Renters -- Don't Get Screwed By Lazy Landlords

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Homeowners hit by Ike know that if they want the little-to-somewhat-big things fixed after Ike, they just need to buckle down and do it themselves.

But what about renters? Should they wait until their landlord does the job? And what happens, say, if their downstairs neighbor evacuated and the refrigerator smell is getting out of hand?

Leave, says Dan Parsons of the Houston Better Business Bureau. And take notes.

"Apartments have to be habitable, they have to be able to be lived in, or the rent payments stop," he tells Hair Balls. "If you can't live there, rent ceases....If you're in a hellhole, get out."

Parsons suggests getting a hotel and banking on the fact that FEMA will reimburse you for those expenses. The best way to do it, though, is to jot down notes of every conversation you've had with your landlord or landlord's rep, every expense you've encountered, every step you've taken to ease your situation.

If you take steps on your own to mitigate damage rather than leaving your place, document all that, too. If your landlord won't reimburse, you may be able to get help from FEMA or, at worst, small-claims court. (Some of that may depend on the actual wording of your lease.)

But whatever you do, document it.

"When you have facts and figures, that impresses people," he says. "When you have a paper trail you don't appear to be a cheat, you appear to be an engaged consumer."

-- Richard Connelly

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