Renting an Apartment

If you're careful when you negotiate and sign your lease, you can reduce rental costs and avoid some of the issues tenants typically face.

Try to get a reduction on the monthly rent

In most cases, you'll be eager to move in to your new place, but your landlord will be anxious to start collecting rent. So it's to your advantage to take the opportunity to ask the landlord if there's some way to get a slight reduction—2% to 5% isn't unreasonable.

If you're a good prospect for leasing, your landlord may be willing to make a slight concession just to get the apartment rented. If the landlord says "no," you haven't lost anything.

Consider renters insurance

Take a look around your apartment or rental house. In the event of a natural disaster or a 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.

Carefully examine the terms of your lease

Look for things that you may find hard to live by:

  • Are there restrictions on pets, furniture or any other items?
  • Can you have roommates?
  • What are the terms of payment?
  • Is the late payment penalty 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.

List all your roommates and have them sign the lease

If all your roommates sign the lease, everyone shares responsibility for the apartment. While some landlords won't accept multiple names on the lease, it only makes sense to ask if you can set this up.

Review these 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 sublet the apartment?

Review how the security deposit works

Landlords protect themselves against damages with the security deposit. However, there may be laws in your state about how large of a security deposit can be demanded. As a renter, you should try to get as low a security deposit as possible, and then get a receipt for it.

Before you move in, be sure to make a thorough inspection of the apartment to find any existing damaged items. Take pictures of anything that could be considered damaged and provide copies to the landlord so that you're 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're leaving the apartment in great shape when moving out, try to get the landlord to inspect it with you before you leave.

Talk to your landlord well before your lease ends

If you plan to renew your lease, be sure to let your landlord know. You may even be able to get a discount if you work with them.

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 don't plan to renew, check your lease for the time frame in which you must give notice. It's not uncommon for leases to require a 45- or 60-day notice to end or renew your lease.

Be a good renter

Remember, your landlord is who you're going to call if there's a leak in your roof at 3 am or there's no hot water. A good relationship may get the problem resolved more quickly and easily.

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 will be important if things go wrong.

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