UW Extension offers resources regarding tenant rights

Cali O'Hare file photo Hazardous droppings from mice and gophers line the air ducts in a rental in Sublette County, rendering the furnace unusable. Tenants with health and safety concerns about a rental should contact a local public health office, solid waste office, utility office, city building inspector or fire department.

WYOMING — Many renters sign their first lease without understanding exactly what theyre getting themselves into. The best way to deal with a conflict is to avoid it entirely, and the best way for Wyoming tenants to avoid conflict with their landlord is to know their legal rights and responsibilities.

Below are some tips for Wyoming renters looking to better understand their rights and responsibilities. A more comprehensive list of resources is available at bit.ly/agnews-tenants.

Read the lease carefully before signing it. Tenants are encouraged to ask questions about anything they dont understand and propose changes if necessary. Note that if the lease contradicts a right or responsibility listed anywhere else, the lease will almost always trump the default” right.

Tenants should document what they communicate to their landlord as well as the status of repairs or complaints. They are also encouraged to take photos before moving in. If it comes to a legal battle, documentation will make it much easier to win a case. Tenants should keep records and review them before making a complaint.

Legal assistance

Tenants with specific legal inquiries can check out Equal Justice Wyoming, which offers various types of legal assistance. These services include free answers about legal questions and a find-a-lawyer service that provides free legal services for qualifying low-income individuals.

Legal Aid of Wyoming provides free consultation for housing issues. Interested parties can apply online or contact the organization at 877-432-9955.

Wyoming Housing Network offers rental counseling as well as information about other housing concerns. Rental counseling includes education and tools for budgeting and finances and resources for finding rentals suited to a tenants situation. Wyoming Housing Network also offers advice on how to handle disputes with a landlord.

Tenants who suspect they have been discriminated against can file a report through the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) website. To contact the regional FHEO office, email [email protected] or call 800-877-7353. To reach FHEOs toll-free teletypewriter line, dial 303-672-5248.

Other complaints, including those involving deceptive contractors, conflicts with landlords or problems with manufactured housing, can be filed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For tenants with health and safety concerns about a rental, contact a local public health office, solid waste office, utility office, city building inspector or fire department.

Financial assistance

Wyoming offers several types of rental assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This includes help with utility bills, public housing and housing choice vouchers, which cover some part of rent for qualifying individuals.

For those seeking quality affordable housing, contact the Cheyenne Housing Authority and Casper Housing Authority to learn about public housing options.