There are pluses and minuses to being a renter, just like there are positives and negatives to owning a home. In the United States, 35 percent of homes are renter-occupied, and 65 percent are owner-occupied, and the biggest percentage of renters includes those under 30 (18 percent.) Renters often have to worry less about big problems with their living space because the landlord is usually responsible for fixing the problem, but at the same time, renters also might have to wait for the landlord to fix the problem like they are supposed to. Renters also usually avoid dealing with outside maintenance, snow removal, and sometimes lawn care. While in some ways being a renter is easier than being an owner, it can also be harder, and there are many common mistakes that renters make. Here are five of the biggest mistakes that you should avoid.
1. Not researching the area
If you are moving to a new area and you need to rent for a while before purchasing a home (or you just prefer to rent anyway), make sure you research the area that you are signing up to live in. Especially if you are working with a relocation company, or someone is finding an apartment for you, you should still do your own research. An apartment that seems too good to be true probably is; don’t fall for an unusually low price tag without looking around first. Make sure that the area is safe, convenient, and that it has everything you need (a good school if you have kids, groceries in walking distance if that is important to you, and so on.) If you don’t carefully research where your apartment is, you risk getting stuck with a lease that you are not comfortable with.
2. Not comparison shopping
Even if you find an apartment you like at a good price in an area that you trust, you shouldn’t stop there. Be sure to compare multiple properties to see which you like the most. If you are moving from out-of-state and someone is helping you to look, ask for pictures and specific apartment details when possible. Make sure that you factor in important aspects of the overall package, and not just the price. If you have animals, you will need a pet-friendly rental, and many rentals are not pet-friendly. Some landlords will allow you to sublet if necessary, or to have a roommate move in, but not all apartment owners or managers are the same. Even if you find an apartment at a great price, you may find the price isn’t worth giving your dog away, etc.
3. Not paying attention to the details
Before you sign a lease, make sure you know exactly how much your rent will be. Find out if you have to pay utilities, and if so, which ones. Determine if any bills are shared between neighbors, and if there are any additional fees for trash, amenities, and so on. Ask any questions before you sign the lease, including how to pay your bill, what happens if you are late, and who to contact in an emergency (including when your landlord is unreachable.) Also be sure that as you look over the agreement, that you are aware of the various included terms, including the deposit and fees, apartment lease regulations, any sections on repairs, utilities, renter’s insurance, and right of entry.
4. Not documenting problems
When you first move into a rental, make sure you take pictures and document any previous issues that existed at the beginning of your rental agreement. Many landlords will provide you with a list of any problems with the rental, but if they don’t, or you see other issues, make sure to keep track of them. When you encounter issues with the landlord or the property itself after you have moved in, make sure to document those problems as well. The landlord is required to fix major problems, but if you don’t keep careful track of the previous and existing condition of the property, the landlord may try to blame you for certain issues. Your landlord is not legally responsible for fixing cosmetic issues, but check your lease if your landlord is refusing to fix something you think they need to fix.
If you face an issue with a landlord refusing to fix a problem, or mistreating you, be sure that you seek legal help. Landlords have many legal responsibilities, but if you never report a problem, you may not see any changes. This may require simply having a lawyer contact your landlord, or you might actually have to go to court.
5. Not protecting yourself
Although your landlord should have rental insurance, if you have valuable property that belongs to you and you are keeping in your apartment, you probably need renter’s insurance. If you are trying to save money, you can get a basic plan, but you should make sure that you at least get some type of renter’s insurance. You should also protect yourself when it comes to other tenants. If anyone is bothering you, threatening you, or breaks your stuff, you should report it to the landlord and the police.
Also be aware that you shouldn’t make any changes to the property without getting written consent from your landlord; so while many landlords would appreciate their tenants having the entire apartment professionally painted, you still need to ask first.
Renting can be a great way to have a comfortable home, without having the same maintenance responsibilities that home owners face. Just make sure that you avoid making these five mistakes.
Want more great content like this? Sign up here to receive the best of Cheat Sheet delivered daily. No spam; just tailored content straight to your inbox.