Renting an apartment or room is indispensable when you are starting out as a young professional in a city away from home. In fact, renting is becoming more prevalent as an increasing number of working individuals expect to own a property only at a later age. How can you rent smart and avoid getting into sticky situations with your landlord? Adam Dachis from LifeHacker.com has some advice for renters:
1. If You Want to Pay Less, Ask
Rent isn’t necessarily negotiable, but many landlords are willing to compromise on price. While lowering the official rent price can be the most difficult, sometimes you can negotiate other means of decreasing what you have to pay. If you need an extra parking spot, that’s something you can ask for as a way you can save a little money. If you want a discount specifically on the rent, however, you may be more successful if you agree to extend the length of the lease. Most leases last 12 months, but by agreeing to a 13th month you’re giving the landlord assurance that s/he’ll be receiving rent for an extra month. Just like you can with cellphone contracts, you can sometimes get a better price by agreeing to a longer term.
2. Talk to Existing Tenants
While this may seem a little intimidating, if you want to get a good idea of what it’s like to live in a particular apartment building you need to speak to people that already live there. Gathering a few experiences can be really helpful in getting a clear picture of what living there will be like for you. While you’ll undoubtedly have a few questions of your own, the most important general questions you can ask are the following:
- Do you enjoy living here? Is it a good place to live?
- How does the landlord respond to maintenance requests?
- How does the landlord respond when there’s a problem?
- Are there noise issues?
- Is there anything unusual I should be aware of?
If you’re concerned about interrupting people by going door to door or are just feeling a little shy, one alternative is to leave a note under a few doors or in a few mailboxes. Leave your name, number and/or email address, and let them know that you’re thinking about renting in their building and want to ask them a few questions. Not everyone will respond, but if you leave a few notes you should be able to get at least one person to contact you.
If anything is ever unclear, make sure it’s clarified in writing and becomes part of your lease. If something in the lease seems wrong, ask for it to be amended. If there are circumstances that you feel should allow you to break your lease, make sure that becomes part of your lease before you sign it. If at any point you consider that something should be in writing, put it in writing.
4. Document Your Move-in with Photos
Often times your landlord will take photos before you move in and after you move out in order to document anything in the apartment. You should do the same. Before you move in and sign the lease, it’s also best if you can get a tour and take photos as well. Concentrate on any issues in the apartment, such as damage or other problems. Ask to have these issues fixed before you sign the lease and do not sign until these issues are dealt with. If a landlord doesn’t get around to fixing any move-in issues before the lease signing, it’s a good sign that s/he’ll be slow to fix any issues after you move in as well.
5. Know Your Rights
Look out for tenants’ rights handbooks that might be made available by the state or city you are renting in. It’s the best way to know your rights when renting so you don’t make any avoidable mistakes during the process. Otherwise, seek legal advice if need be and do a little research on your legal aid options. Should a renting situation turn to the worst, your county may provide legal aid services to help you get legal advice or even defend yourself should the issue take you to court. Knowing your options ahead of time and who to call in the event of a problem can make a very stressful situation much easier.
6. Be Honest
Renting an apartment is a business relationship between the tenant and the landlord, so it stands to reason that the tenant can be the problem as well. If you want to be a good tenant, you need to do more than pay your rent on time. In fact, in many cases, honesty and care can go much farther than timeliness. If you’re going to have trouble paying your rent one month or have some sort of problem, you will almost always be better served by being honest with your landlord.
In general, if you’re good, honest, and treat the rental property with respect, you’ll be in a much better position to get help or be on higher ground if there’s a problem. If you accidentally damage anything, offer to make compensation. When you move out, restore the unit to the way it looked (or better) than when you moved in.
This post was originally published here on LifeHacker.com in November 2010. TheYoungProfessionalGroup.com takes no credit for the work of the author.