Recent trends have seen Americans electing to rent instead of own when it comes to housing, and as the homeownership rate has dropped, the demand for rental properties has skyrocketed.
With so much competition, it’s easy to see why first-time renters are willing to jump on the first offered property, but this can be a mistake that creates lasting ramifications.
Instead of falling into these common renter mistakes, stay aware and make sure your renting process is easy and painless.
1. Not Reading Your Lease Word By Word
Even if you’re faced with a competitive rental market, it’s important to take your time and scrutinize the lease provision by provision.
Even if you believe you’ve found your dream place, a strict lease and an unsavory landlord can result in a horrible situation—no amazing house will offset the negatives of living under insanely rigid rules in your own home.
Be sure to look at lease rules regarding guests, subletting (if you plan on leaving your home for months at a time, say on travels), and any provisions that touch on pest control.
2. Failing to Photograph Upon Move-In
When you do move into your new place, make sure you take detailed photographs of every portion of the house. This will be your insurance against any damage charges incurred during the tie you live there, and will give you irrefutable proof of the condition of the apartment when it comes time to collect your security deposit as you move out.
If there’s a dent in a corner of the room, a chip in the paint, or you see architecture showing its age, make sure to document these things as much as possible. Email your landlord these photos as a receipt, and be sure to keep them somewhere safe in case their use is necessary.
3. Forgoing Renter’s Insurance
These days, many landlords are choosing to require proof of renter’s insurance from their tenants, and it’s truly a beneficial move for both parties. Even if your landlord doesn’t have such a provision, it’s important to make sure all of your belongings are as protected as possible.
Your landlord’s insurance will cover the value of the property in case of natural disaster, fire, or other situation, but your belongings won’t be included on that list. Renter’s insurance is generally fairly cheap, with the average policy costing around just $187 a year according to the NAIC.
Check out low-cost renter’s insurance from Esurance.com and find a plan that keeps your belongings safe.
4. Jumping on the First Apartment You See
You might be in a rush to find a place, but it’s important to give your apartment or house hunting process the necessary time it takes to make a solid decision.
Look at comparable properties on sites like Trulia, consider the costs (you don’t want to lock yourself into a lease where you’re paying a price that’s far too high for the property or area in question), and take your time when it comes to signing a lease. It’s sometimes hard to do in a competitive rental market, but if you have a little wiggle room and time to decide, take advantage of it.
5. Not Using a Screening Service
Prospective landlords will be wanting access to a bevy of personal information to ensure you are who you say you are and will be able to realistically pay your rental bill each month.
In a competitive market, this could see you handing out your social security number left and right to numerous individuals. Always ask landlords about their screening processes, and check whether or not they use certified companies like Transunion SmartMove to screen their prospective tenants. Services like this keep your information safe and provide all of the details a landlord needs to make an informed decision, leaving you both in a better, more secure position.
As you begin to search for your first rental, it’s important to keep these common mistakes in mind and avoid making them. From rental insurance concerns to screening safeguards, these tips will help you choose wisely and find a place that fits all of your needs without making yourself vulnerable.
This post is featured on behalf of Linda Reyes.