Top Things to Look out for when Renting a Home

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It is becoming far more difficult for people to get themselves onto the property ladder and as a result, there are increasingly more people renting homes.  In most parts of the USA, we will continue to see this trend rise as the home properties continue to increase at a greater rate than people’s salary.  It can be therefore be a challenge for people to get a property that has the balance right between being spacious and in the right location to being affordable.   Clearly, in large cities like New York, you will find that the cost of an apartment to rent is substantially different to maybe a smaller US city like Indianapolis. There are many tips on what to look out for when looking to rent an apartment which will include some of the items stated below.

Location

If you are not completely familiar with the normal location of the area, then it is worthwhile doing a bit of research.  For all you know, the apartment may be beautiful, however, could be isolated and not near any transport links. The internet is probably the most powerful source of information on this front where you can check for almost anything.  This can include, transport links, schools, crime rate, local gyms, restaurants and shopping.  The further you are out from the main activities, generally, you will find the cheaper the accommodation although there are some exceptions to this.  For example, if you are purchasing a home next to the beach, it may not be in the centre of town but could be a highly sought area, therefore, the price could be a lot higher.

Insulation

Energy bills can be high, specifically during the cold seasons as people try to keep the heat in and it is therefore important to understand what the energy bills will be when you rent the home.  It would be a good idea to look at homes that have solar panels installed as this will significantly reduce the cost of the monthly rent.  Solar power in Ontario has soared over the past few years and they are a perfect example of how homeowners who take out that extra initial investment to get the best solar power in Ontario installed into their home can save the dollars.  If this is something that is not incorporated into the home, it could be something that you negotiate with the landlord.  Even if you are currently renting and the landlord is looking for you to renew your lease for a 6 month period or you then tell them to look at locations to get this installed as an incentive for you to renew.  You can even refer them to some of the tax credits that the government is offering homeowners in some locations for doing this.  Not only are you keeping the heat in and the energy in, you are doing it in a clean way that helps in our fight against global warming.  Other forms of insulation will also include the windows and doors – these are a common area for heat to escape and can therefore affect the amount of energy required.  Double Glazed windows and door are then something that you should be looking out for.

Contract

When you are going to rent a home there will be a long laborious contract that you will require to sign.  Contained within this there will be a lot of things that you need to pay attention to but one of these areas will be home inspections and access to the house.  At the end of the day, the house you are staying in may be your home, but it is most certainly not owned by you.  As a result, you may have a landlord who wants to check the home on regular intervals to make sure that it is being kept in a good condition.  They will want to check this regularly as if you move out, it needs to be in a good enough condition in order for them to try and rent to someone else; alternatively they may even want to sell the home on and as a result look to keep regular watch on this.  There are a lot of “tenants’ rights” to protect landlords or companies representing the landlord from just turning up and accessing the property.  At the end of the day, this is a home that someone is living in, therefore, they need to be allowed to have a level of privacy.  Generally, landlords need to give notice in advance to come to the property, but the contract will have the details of this printed out.  They can usually only get emergency access if they believe there is some sort of Health and Safety issue. One thing to be aware of is that the landlord may want to sell the property whilst you are living in it.  If this is the case, then they will want you to allow to give access to potential viewers of the home.  There will be words to this effect in the contract but generally in most states, you can deny this access if it is not suitable for you.

Other things to look out for in the contract include the homeowners wishes on things like pets.  Most homeowners will not want pets in their home as there is a potential to damage, however, there may be clauses to say that permission could be granted if the prior consent is sought from the landlord.  If access is not granted and you go ahead and disobey this, you could be subject to eviction plus any of the cleaning costs associated with this.

Inventory

When you move into a property there will be an inventory list take to make sure that whatever is in the property is accounted for.  This can actually be times consuming to complete if the property is furnished or partly furnished, however, it is crucial that you do this inventory check on your own as if there is items missing from the list when you check out, they will chase you for these costs.  Even when a property is rented as “unfurnished” there will still be an inventory check completed as there will be essential items contained within – this can include fixtures and fittings.

