Searching for a new residence can be stressful and time consuming. Creating a “must have” list not only eliminates houses efficiently, but will set you up for success for the duration of your stay.
- Know Your Lease: As a renter, in most cases you are not protected by the leasing laws of the local government, but rather by your signed lease. Because of this reality, it is incredibly important that you take time to read over your lease, ask for clarity where needed, and ask for changes (using your tenancy as leverage) where you believe things may be unfair or not make sense within the lease itself. Do not settle a change in the lease in the form of a verbal agreement. If you do this there is no way of proving this agreement in the event that you need it. Don’t be afraid to protect yourself and get any changes and agreements in writing.
- Know What Needs to be in Writing: Certain items that are often left unclear and left out of the lease should be addressed and added into the agreement. Particularly, things like lawn care. Who is going to maintain the grass and landscape? Is there a lawnmower provided? Are you paying for lawn services? Sometimes there are laws against leaving your lawn unkempt so clarifying this will prevent any surprises. Also, clarifying who is to fix and pay for large appliances in the house that are already provided. Payment and method to dealing with these in the event they break is essential. Lastly, privacy rights. Many people assume that the landlord must give at least 24 hours, written notice in order to enter the premises. This again, is not always true—only if it is included in the lease agreement.
- Know Your Rights: According to the Fair Housing Act it is Illegal to discriminate against applicants because of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, mental or physical disability or family status. However, if you are denied due to your financial, job, references, or income status this is completely legal.
- Know the Terms of Your Security Deposit: Protect your money! Renters most of the time are walking into a previously lived in home so keeping track with a written report of your findings in the house should definitely be your first move. Next you should walk through the area and take pictures of the entirety of the apartment so that any previous damage is noted in the photos. Make sure that you are not using a digital camera but rather a 35mm. This is generally the only type that will hold up in court because of the date inscription (digital cameras can be changed)
- Know About Renters Insurance: Important! Worth it! Renters insurance protects you against unexpected tragedies such as fire, flood, robbery, etc. Being able to have your things protected will not only save you money but let you sleep a little easier at night.