A comprehensive renter’s guide is available from New Mexico Legal Aid.
Finding a Place to Rent
There are numerous ways to find a place to rent, from newspaper ads to word of mouth. But be careful about paying a broker or agency to find a rental for you. Typically the listings they provide are available elsewhere at no charge. If you are considering hiring a broker or agency check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there is a complaint history.
Rights of the Landlord
Your prospective landlord has the right to check your background, including your credit report and a criminal background check. The landlord may turn you down for bad credit or a criminal history.
Rights of the Prospective Tenant
A landlord cannot refuse to rent to someone because of a disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other reasons protected by the Fair Housing Act or New Mexico Human Rights law. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of race, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, family status (with children), or because of a disability, you should seek legal advice. While age discrimination is illegal, the law requires property leases of any type to be signed by a person at least 18 years old.
Leases and Rental Agreements
A rental agreement or lease sets out the terms of an agreement between the landlord and tenant. A landlord is required by law to provide you with a written rental agreement. The lease or agreement should contain:
The damage deposit covers those damages the tenant causes the landlord to suffer. These damages may be for physical damage or business related costs associated with the violation of a lease agreement. Normal wear and tear is not chargeable against a damage deposit. Normal wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord.
By law, a landlord may not ask for a deposit greater than one month's rent unless the lease is for more than a year. Before you move in, make sure you make a detailed list of all existing damages and have it signed by the landlord. Ask your landlord for a signed receipt when you pay your security deposit and each time you pay your rent. Taking pictures at the time of moving in is the best way to ensure the accuracy of any damage claim.
You should expect to receive your damage deposit return within thirty days of moving out. If the landlord claims you are responsible for damages you must be given an itemized list of all the deductions the landlord makes from the damage deposit. If there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant over damages the issue may be taken to small claims (Magistrate or Metropolitan) court.
The landlord is generally responsible for keeping your place safe and livable. This includes, but is not limited to, providing running water and keeping utilities (electrical items, plumbing, heating, ventilation, etc.) in good working order. You must notify the landlord in writing if repairs are required and you may use the landlord's failure to repair the problem as grounds to cancel the lease.
It's up to you to keep your place clean, as well as to use the plumbing and fixtures properly. Before redecorating, like painting or changing light fixtures, get written permission from the landlord. Be a good tenant and neighbor.
You should also know that:
Your roommate's name must be on the lease in order for them to live there. Signing a roommate contract will help prevent you from having problems with your roommate paying their part of rent. If your roommate moves out, you are still responsible for the rent and bills, but if you signed a contract with your roommate stating what portion of the rent each person would pay, then you can file a claim in small claims court.
Renter's insurance is a policy that covers your personal belongings. It is relatively inexpensive and is mainly for people that rent an apartment because the landlord's insurance already covers the building. (Make sure the landlord has insurance):