Renter: 9 Things Every Renter Should Know... by Jonathan Lammers
1. Be Prepared
Before you even begin looking for an apartment, make a list of what you absolutely need vs. extras you'd like to have. Important considerations include access to employment, shopping, schools, parking and recreation. Don't forget to keep your budget in mind, and make sure you have adequate funds to cover deposits, utility hookups and other service fees.
2. Make a Renter's Resume
You can save time and make your apartment search easier by preparing a renter's resume early on in the process. A renter's resume includes information desired by leasing agents such as your contact information, employment background, credit history, names of previous landlords and/or references, and whether or not you smoke or have pets.
3. Look for Professional Management
One way you can help avoid unscrupulous landlords is by choosing an apartment complex run by professional managers. Many of today's best apartment communities, such as those found in the Rental Guide, are managed by professional staff who care about having satisfied tenants and making sure the property is well maintained.
4. Find Out What's Included
As soon as possible, find out what services are included with your rental payment. Who pays for garbage pickup? Are heat and water included? What about cable or Internet connections? You should also ask about common facilities such as a pool, gym or laundry room. If parking is a question, find out if you have an assigned space and where visitors can park.
5. Inspect the Apartment
Prior to signing any lease agreement, you should always ask to see the unit you'll be renting. Not only does this give you a chance to make sure the space is clean and acceptable, but also identify any existing problems so there won't be disputes later on. If possible, try and visit during the daytime when there's plenty of light.
6. Talk to the Neighbors
Introducing yourself to the neighbors is an excellent method for learning more about an apartment community. Important questions to ask include what they like and dislike about living there, how quickly problems are fixed, whether the units are adequately soundproofed, the availability of hot water and water pressure, safety concerns, and their opinion of the neighborhood.
7. Read Your Lease, Know Your Rights
It is extremely important to read your lease thoroughly and resolve any questions before you sign. Key points to review include:
Amount of the deposit and when it is refunded
Length of the lease, and any charges for breaking the lease
Payment due date, and late payments fees
What services are included (utility, heat, water, garbage, etc.)
What repairs the landlord is obligated to fix
Whether or not you can paint or make other changes
How disputes with neighbors (e.g. noise) are handled
What access the landlord is allowed
Whether you can sublease or bring in other roommates
8. Get it in Writing
If you and the landlord have verbally agreed to any special accommodations or repairs, make sure they're written into the lease before you sign. It's also important to include the name of everyone who'll be living in the apartment on the lease. Otherwise, you may end up being financially responsible for damages caused by your roommate.
9. Living with Pets
While owning a pet may put you at a disadvantage, getting the apartment you want isn't impossible if you can show evidence that you're a responsible owner. Try obtaining referrals from former landlords, neighbors or your veterinarian. You might also volunteer to put down an extra pet deposit, or write a damages agreement into your lease. If that doesn't work, try contacting local animal shelters; they often maintain lists of apartments where pets are accepted.