As a renter, you certainly won’t have as much paperwork to deal with as your landlord. All the same, you should keep a rental file or a folder which contains all the documents related to your apartment lease and rental history. It’s easy to think when you first move in that you will remember that random drawer where you threw your lease for filing later. But we’ve all had that moment where something comes up and we’re left scratching our heads.

Why Do You Need a Record of Your Apartment Rental History?

The best reason to keep a record of your apartment rental history in a rental file is because you may someday have a dispute with the landlord. When you do, you want it to be resolved quickly and amicably, without any conflict or resentment that may complicate your relationship with the landlord. For example, perhaps your landlord feels that you are not up to date with your rent, and you are pretty sure that you are. This can lead to a pretty heated discussion. Or perhaps you feel that you are entitled to a new paint job in your apartment and your landlord disagrees. This can be a tough dispute to resolve. Having the proper documents in your rental file can resolve these and other disputes much more easily.

What Should Be in Your Apartment Rental File?

So what should be in this file that documents your rental history? To some extent, you will decide for yourself what is appropriate, but there are a few “must haves.” The first is your apartment lease. This is the overriding, all-powerful document in your relationship with your landlord. If you have a question about what kind of work needs to be done in your apartment, or what responsibilities you have to the landlord, or when and how much he or she can raise the rent, you’re going to want to check the lease first and foremost. You can’t do that if you don’t know where it is.

You’ll also want to keep receipts for all the rent payments you’ve made here. This way if the landlord claims you are behind or haven’t paid this month, you can pull out your records. If you get cancelled check information online, it’s a simple matter to print out the records you need. Also, if you want your security deposit back, you may want to keep your security deposit receipt here. If you live somewhere for ten years, don’t expect that receipt to be somewhere handy where you can easily find it unless you’ve specifically taken steps to make it that way.

Any discussions or agreements you have made about payments to be made or work to be done in the apartment should be recorded here. If there are written documents, keep them here. If not, make notes on the discussion and keep the notes as part of your rental history. Also, keep receipts for any maintenance work done or promised in this file.

Using Your Rental File

Most of the time, you’ll just use your apartment lease and rental history file as research to remind yourself of things like when maintenance can be expected and how much you can expect your rent to rise each year. However, when that landlord comes around with a disagreement, having those papers on hand can really benefit you. Lastly, if you find yourself needing to break your lease for any reason, you will surely want to know what your lease says about early termination!