Renter's Rights: Part 2

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Not every home you rent is perfect, but there are resources to help renters find their home sweet home.

We spoke with city and state officials to find out what you can do if you have concerns about your apartment.

It's the final edition of our two-part special report "Renter's Rights."

When it comes to renting an apartment, Jody Gillaspie from the South Dakota Division of Consumer Protection says it's good to approach the process like a potential home buyer and ask many questions.

"Are the windows, are they sealed really well for winter purposes, for cooling purposes. Look underneath the sink to see if there are any apparent leakage issues. Check to see how new the appliances are. Look at the ceilings to see if there are any water spots," Jody Gillaspie said, director, South Dakota Division of Consumer Protection.

After moving in though, renters sometimes discover unwanted surprises: leakage issues, bed bugs, lack of insulation, and more.

If you do have a valid concern with your apartment, Rapid City building permit coordinator Brad Solon says take pictures and file a written complaint with the city, but he says the city can't just storm in to inspect a property without consent.

"The constitution says people have rights to their property and the government doesn't have any right there so we take consent. There's only three people who can give consent: the property owner, the landlord (likely because they have an agreement with the property owner), and the tenant," Brad Solon said, building permit coordinator, City of Rapid City.

Some tenants are afraid of filing a complaint because they're worried about retaliation from their landlord, but Gillaspie says voice your concerns.

"There is a specific statute within the lease of real property that talks about how a landlord cannot take retaliatory measures," Jody Gillaspie said.

Solon says tenants do have rights, but they have responsibilities as well.

"If you get into trouble, you don't pay your rent, you don't pay your bills, whatever, you can get an eviction notice. An eviction notice is civil action between the landlord or the owner and the tenant. We're going to stay out of that. The city's not involved in civil matters between private parties," Brad Solon said.

And he adds the city can make the landlord aware of the issue, but ultimately the city cannot resolve the problem.

"We're the city. We're not responsible to get this fixed. It's not our responsibility, but it is the owner's responsibility because that's what the city's ordinance says," Brad Solon said.