Leasing an Apartment – What You Should Know About Maintenance Requests

Maintenance of your apartment is something of a two-way street. As a tenant, you have certain responsibilities for maintaining your apartment. The Landlord also has certain maintenance responsibilities. You are, in a business sense, partners in the well-being of your apartment. So, let’s explore the responsibilities in your maintenance partnership.

You, the Tenant

Before you sign your lease, ask the landlord or his/her acting agent how to report a maintenance request or safety issue. There may be a specific form, an emergency contact phone number, or an online system for reporting your concern – or any combination of the three.

As long as you reside in your apartment, you will have some ongoing housekeeping responsibilities, including:

• Properly disposing of garbage, rubbish, and waste.
• Keeping plumbing fixtures as clean as possible.
• Using all electrical, heating, ventilating, A/C, sanitary, and plumbing systems appropriately.
• Using all common area facilities like elevators, stairways, laundry rooms, etc., appropriately.
• Repairing or replacing what you break or damage.

There are two remaining responsibilities of particular importance:

• You are expected to keep your apartment in as clean and safe a condition as possible.
• You must promptly notify the landlord of damage, defective, or dangerous conditions in either your apartment or in the common areas.

Consider the benefits of being a considerate and proactive tenant:

• You may be building a good-will relationship with the landlord, acting agent, or both. That person may be more inclined to granting an occasional favor like granting an additional parking space on a temporary basis, or other consideration.

• You may be more likely to receive a positive reference when you move on to your next apartment.

The Landlord/Acting Agent

The landlord (or the landlord’s designated acting agent), is responsible “for keeping your rental unit in a livable condition.” This is a significant responsibility beyond a legal obligation to you.

A leaking faucet, frayed wiring, or unreliable hot and cold water supplies aren’t just annoying (and potentially hazardous) issues to you; they may also adversely affect the structure of the building. This increases the landlord’s responsibility to you, the other tenants, visitors, and owner(s) of the rest of the building. Your landlord is responsible for:

• Ensuring that the property is in habitable condition when you move in.
• Ensuring that necessary repairs and maintenance are completed in a timely way to keep the property in safe and habitable condition.
• Ensuring that the unit is outfitted with the proper safety equipment and functions (latches, deadbolt, smoke detectors, etc.) as required by city and/or state regulations.

Requesting Maintenance

In most non-emergency circumstances, your maintenance request should be made in writing. A casual “by the way… ” mention may be sufficient but can just as easily be forgotten. A written request documents the problem and your request for resolution.

In polite language, clearly and simply state the request. Consider including these “themes” in your letter:

• A simple but complete description of the problem.
• An explanation of how the situation is becoming/will become worse and more costly to repair if not quickly addressed.
• Point out any safety or security risks that your problem may be creating, especially if the problem affects other tenants’ safety.

You do have some legal recourse if your maintenance requests are ignored, particularly if they affect your safety or health (or others’ health and safety). But before you threaten or take extreme action, try the step-by-step approach with courtesy and an in the spirit of partnership. After all, you are also looking after the well-being of the landlord’s property.

That approach may be all it takes to form a long-lasting positive landlord/tenant relationship and a happy residence for years to come.

Addressing A Prospective Employer’s Request for Job Candidate’s Facebook Log-In Info?

A recent syndicated article has been circulating, which addresses the practice of employers requesting prospective hires provide their Facebook user name and password, during the initial interview process. The article is captioned “Can Employers Legally Ask You for Your Facebook Password When You Apply for a Job?” Why Congress and the States Should Prohibit This Practice.” As the title indicates, this article concerns what legal steps are being taken and can be taken to address this questionable employment hiring practice. However, missing from that article is the more practical and exigent side of the problem, which is the quandary facing the job seeker, when asked for this private information.

From the standpoint of both an employer and an employment law attorney, I will attempt to briefly tackle this question. The question is – until there are actual laws put in place to prevent the practice of an employer requesting an interviewee’s Facebook log-in information, what can you do to protect the privacy of your Facebook during your hunt for a new job?

Is My Facebook Information Private?

Yes and No. Let me explain….

Privacy Settings

First, keep it clean! Always be mindful that Facebook is constantly (it seems) changing its interface and privacy settings – keep on top of these changes and select your own personal security and privacy settings wisely. Only put things out there in the public, which you wish for the public to see. Notwithstanding the ability to select privacy settings, you should assume that some alterations to these settings or breaches in security down the road could cause your “privately” posted information to go public. Moreover, anything you post is really not truly private anyway, which is really the reason we “post” on Facebook in the first place – as it is shared amongst your Facebook “friends.” Be aware that those friends’ accounts could be shared or accessible by their spouses, family members, friends, and thus the information that you make visible to them could be shared with others – accidentally or deliberately.
Expectation of Privacy

Next, notwithstanding the above, I still believe that there is an “expectation of privacy” to many aspects of our Facebook accounts. We expect that the privacy settings will work as intended and our comments, posts, etc. will not be shared with the public at large, even if we have contemplated the possibility that friends or family members of friends might see our posts, comments and page(s). However, clearly we have an expectation that the settings themselves that we choose, our passwords, our private emails to friends through the Facebook email interface will remain private. When a prospective employer requests your username and password, they are requesting private and sensitive information – your password, which may be linked to other accounts or have some other personal significance that we do not wish to share. In addition, they are requesting access to all of your activity on Facebook – every post, every game, every comment, every email. Many of these things in and of themselves are reasonably expected by you to remain private. Further, the cumulation of this data, is reasonably expected to only be seen by you. Would any prospective employer request access to your private email account, the hard-drive from your computer, the entire meta-data & internet browser history from all of the sites you have ever visited on your computer. Of course they would not – but logging into your Facebook account grants this same type of information – access to any personal emails you have sent through the Facebook email interface, a complete view of any and all posts and comments you have ever made, a quick view of ALL of your Facebook activity, spanning the entire time that you have had your Facebook account, and access to your security settings, friends lists, blocked friends, etc. This is an invasion of your reasonable expectation of privacy.

