Being a renter — while often easier than being a homeowner — can fell like a trap sometimes. You can’t do anything without your landlord’s permission, and if you don’t get his approval, then you don’t have much recourse. You’re just SOL, right?
But then the devil on your shoulder says, “Maybe we could just lie about it? They’re never here. They won’t even know!”
The problem is, they probably will know — and it can have some serious repercussions. From the smallest of fibs to the biggest of the lies we tell — and the consequences we might face.
The lies can start early, even when you’re just looking for a new place. You see an apartment. You want that apartment. So you think to yourself: Maybe I’ll just boost my income a bit, or use my friend as a reference who can offer a good review.
It isn’t a huge lie — more like bluffing at a poker table. But unlike your poker night buddies, your landlord has the tools to tell if you’re lying. Odds are good he’ll run a background check, poke around Glassdoor for info on your job, and figure out that you’re not actually making six figures a year.
The consequences: If you get caught, you’re not getting the apartment. And if that isn’t bad enough, you’re also out the application fee, credit check fee, and anything else you paid upfront. Possibly worse, landlords talk. If this one happens to know lots of other landlords, they might just be mad enough to talk about it. Do you really want your options limited on other apartments just because you told a white lie with this one?
Fibs might not seem like a big deal at the time, but they have a habit of blowing up in your face. Say you know the toilet leaks every now and then, bu t you don’t really want to deal with having your landlord in your apartment, so you tell him everything is fine. That is, until the leak turns into a downpour and floods the entire bathroom.
The landlord is going to wonder whether you knew about the problem beforehand, and while there isn’t much he can do (you really can’t get tossed out for not making a repair notification), you’re not going to win any points either.
The consequences: “It will most likely mean the landlord will not be willing to bend on any items in the future. Where they may have been willing waive late fees in the future with communication, this will be less likely,” says Jon Ortner of Renters Warehouse. “It shows the tenant cannot be trusted, so more time will be spent monitoring that unit.”
The Lie by Omission
Most lies by omission stem from not doing something in the lease. Sure, you’re paying the rent and not burning the place down, but does that mean you have to do everything by the book? Do you really need to get your landlord’s written permission to, say, install a dishwasher?
Yes. Yes, you do. Making changes to your landlord’s property without getting permission is a lie by omission, and it could result in a fine.
The consequences: Most likely, you’re going to shell out some coin to fix the situation.
“It will depend on how the lease is worded. There may be fines that are explicitly listed in the lease agreement,” Ortner says. “Most likely in this instance, if a dishwasher was installed without permission the landlord would inspect the installation and assess if there was any damage done. If damage is found, the tenant can be billed directly.”
Even if you don’t do any damage, Ortner says the landlord could keep the new dishwasher when you move out (since it’s not part of the property.)
The Bold-faced Lie
There isn’t really any way to sugarcoat it — sometimes lies are just big, fat lies. Say, for example, you told your landlord you didn’t have a pet, but you do in fact have a big, slobbery, 55-pound dog. That one could result in some serious consequences.
The consequences: Worst case scenario: You’ll lose your security deposit, or maybe even your apartment. At best, you might pay an added pet fee and maybe a monthly pet rent, but it isn’t likely your landlord is going to take it well.
“In most cases the deposit will be forfeited due to the violation of having an animal when no pets were accounted for in the lease paperwork,” Ortner says.
And you might just be saying sayonara to the apartment as well.
“They could also cancel the lease depending on the type of animal and how flexible the property owner is about animals,” he says. (Which is a nice way of saying you’ll get evicted, which will appear on your credit report for seven years.) So the next time you’re looking for an apartment, the new landlord will know about it.
Moral of the story: It isn’t easy to live under someone else’s rules, but lying will get you nowhere.