7 Things you should know before you rent


There are a number of situations that one may encounter when renting their dream home. Leasing agreement conflicts, neighbor disputes or maintenance dilemmas are all potential issues that renters may face. In the interest of helping you find the rental of your dreams, here are six things you should know before you rent that apartment.


1. Never sign a lease without first performing a thorough inspection.


If you’re planning on making this rental property your new home, you need to make sure that it lives up to your expectations before you move in. Move through the home or apartment slowly, checking every outlet, plumbing fixture, light socket, appliance, etc., to make sure that everything functions properly. Inspect the walls, ceilings and floors, and make note of any damage or possible leaks. Check all of the windows and doors to see if they open and close properly, and whether or not the locks function. Basically, this is your chance to identify any potential problems before they become your problems. The property owner may be willing to repair any/all of these issues for you; if not, then you can always look for a rental property elsewhere. This leads to the next point.


2. It’s easier to avoid a bad contract than it is to get out of one.


Once you sign the lease, you are obligated by law to fulfill your end of the contract. Don’t take this responsibility lightly. For example, many property owners require a minimum of 30 days prior notification if you intend to move out, and the fees associated with breaking a lease can be rather steep. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; other rules and regulations regarding conduct, parking, pets, etc., will also be included in the lease agreement, so read it thoroughly before you commit to anything. After all, if the contract seems like it could potentially be a problem, you should address the issue immediately with the manager and see if negotiation is possible. If not, then you’re better off finding something else.


3. Relationships count.


You’ve heard the old adage that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, right? Well, it’s certainly applicable when dealing with a rental situation. Whenever you communicate with the owner or property manager, be sure to cultivate that relationship in a polite and friendly manner. Don’t throw fits, make threats, or look for ways to wiggle your way out of your responsibilities as a resident. Doing so may get you what you want in the short run, but it will make all of your future interactions more difficult. The fact is that if you plan on living at a property for any length of time, you need to develop a relationship of trust and respect with the people associated with that property. Otherwise, you’re just creating trouble for yourself.


4. You have rights, but so does the owner or management company.


As a renter, you have certain rights that are protected by law. The Fair Housing Act is designed to protect renters from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, or because they have a disability or they have children. Additionally, individual states, cities and counties often have their own laws designed to make sure that you, the renter, are treated appropriately. But the flip side of the coin is that property owners or management companies have rights as well, usually covered in the lease, and if you violate those rights, you may find yourself facing some fairly hefty legal repercussions. Avoid this snake pit by reading up on your own rights as a renter, as well as the rights of your property owner, and make sure you actually do read the lease and all the attachments. A little bit of studying and effort now can keep you out of a great deal of trouble later on.


5. Renters insurance isn’t always required, but it’s always necessary.


Many property owners require that their residents get insurance, but there are still some that don’t. But regardless of whether or not insurance is a requirement, it’s still something in which you should invest. Why? Because even though the building itself is most likely insured under the property owner’s policy, other issues likely won’t be. This means that if you accidentally start a fire in the kitchen or make one of the thousands of other innocent mistakes that could damage the property, you’re the one who is going to be held financially responsible for any repairs. At the same time, should you experience a break-in and lose any of your possessions to theft, there’s no reason to expect the property owner to pay for your losses. Insurance is relatively inexpensive, and can offer you the security of knowing that if something unexpected should happen, you’ll be protected.


6. Mistakes here can hurt you later.


Let’s say that you end up violating your rental agreement in some unforgivable way, and you find yourself receiving an eviction notice. When this happens, you may find that the hassle of having to find a new place to live is only the tip of the iceberg, because evictions also have a negative impact on your overall credit score. Even if you end up fighting the action and winning, there’s a good chance that the eviction will stay on your record (at least for a while).


7. Helpful resources are available.


Between all of the laws and contracts, the entire rental process can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t worry, because you don’t have to go through it alone. Assistance is available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, as well as other websites and organizations. So, when you’re finally ready to sign that contract and make that commitment, you’ll be able to do it with the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve made a well-informed decision.