How do I respond to a request by a prospective employer for My Facebook log-in information?

If you have read the above paragraph, I think a very pragmatic approach to addressing such a request would be to explain in response to such an inquiry, outlining the concerns detailed above. Couple those privacy concerns with an offer of a less intrusive method for the prospective employer to obtain what information they seek. What is it that the employer is seeking? In part, it might simply be to gauge how you respond to such a request. Thus, prepare to respond confidently, addressing your privacy concerns and offering a different approach, and turning the question back to the employer. Ask the interviewer or prospective employer what it is that they are looking for and if reasonable, in your mind’s eye, offer to “friend” them to give them a glimpse of the information that is available. Alternatively, you could offer to simply answer their questions about any given topic – thus putting the onus back on them to explain what precise information they are seeking. These approaches show a problem solving ability and critical thinking on your part, which are likely good qualities for any job you are seeking. They show that you are cooperative and constructively work to resolve potential conflicts, while standing up for your beliefs.

Should I Create A Second Facebook Profile?

Creating a second, “clean” or dummy Facebook profile is one possible approach to the situation, as well as a way to “friend” your mother or other family members, while protecting the privacy of your less discrete or more salacious or frivolous postings and activities between you and your more intimate “friends.” However, keep in mind that by doing this, the friends, family members, or prospective employers with whom you share the information on the dummy account, may discover or know of the existence of your other account(s) and may react unpleasantly to the deceit of being directed or relegated to a second, dummy account.

Can I Use my Work Computer or Cell Phone for Personal, Social Media, Email, Facebook?

The simple answer to this question is NO! I get asked this question a lot, and the basic answer is that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in any information transmitted or entered digitally into/through a work computer, cell phone, or other device. The device belongs to your employer, and thus the employer has a right to seize or view the device itself at any time, and regardless of your deleting the ESI (electronically stored information), as most people understand in this digital age, deleting ESI rarely ever actually completely deletes and destroys that information. Without getting into the technical details of it (which I am not qualified to fully expound upon anyway), when you delete electronically stored information, you are merely deleting the ROM’s access to and indexing to that information – the actual information itself remains on the drive, although partitioned away somewhere and un-indexed. It may over time become partially or entirely overwritten, but that may not happen for a considerable length of time, if ever. Further, by transmitting information through your corporate device, that information will likely pass through and be processed by your company’s server, leaving traces of and the actual underlying information there for your employer to see. Also, automatically stored passwords and such, if enabled, may provide your employer easy access to ALL of your account information. This topic deserves much more, but that is not the purpose of this article.

In conclusion, this is a very interesting topic, from both a legislative and an employment standpoint, and I am eager to read any relevant comments, anecdotes and ultimately to see how this landscape evolves over time.

Legal Letters – What’s an RFP?

When it comes to legal letters, one of the letters you are going to want to know about if you bid for contracts at all is an RFP. An RFP is called a “request for proposal,” and it’s how a corporation or government agency lets potential bidders know it’s looking to contract companies to provide services and/or products. RFPs are then given to potential bidders who’ve been determined to be qualified to cover the services or equipments needed sometimes these are also published in industry trade journals, where they’ll be seen.

Most often, these types of legal letters are done with government agencies, since they have to acquire equipment or services as expediently but beneficially as possible there are also strict requirements such that these are overseen by other agencies to make sure monies are spent wisely. Occasionally, an RFP will also be used by a private company, but that’s usually done only occasionally, and only with services or equipment that don’t have anything to do with the company’s own services or products in question.

What can an RFP mean for the right contractor?

While a lot of smaller companies won’t be able to supply the products or services these types of legal letters would detail, that’s not always true and in some cases, this can give a business a great way to discover a whole new client base they may not have considered previously. Before undertaking such a request, though, the company offering a bid must be sure they can fulfill the request as described.

RFPs are pretty detailed, so should tell you whatever you need to know as a vendor to determine whether or not you can take the job. In addition, even if underbidding what you would normally propose for such a job means you’ll earn less money, it may translate later into a much greater network of contacts, and/or much more work down the line, thus offsetting the disadvantages of a low bid price.

Make sure as well that you can fulfill the ENTIRE contract as detailed in the RFP, since these types of legal letters do generally spell these things out. The deadlines should be reasonable for you to meet, and you should be able to do everything the contract specifies, including providing equipment and services as requested some companies for example, may be able to provide services but not equipment, while others may be able to provide equipment but not services as detailed in these legal letters. The RFP will tell you whether or not both equipment and services are to be done by the same company – and they usually are.

Finally, agencies usually specify within RFPs whether or not you may have to sign a performance bond so that you’ll guarantee delivery of the goods or services are provided by a certain date. Again, this is much more stringent than most contracts, so make sure you can fulfill this need.

Keeping abreast of the situation

If you are in receipt of one of these legal letters and you decide that you want to bid on an RFP, make sure you stay up on the news, by reading the legal notices and local newspapers and trade magazines. If it’s determined that you are going to respond to the RFP, you or your company’s leadership will make sure you stay on the list.