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Robert M. Wright; Author, Freelance Writer, Realtor

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Tips to help you Rent.

I mentioned that this is a great time to buy a home, the climate is a perfect storm of low interest rates and a plethora of house on the market. However not everyone can afford to buy or chooses not to buy a home. Renting is a great option for recent college graduates who are looking to save money now in order to buy a house later, for those who have been placed in a tough bind due to job loss or for those who want to downsize from a mortgage bill and simple save money to rebuild their financial situation. Because in these less than idea economic times, going small will pay off in the end.

Some tips for renters that can help you find the right place for you.

First and foremost, visit the complexes or homes that are renting. It's easy to look at a picture in a paper or take a virtual tour online, but nothing can take the place of a hands-on walk through. Talk to the landlords who are advertising their rooms or apartments if possible. If not talk to the property managers and get a feeling for them. How they interact with you during this initial interview can tell you a lot about how they manage their property.

Everyone who has rented from a bad landlord has what's called “Buyers remorse” because they didn't do enough research on the property before signing the paperwork and getting locked into a lease.

When you do tour the rental property, walk around in each room. Take your time, look at the walls, and ceilings. Do you see nail pops? Do you see cracks or bad patch jobs that have been painted over? In the windows do you see dark splotches that can be indicative of mold? Run the water in the sinks, tub and shower. Flush the toilet to make sure it works. Check the doors to see what kind of locks they use, are they deadbolts? Do they have security chains on the doors and peep holes? Drive by the place various times during the day to see what kind of foot traffic is there. After doing the walk through talk to some neighbors to see what they say about the place, neighborhood and if they have experienced any problems. Look at the trash bins, usually they are behind walls, if there is a large amount of graffiti on them?

When walking around the property what amenities to they offer? Is there tenant parking? Are there laundry facilities on the premises or is there laundry hook-ups in the apartment? Is there a clubhouse and a swimming pool? Is a cable or satellite hook-up for television and internet access provided? Is there a fitness facility on site? Are there playgrounds for children? Is it a gated facility? Is it located near grocery stores? Public transportation? Freeways or major thoroughfares?

When you sit down with the landlord or property manager, you should have a list of questions that they should be able to answer readily.

1) Ask them how often the buildings are cleaned and who/what service cleans them.

2) Are there special conditions on the tenancy, such as no pets, or pets under a certain weight limit.

3) Are there extra deposits for pets and what are the ground rules for pets?

4) Who owns the property and is building up for sale or conversion to condominiums? You don't want to sign a lease only to find out that the building has been sold to new owners or has been converted a few months down the line.

5) Ask why the apartment/room is available, and for how long it has been vacant.

6) Ask what type of security is there for the property.

7) What are the privacy rights you have? Make sure you know exactly how much notice your landlord has to give before entering your unit.


These questions can go a long way to helping you figure out if the apartment or room is something you want to invest your money in since you will be in a fairly-long term lease.

Once you've found the right place for you, you'll want to be prepared when you sign the rental application. Be prepared to write a check for the security deposit and usually the first month's rent. Have a list of references from your employer, friends, colleagues and from past landlords. Bring a current copy of your credit report. If you don't bring your credit report be ready to pay a fee to have them run a credit check.

Read everything in the rental agreement, and be sure to ask questions if you are unsure of the return of the security deposit refund procedures. Make sure you have read and fully understand the rules of the complex or house before signing the paper work. You don't want any surprises later on. When doing the final walk through of the apartment take pictures of the interior and exterior when you move in and out so that you have evidence in case of a dispute with the landlord. When the landlord is completing the move-in check list, pay attention and make sure they mark everything. If you don't you may wind up paying for it when you move out.

Your rights as a renter are encompassed in the following sentence. A landlord must provide you a liveable place, that includes adequate weatherproofing, heat, water and electricity; in a clean, sanitary and structurally sound premises. Once you have moved in keep current records of everything from receipts of monthly payments, to written requests for repairs and any responses you receive. If something breaks, report it right away. Never put it off, the sooner the landlord is aware of the problem the sooner they can fix it.

Get rental insurance. You need to protect yourself in case of theft or some disaster, such as a fire or flood. Your landlord will not cover your possessions, that's your responsibility. Check local insurance agents and find the best plan for your specific needs. Some of you may think you don't need to do this, but trust me, paying the $350-400 a year for peace of mind is worth it, even if you never have to use it.

These tips will make renting an apartment, condominium or townhouse much easier and help you find the place that suits your needs.