If anyone knows the ins and outs of renting a house, it’s our co-founder, Jeff. Below are some quick points to keep in mind when you’re renting your first home. We also understand that this is, most likely, a chaotic time in your life, so we eliminated the fluff and stuck to the facts. Enjoy!
Know What You can Comfortably Afford
Make a budget, add up your expenses and assess how much you have ‘left’ for rent. Don’t forget to include one-time expenses like application fee, credit check, security deposit and/or first and last month’s rent. You should expect to pay the equivalent of at least two month’s rent upfront. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Read Your Lease, Don’t Just Skim it
If necessary, have an expert review it for you (or a business major, they know everything). Most landlords use a standard form of lease that’s designed to protect them, not you. You may think the lease is “take it or leave it”. It’s usually not. The terms of your lease can almost always be negotiated. Know what you’re signing up for. If there are aspects of the lease you find questionable, and if they cannot be negotiated, be wary about signing.
Make Sure You See the Property Before You Sign
If your lease doesn’t provide for a walk-through at the beginning of the term, and again at the end, ask for both. Take your time walking through, especially for the first time. If you have furniture you’re worried about fitting, measure. Think of your new home as a car – take it for a test drive before you make a decision. Flip light switches, flush toilets, turn the oven on – make sure everything works. You may be about to sign a lease that says everything is in good working order when in fact it might not be.
Get Renters Insurance
Just because your landlord has the property insured, doesn’t mean you’re covered. Get your own insurance through your agent or one you trust. Some landlords and property management companies will lead you to believe you must purchase insurance through them or their insurance company. That’s usually not the case. A good renter’s policy should protect you and your possessions against fire, theft and water damage, as well as personal liability.
Know if You’re Liable to Pay for Repairs
Some leases might require you to pay the first several hundred dollars ($500, for instance) for simple repairs. Be sure your lease specifically details whether these charges are per incident or if they are cumulative, and if they apply to system repairs, such as furnaces or plumbing. Agree on your individual responsibilities with the landlord before you sign.
Subleasing & Sleepovers
It’s fine to have friends spend the night, but don’t get too chummy without checking with your landlord first. There’s a big difference between friends coming to town for the weekend and a friend crashing on the couch for a month. Most landlords require approval before you can add roommates or sublease any portion of the premises. If you think there’s a chance your situation may change during your lease, that you may be transferred or be unable to live up to your obligation, discuss it with your landlord before you sign the lease, and get any agreement in writing.
Security Deposit vs. First and Last Months Rent
Know the difference between a security deposit and “first and last“ month’s rent. If you’re paying a deposit, make sure your lease stipulates exactly when and how much of the deposit will be returned at the end of the lease. If your landlord reserves the right to inspect the property before your deposit is returned, make sure you’re present for the inspection. State laws stipulate the circumstances under which a landlord may withhold a portion of, or all of, a security deposit. Be sure you know your rights before you accept less than a full refund.
Be sure your lease stipulates who pays utilities, which ones and whose name they’re in. Usually, the tenant pays electric and gas. If Internet and or cable TV are available, that’s usually the tenant’s responsibility as well. Water is often paid by the landlord, but your lease should stipulate this too.
Who doesn’t like dogs and cats, right? Wrong. Make sure your lease allows you to have a pet if you have one or you plan to get one, or even if you think you might, during the term of your lease. Many landlords will require an additional security deposit for pets. Some leases include weight and other restrictions – read and ask questions before you sign. Indiana laws concerning service animals are currently changing, so be sure to research your rights.
Think you’re handy, or fancy yourself as an interior designer? Wait. Don’t make changes or alterations without first getting approval from your landlord. Otherwise, you may be held responsible for putting the property back to its original condition at the end of the lease, even if the improvements you made make the property better. If the property is in dire need of a coat of paint, find out if the landlord will pay for the materials before volunteering to do the work.
Finally, if possible, keep the relationship with your landlord strictly professional. It’s just a lot easier all around.
March 15, 2018