Deposit

An initial deposit will be requested from you when you are renting the property, and this is usually one month’s rent. This will be required in advance of you even moving into the home.  This money is usually protected and held in a central fund; however, it can be withheld from you.  In the contract, it will state very clearly the terms around the deposit and how this can be used.  This can include to offset rent arrears or for damage in the property that you may have caused and not paid for.  There are independent bodies who sometimes mediate any fallout from these conversations to make sure that there is a fair deal and landlords are not just withholding cash for the sake of it.  Read the details around this in the contract and make sure if there are any questions surrounding this, they are asked in advance.

Rent Payments

Generally, rent payments are paid in advance, however, this is not always the case and you can sometimes negotiate how this is completed before entering the property.  Traditionally, the rent payments are due to be paid into a bank account on a certain date.  Sometimes cash is accepted but if this is the method agreed, it is crucial that you get receipts for this and retain them as evidence.  If you do anticipate that you will go into rental arrears it is important to communicate this and speak with the landlord as soon as possible. Do not just pay it and make them chase you.  If the landlord does not know what is happening and he/she sees a risk here, they may look to evict you.  The landlord may also have a mortgage to pay on this property and if you are not paying the rent, this could affect them being able to pay the mortgage therefore it is crucial that you keep them fully engaged. Sometimes things happen and you may have an understanding landlord.  Communication is the key.

Insurance

If you are renting a property it is important to find out the level of insurance that you are covered for in case of a drastic event such as a fire.  If you have rented an unfurnished home and you have brought all your appliances and furniture into it, you want to make sure that these items are covered in such an event.  This is not always the case and sometimes the landlord will only have insurance for the structural elements of the home.  If this is the case, you may want to take out your own insurance cover to include anything that you deem of any great value in the property that is yours.  This could include TVs, sofas, beds, computers etc.

Notice Period

The notice period that a landlord can give you will appear in the contract but will also need to comply with state laws which differ around the USA.  Landlords cannot just evict tenants at short notice without any good reason and the tenant has rights.  Landlords are generally required to give between 1- and 2-months’ notice to tenants of their intention to evict.  This is unfortunate for the tenant if they are wanting to continue living in the property, however, it is one of the risks associated with not owning the home. In advance of renting a property, you should ask the landlord their intention with it.  They may want to rent it indefinitely or he may wish to rent for a few years and then sell.  If you have lived in the property for a few years and he is looking to sell, he could even look at you as the favourable option to purchase as it would reduce any hassle – this gives you a stronger negotiating power as the landlord would not then need to advertise, market and go through a lot of the normal jargon associated with selling a home.

Additional Bills

Sometimes there could be additional bills associated with renting a property that could be overseen.  This could include things such as any communal space upkeep – for example a shared garden or yard.  Make sure that you ask all these questions upfront before taking the keys to the property as if you are the tenant, ultimately you will be liable for these (unless a separate agreement is put in place).  Other bills can include things such as water, taxes, internet etc.  Sometimes these will be fixed and included in your monthly payments.  Other times, these will be left to you to select and pay by your own means.  Most of these things are negotiable in advance.

Amendments

If you are intending to rent a property for a long time (maybe several years or more), you may then wish to make it more like your home and change things around.  This could include redecorating.  You will find that if you approach most landlords and let them know your intent of redecorating and give them the details, they will be more than happy for you to do this (as long as it is completed to a high standard).  Ultimately, a landlord is looking for his property to be kept in good order and this may mean refreshing the décor from time to time.  It saves them the task of doing this.  If you are wanting to make other amendments to the property – this could be structural, you are less likely to get the agreement from the landlord, but it is worth approaching them and asking.  If the landlord does not approve changes then you must abide by these or risk losing, you deposit and potentially being sued.

Make sure to look out for these things when renting a home.

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