After you have chosen an area to live in and found an apartment you want, being careful when negotiating and signing your lease can help you reduce the cost of renting and potentially eliminate some of the issues you are likely to face as a tenant. Below are some guidelines that can help.
In most cases, not only are you eager to move in, but the landlord is also anxious to start collecting rent. Ask the landlord if there is some way to get a slight reduction – 2 to 5 percent is not unreasonable. If you are a good prospect for leasing, the landlord may be willing to make a slight concession just to get the apartment rented. If the landlord says no, you have not lost anything.
Take a look around your apartment or rental house. In the case of a natural disaster or break-in, could you afford to replace your computer, home entertainment system, jewelry, clothing, furniture or appliances? After all, your landlord’s insurance policy doesn’t cover your personal property. Renters insurance provides coverage not only for your belongings, but also for other people’s injuries or damages while in your apartment for which you may be liable.
Look for terms you may find hard to live with. Are there restrictions on pets, types of furniture allowed (for example, waterbeds), or any other items? Can you have roommates? What are the payment terms? Is the penalty for late payment severe? Does the landlord have the right to enter your apartment without your permission? If the landlord's expenses rise (property taxes, maintenance, etc.), can your rent be raised? Even though the lease document may be a couple of pages long, you should read it carefully.
While some landlords will not accept multiple names on the lease, it makes sense to ask. If all your roommates sign the lease, all share any liabilities. It also may protect you if one roommate moves out before the end of the lease. Review all possible roommate scenarios with your landlord before signing the lease. Are you financially responsible for the lease should a roommate be unable to pay? Can the roommate be replaced? What are the rules for breaking the lease? Can you sublease the apartment? Plan for the worst and be prepared.
Try to get as low a security deposit as possible, and get a receipt for it. There may be laws in your state about how large of a security deposit can be demanded. Landlords protect themselves against damages with the security deposit. Be sure to make a thorough inspection of the apartment before you move in to find any existing damaged items. Take pictures of anything that could be considered damaged and provide copies to the landlord so that you are not charged at the end of your lease. When you move out, the costs of repairing any damages will be deducted from your deposit. If you are leaving the apartment in great shape when moving out, try to get the landlord to inspect it with you before you leave.
If you plan to renew your lease, be sure to let the landlord know. You may even be able to get a discount if you work with the landlord. Even if you plan to stay, check out the market. If there are a lot of apartments available, your negotiation stance can be stronger. If you do not plan to renew, check your lease for the time frame in which you must give notice. It is not uncommon for leases to require a 45- or 60-day notice to end or renew your lease.
Being a landlord is a business just like any other. Renters and customers who are pleasant to work with usually get better service. A good relationship with your landlord can be important if things go wrong. Remember, your landlord is who you are going to call if there is a leak in your roof at 3:00 a.m. or there is no hot water. A good relationship may get the problem resolved easier and sooner.