Rent prices continue to rise as new renters flood the market. If you’re a renter, this adds up to less pocket money and fewer rental options. The current rental climate doesn’t mean you should rush into your next apartment. It just means there are some things you should avoid doing so you don’t waste time and money.
Mistake #1. “Who Reads the Lease? It’s like the iTunes agreement. Just sign.”
All leases aren’t created equal. If you don’t have a firm understanding of the binding contract you sign, you may face serious problems down the road. As an example, some leases may have an arbitration agreement clause, which forces you to settle all lawsuits in binding arbitration rather than court. You’ll also need to study the renewal terms, subletting rules (in case a roommate moves out), utility agreements, lease terms, property rules, and late fees.
Mistake #2. “The Landlord or Property Management Company Will Fix It.”
Most renters are unaware that the landlord doesn’t have to fix some appliances such as the washer, dryer, fridge, and microwave. Broken appliances aren’t considered major repairs (unlike heat, hot water, and security features), and in most counties the landlord is not legally obliged to fix them. Of course, most good landlords will, but you should ask to make sure. Check the lease and make sure there isn’t a clause stating the landlord doesn’t have to fix any nonessential appliance if it breaks. If that’s the case, be wary of renting a place with that clause and old appliances.
Mistake #3. “They’ll Document All Damage.”
Most renters don’t take the extra step of documenting what the property looked like before they moved in. Photographic, time-stamped evidence of previous property damage can be the best way to get back your security deposit from a bad landlord. Take photos of any damages. This includes carpet stains, holes in the wall, cracked tiles, etc. It also helps to write down and document these damages and have your landlord sign off on it.
Mistake #4. “He/She Gave Me Their Word.”
If your landlord says they are going to do something like repair the air conditioner after you move in, don’t just take his word for it. Get it in writing—your landlord will be much less likely to “forget” about it. The same is true for anything else your landlord says, such as renewing the lease at the end of the year or not raising the rent. You’ll have a hard time proving an oral contract in court if a resulting problem ever goes that far.
Mistake #5. “I’m Sure the Neighborhood is Fine.”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the neighborhood looks the same all the time. Unless you know your city or town as well as a local police officer, you should take a drive through the area during the day AND at night. If things look sketchy, you won’t have to find out from your front porch.
Mistake #6. “I’m Sure My Credit is Fine.”
It is no longer a Renter’s Market. Today, landlord’s and property management companies – especially in bigger cities –want the best tenants. To do this, they always always always pull your credit scores. You should always have a current copy of your credit report and score. After pulling your credit report, check it for errors and either dispute any you find, or find a reputable credit repair company to assist you.. It could boost your credit score enough to give you an edge over the competition.