What Landlord/Tenants Need to Know – The Lowdown

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Pre-Move In Checklist

Making the decision to move into a new place is exciting. However, don’t let the excitement kill your common sense. Be sure you understand exactly what you are signing up for and don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment.

Before signing a lease for a rental property, take the following actions:

  • Learn the History: Ask the reason the last tenant moved out. Other good questions include: How many tenants have lived in this unit? How long was the last tenant here? Were past tenants smokers? Does law enforcement live in the complex? Check crime statistics for the area you are considering.
  • Document Damage: Record on paper any and all existing damage before moving in. Pro Tip: Turn multiple faucets on at the same time to see if the water drains properly. Also, open all the windows to ensure they don’t stick.
  • Change the Locks: Inquire about your ability to change the locks.
  • Take a Walk: Visit the property again at night and walk around the neighborhood. Do you feel safe?
  • Inquire about Credit Checks: Does the renting agent require a credit check to move in?
  • Research Complaints: Perform a quick search online for the street name to determine if there have been any recent police-related incidents.
  • View the Unit Itself: Insist on seeing the actual unit you will be moving into, not the model. The model home is created with the goal of convincing people to sign a new lease. The actual unit may look very different and/or its location may not be as ideal.
  • Check Bus Stops: If you have children that use the school bus, check out the bus stop location. Is it a safe place for your children to walk to alone?
  • Check Your Commute: Drive to work from the property you are considering to get a feel for the length of your commute. A test commute can also help you determine the busy spots in the morning traffic drive.
  • Copy the Contract: Get a copy of the contract for your records and store it in a safe place.

Tenant Rights

It is crucial to read the fine print of your rental agreement and consult an attorney if you don’t understand the terms. If you damage the property beyond normal wear and tear, the landlord can often charge a fee or keep your security deposit. Regardless of the state of the living quarters when you leave, the landlord may charge a general cleaning fee.

In most states, landlords must provide written notice before entering the property. In many instances you have the right to refuse entry unless you are present. In addition, a landlord can generally only evict a tenant after going through state eviction procedures.

Making Payments

As with any reoccurring payment, make sure you meet the deadline. It is also wise to save a copy of the checks you gave to the landlord when you first moved in. For example, if you paid first and last months’ rent and the security deposit, make a photocopy of each. When it comes time to renew your lease or walk away, you may not remember what you paid.

Making Smart Moves

A rental contract, whether with a rental agency (apartment complex) or an individual person, is a legally binding document. Make sure you are familiar with the details of what you are signing to be fully confident in your new housing decision.

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