CASPER, Wyo. “People will do things to just get in against their better judgment but they feel like they're up against a wall.” Said Mary Ann Budenske, a local licensed attorney.
A few people we spoke with said they just needed a place to go, some admitted skipping over fine details in their lease even ignoring the lack of a lease copy.
“You really need to pay attention to the lease that you're signing and don't necessarily settle for whatever it is that the landlord is proposing.” Explained Keith Nachbar, another local attorney.
Nachar said if there are terms in there or things aren't addressed, there is nothing wrong with speaking up about adding more.
“If you don’t take the time to read the lease at the front end you might be paying for that at the back end,” said Nachbar.
Budesnke suggested we take proactive steps to protect ourselves.
Having a copy of the lease is crucial.
“People should really stand by their guns and ask for a copy because that’s where they get in trouble." She said. "They go to court and say well we were promised this and we were promised this and then your landlord pulls out the lease and this is what they say you agreed to. You don’t know what you agreed to.”
If the landlord refuses a copy, you can file a lawsuit and then seek the lease in discovery.
Both say we should always get everything in writing, including saving text messages.
Agree to a written property inspection before moving in and after moving out, and take pictures an videos for documentation.
Wyoming statutes do provide some remedies for tenants when the landlord won't repair heating systems, water supplies, and toilets, but getting uncooperative landlords to fix issues requires written notice, and possibly taking them to court.
Upon moving out, Budenske says it's common not to get your deposit back.
“the landlord after the termination of the lease has to provide an accounting of the security deposit, and has to provide the tenant with information as to what was deducted from the security deposit and why it was deducted." Said Nachbar.
He says property managers must be licensed real estate agents in Wyoming, an important question to ask if you're going into an agreement with someone who is not the actual property owner.
“that helps to prevent some of these situations where that person may not know the obligations of state law for safety and health and habitation and so they may say oh it doesn't matter that the toilets work I don't care. Pay your rent anyway."
Don't be afraid to go to court if you need to.
If you don't know where to begin, Budenske says there are forms available online.
If you're being sued as a tenant, fighting an eviction, or trying to get your deposit back, they could help guide you.
However, while Nachbar says those forms go part of the way in helping people if you don't know what the legal standards are, you might not know what to put on the forms or what to bring to the courtroom.