Here is some guidance about your rights as a tenant
For older Alaskans living on a fixed income, senior housing can be a great option. Sometimes, though, our office receives complaints about senior housing property managers who abuse their power, repeatedly entering tenants’ units without permission or threatening eviction if seniors complain about poor service.
Thankfully, this does not happen often.
It is very important for seniors to know their rights as tenants in order to avoid being intimidated. I’d like to recommend an easy-to-read booklet, authored by the Alaska Real Estate Commission and published by the Court System, entitled “Alaska Landlord and Tenant Act.” You can download it at http://www.dced.state.ak.us/occ/pub/landlord.pdf. Here are a few points from the booklet that readers may find helpful.
Landlord contracts, notices, maintenance
Property managers have a duty to give a copy of a written rental agreement to a tenant, abide by that agreement, give notice of a rent increase or eviction, and maintain a” fit premises.” Maintaining a “fit premises” means that the common areas must be in a clean and safe condition (including removing snow and ice), tenants must have access to heat and water, and the electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen and other facilities and appliances must be in good and safe working order.
When can a landlord enter my apartment?
Property managers cannot enter units without asking permission unless there is an emergency, tenants have been gone more than 7 days, or can’t be contacted.
Managers can only enter to make repairs, supply services, inspect for damages, show the premises to prospective renters, or remove their own property. In these cases, managers must give tenants 24 hours’ notice and say when they are coming.
If property managers abuse the right to enter units, tenants can ask a court for an injunction ordering the inappropriate behavior to stop. The same is true if managers do not comply with rental agreements or fulfill their duties under the law.
If you think you have a legal case, consult an attorney. If you are low income, call Alaska Legal Services and be sure to tell them you are a senior.
Intimidation and retaliation
A property manager may not retaliate against you by threatening eviction, raising the rent or decreasing services because you complained that he was not doing his job or because you exercised your legal rights as a tenant or a citizen.
If your property manager is threatening eviction in a retaliatory manner, you should document the interaction and seek legal advice.
Of course, you never lose your constitutional right to privacy or free assembly. No one gets to open your mail, monitor your conversations or tell you whom you can have over to your apartment. So long as you and your visitor are not causing a disturbance or doing something either illegal or contrary to your rental agreement, the property manager cannot dictate how you conduct your personal life.
License and insurance requirements
Finally, property managers who manage someone else’s property must be licensed by the State of Alaska and are required to carry errors and omissions insurance. A property manager with no license or supervision by a licensed broker is potentially liable to civil penalties and should be reported to the state Real Estate Commission.
I hope that every renter who reads this column has a comfortable home and a great property manager. But if that’s not the case, don’t just retreat fearfully into your apartment and isolate. Be an informed consumer, know your rights, attend board meetings, and speak up.
If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Long Term Care Ombudsman, call 334-4480 or 1-800-730-6393.