraged to Know Their Rights

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Across Tennessee, rental trucks and boxes are in short supply as thousands of students move into apartments near one of the state's public or private universities.

Since they are often first-time renters, the state's Department of Commerce and Insurance wants to make sure renters know their rights before signing a lease and moving in.

Claire Marsalis, assistant director for communications and marketing for the department, offered advice.

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"Ask for a written rental agreement before you move in," she said. "This kind of sets the expectations of both the landlord and the tenant and can help prevent future disputes about the duration of the lease, the amount and the date that the rent is due."

Renters in some Tennessee counties are protected under the Tennessee Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, a law that offers assurances about safety of the unit and their security deposit. You can find out if you're protected on the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance website.

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Under the act, landlords are required to keep their tenant's security deposit in an account used only for that purpose. The residence also must be kept up to local housing code standards and maintained in a safe, functional manner. Before you unpack, Marsalis said, pull out your camera.

"We suggest that you can take pictures before you move in," she said, "to kind of document any damage that's already there before you actually move your things in."

Marsalis advised making sure you are able to see the actual apartment unit you're renting before signing the lease, and to keep a copy of the lease handy. Also, she said, make any repair requests and expected dates of completion in writing.

More information from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance is online at tn.gov.

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