Renting Tips for the Novice Home Renter Just Entering the Market
How to Win at the Renting Game on Your First Try
If you didn’t have the good fortune of being taught how to “adult,” things like balancing a checkbook, filling out a job application, and filing paperwork on your first apartment can be downright panic-inducing. There’s much more to getting your apartment search, application, and move-in details right than it might seem at first.
Even for the most seasoned adults, there can be room for improvement in their approaches to apartment hunting and lease navigating. You can either learn things the hard way through trial and costly errors, or you can save yourself some serious hassles with a little research (reading this blog post is a great start!).
Learn how to protect yourself and how to spot red flags with potential landlords, so whether it’s your first time or tenth time, you can win at the renting game.
First, the Rental Search
Searching for an apartment, especially in a tight market like a college town or trending city for young people, can be an absolute nightmare. By the time you see the ad, then get to see the rental in question, you may be the fifteenth applicant shelling out fifty bucks for a screening that most likely won’t result in getting you any further along in the process of landing the rental lease as your own.
Playing the viewing and application game may be a part of the process these days as more and more landlords turn over property management to outside companies (who pocket those screening fees themselves). Don’t be afraid to ask the person showing you the apartment how you’d fare against other applicants if you submit an application. Some will even agree to not run your screening (and charge you a fee), unless you’re first up for the place.
And for bonus points, try to find an old-school landlord who may not even charge you a screening (or the half-million other fees that property managers are notorious for). Word of mouth, the old-school classifieds, and message boards at neighborhood spots are the best areas to look for places that won’t likely get swarmed with applicants.
Talk to Your Prospective Neighbors
Before you spend money on an application or screening fee, talk to the neighbors of the rental you’re looking at. They may have some inside information on your landlord or the place, or be able to tip you off regarding a bad neighbor, before you get in too deep.
If everything seems above board, or there’s something you’re willing to overlook because of the price and your budget concerns, then spend the money to put your hat in the ring.
Thoroughly examining every aspect of your intended domicile is absolutely imperative to ensure you don’t get stuck paying to fix something that was damaged or worn out when you moved in. Take out your phone when you’re touring the rental and take pictures of absolutely everything – especially anything not in brand-new condition.
Also, write down everything that’s cracked, stained, worn, or dirty before you move in and get the landlord or property management representative to sign off on a copy (give them a copy as well), so that it’s completely understood what was damaged before you moved in.
Should the worst happen and you land in court, documentation is the key to getting your deposits back, or avoiding a judgment against you.
Read Your Lease and Know Your Rights
Lastly, read your lease thoroughly before you sign it and make sure that you understand what you’re agreeing to. Get familiar with renter’s rights and responsibilities you have within your city, county, and state.
When the time comes to move out, many renters tolerate or pay for things needlessly because a bad landlord will say they have to. Protect yourself by documenting the condition you leave the place in, understanding that you will likely have to pay for any damage or conditions left in disarray.