This guest post comes to you courtesy of Tali Wee of Zillow – enjoy!
Renting an apartment or single-family home requires renters to make short-term commitments. Just as landlords are responsible for maintaining their rental properties, tenants are obligated to fulfill the terms of their leases.
Considering renting a home? Review these six duties before signing a lease.
1. Explore Options
Renters have a variety of living options at their fingertips. Search rental properties within a specific budget, desired location and size. Check out reviews on different property management companies before visiting the apartments. Previous tenants can give more information than a biased listing description. Whatever the process, avoid wasting everyone’s time by visiting unlikely properties.
2. Understand the Lease
It’s easy to skim over the terms and conditions when in a rush to finalize the moving process. However, there may be certain stipulations and rules not outlined in a typical lease. Renters need to make sure they understand pet policies, deposit fees, move-in regulations, rent due dates and other provisions. Make sure the lease follows state guidelines. Some landlords use general forms from the internet which don’t always follow state-specific regulations. Regardless of building location, landlords are always liable for negligence and repairs. Further, landlords do not have the right to seize personal property due to a missed rent payment. Keep an eye out for contradictions of these standard laws in the lease agreement before signing, as this can be a strong indicator of an inexperienced or unethical landlord.
3. Buy Insurance
Some renters believe because they don’t own property, they don’t need insurance to cover potential damages. Without renters insurance, any damage to personal possessions lies with the leaseholder. A renter has no control over the condition of the plumbing, foundation and general structure of a property. If a pipe bursts or the roof leaks, all furniture and belongings are in danger of damage. While natural disasters are unforeseeable by anyone, renters are smart to protect their belongings with insurance just in case. Renters insurance also protects renters if they accidentally damage the property. For instance, if the renter left a candle burning that started a fire, the insurance would pay for fire damages to the building.
4. Know Privacy Rights
Generally, landlords cannot enter an occupied property without proper notice. The warning time period varies by state. According to the Tenant Survival Guide of Washington, D.C., landlords have a “right of entry” to inspect for repairs and conduct showings, but can only request access at a sensible time. The current tenant has the right to object based on schedule conflicts. These regulations are dismissed in cases of emergency or a court order.
5. Pay on Time
Obviously, if finances are in order, a timely rent payment shouldn’t be an issue. However, medical emergencies or the loss of a job may interfere with a lessee’s ability to pay rent and utilities. In this case, try to negotiate a partial or delayed payment. Landlords are more likely to grant renters extra time if they’re upfront about the situation, especially if renters have been punctual with dues in the past. Offer to pay partial rent on the due date and be prepared for a late fee.
6. Communicate with Property Management
Discuss problems as they arise during the rental period. It’s better to be open and honest with a landlord than trying to hide issues, which can potentially lead to a withheld deposit. If some of the lease terms are unfair, attempt to renegotiate. Never try to hide a pet or extended-stay guest from a landlord. Once property management discovers a break in the contract, they have the right to reserve the deposit or even evict tenants.
These six steps are the basics to being a responsible renter. Cleanliness and decent behavior is expected from tenants, just as organization and follow-through is expected of landlords. Renting is a two way street; tenants should treat the property with the respect as if they owned it themselves in order to have a positive renting experience.