Renting certainly comes with its fair share of advantages. For one, tenants don’t have to worry about making necessary home improvements to the property. They also aren’t responsible for paying expensive property taxes on the rental. In addition, renters have the option to pick up and move at the end of their lease term, giving them ample flexibility when it comes to moving. However, renters do need to be mindful of quite a few obligations and responsibilities when renting a home. Here are 10 must-dos for all tenants when moving to a rental property.
10 must-dos when renting a home
Research the neighborhood before the move
Sure, rentals aren’t a permanent situation. But do you really want to get stuck in a bad part of town – even for a few months? Before committing to a rental, make sure to thoroughly research the neighborhood to ensure that it’s a safe and convenient place to live. Besides crime rates, we recommend looking into local amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, public transportation options, vehicle parking rules, convenient stores and gyms. Do these options fit your needs? Are amenities located nearby? To learn more about an area, check out Moving.com’s City Profile Report feature. Our in-depth reports include city demographics, real estate information, quality of life factors and more. Simply enter the zip code or the state and city of your potential move to get a free report at the click of a button.
Read the lease’s terms carefully
Before signing a lease, make sure you actually read it first. It’s not a bad idea to also have a Realtor and/or an attorney look over it to make sure everything is fairly standard. Certain rules and clauses to examine include pet policies (if applicable), maintenance and upkeep expectations, when and how to pay your rent, and guidelines for breaking a lease. You should also read all rules regarding getting a security deposit back and subletting the home (if you plan to leave for part of the year). The last thing you want are unexpected surprises from a landlord, so make sure to do your homework before signing an official lease.
Inspect the property carefully
Putting down a security deposit? If you want it back, we recommend documenting any and all pre-existing damage to the home. For proof, take photos and submit them to the landlord. You may also want to ask your landlord for a move in/move out checklist. This list includes specific features that the landlord will examine before and after you leave in order to assess damage done to the property. It’s important because it informs the landlord what (if anything) was damaged while the tenant lived in the home. It also protects the tenant from having to pay for damage that was already present.
Obtain renters insurance once you move in
You never know what’s going to happen when you move into a new home. Even a property in the safest part of town can experience unexpected mishaps. From natural disasters, such as a fire, to break-ins and theft, these unfortunate events happen all too often. The best thing you can do is be prepared by investing in renters insurance. While a landlord’s insurance may cover the building in general, it likely won’t cover your specific belongings. Instead, you will need renters insurance to help replace your items in the case of water damage, fire or theft. You may also need it to help with medical bills in case injuries occur while inside the home.
Set up automatic bill payments to your landlord
The last thing you want to do is pay your rent late or (worse) forget to pay it altogether. If your landlord accepts payment via online bank transfer, we recommend setting up automatic, monthly bill payments to the landlord. This way, you’ll never forget to pay your rent and utility bills. It will also give you one less thing to worry about during the month. If your landlord doesn’t accept automatic payments online, and prefers money sent the old fashioned way (through the mail), simply set reminders on your calendar each month.
Keep up with property maintenance
Did the toilet suddenly stop working? Is the heater making a strange noise? Whatever it is, don’t wait until it’s too late to have something fixed. If an item breaks or becomes damaged inside the home, contact your landlord as soon as possible. Usually, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to pay for these repairs – though you may have to find and schedule the repairman to come to the property. After the item is fixed, make sure to let your landlord know.
Do a deep clean of the property
When moving into a rental, we highly recommend performing a deep clean of the property at the very beginning of your stay. After all, you never know who was living in the home before you moved in. In fact, you don’t even know the last time it was cleaned extensively. So break out that vacuum, dust off those window sills and get your cleaning supplies ready. Starting on week one, living in a sanitary and thoroughly cleaned property should be a top priority.
Talk to the landlord about rules regarding customizations
Can’t stand the paint color on the bedroom wall? Looking to get rid of that granny wallpaper in the powder room? Before doing anything drastic, you should definitely talk to the landlord about any and all customizations you want to make to the property. In fact, if the customizations are a must for you, we recommend discussing this prior to signing the lease. Many landlords are perfectly fine with tenants painting the walls, as long as the tenants pays to have them repainted after they move out. Perhaps your landlord is even willing to split the cost of these cosmetic changes in order to improve the property. Whatever the case, tenants should always get the landlord’s approval in writing before making changes to a rental.
Try to have a good relationship with the landlord
While you certainly don’t need to be best friends with your landlord, you should, at the very least, aim to have a civil and respectful relationship. Not only will this encourage communication about issues with the property (read: maintenance requests, etc), but it will also make the landlord more willing to work with you in the future (i.e. if you need to break a lease early or need to find a subletter for a short period of time). Having a good relationship with your landlord can go a long way in making your rental experience a positive one.
Request your security deposit back when you move out
Don’t forget to request your security deposit back when you move out. While landlords are usually required to return this deposit within a certain number of days (assuming no damage has been done to the property), they often forget or get delayed with logistics. To speed up the process, ask to perform a walk-through of the property with your landlord before moving out. This way, you can assess any and all damage together. If the landlord does find damage to the property, you may be able to negotiate how much of the deposit to put towards repairs.