Tips for Renters


Feb 16, 2024

When it comes to renting a home, it is important to do your homework before putting the pen to paper. Read all documents, ask all of the questions, and get everything in writing. Check out more tips for renters, and avoid any unexpected surprises during your lease!


Tip 1: Scrutinize the agreement.

Thoroughly examine all terms of the tenancy before putting pen to paper. Your lease or rental pact might contain a clause that you find objectionable — such as limitations on guests, pets, alterations, or running a home-based business. Seek clarification; ensure you grasp the entire agreement.

Tip 2: Document everything.

To avoid disagreements or misinterpretations with your landlord, ensure everything is documented. Retain copies of any correspondence and reinforce an oral agreement with a written letter detailing your mutual understanding. For instance, if you request repairs from your landlord, put it in writing and keep a duplicate. If the landlord agrees verbally, dispatch a letter to confirm it.

Tip 3: Handle an eviction appropriately.

Know when to contest an eviction notice — and when to relocate. If you believe the landlord is clearly in the wrong (for instance, you haven't received proper notice, the premises are uninhabitable), you may wish to challenge the eviction. However, unless you have the law and verifiable facts on your side, fighting an eviction notice may be shortsighted. Losing an eviction lawsuit could leave you hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in debt, negatively impacting your credit rating and your ability to easily rent from future landlords.

Tip 4: Safeguard your privacy rights.

Next to disputes concerning rent or security deposits, one of the most prevalent and emotionally charged misunderstandings revolves around the balance between a landlord's right to access a rental unit and a tenant's right to privacy. If you comprehend your privacy rights, including the notice period required before your landlord can enter, it'll be easier to safeguard them.

Tip 5: Carry your documents.

Impress a potential landlord by being well-prepared. Gain an edge over other applicants by presenting these items when you meet the landlord: a completed rental application; written endorsements from past landlords, employers, and coworkers; and a current copy of your credit report.

Tip 6: Obtain tenant's coverage.

Your landlord's insurance policy won't cover losses stemming from theft or damage. Renter's insurance also safeguards you in case someone sues you for injuries sustained in your rental due to your negligence. Typically, renter's insurance costs around $350 per year for a $50,000 policy covering loss from theft or damage caused by others or natural disasters; if you don't require that much coverage, there are more affordable policies available.

Tip 7: Defend your deposit.

To safeguard yourself and prevent misunderstandings, ensure your lease or rental agreement clearly outlines the utilization and return of security deposits, including allowable deductions. When you move in, conduct a walk-through with the landlord to document existing damage on a move-in statement or checklist.

Tip 8: Insist on maintenance.

Know your entitlement to inhabit a habitable rental unit — and don't relinquish it. The majority of landlords are obligated to provide their tenants with habitable premises, which include proper weatherproofing; heating, water, and electricity; and clean, hygienic, and structurally sound conditions. If your rental unit isn't adequately maintained, you have various options, ranging from withholding a portion of the rent, to covering repair costs and deducting them from your rent, to notifying the building inspector (who may mandate the landlord to make repairs), to vacating without liability for future rent.

Tip 9: Prioritize your safety.

Determine if your building and surroundings are secure, and what measures you can expect your landlord to take if they're not. Obtain copies of any local or state regulations mandating safety features like deadbolts and window locks, assess the property's susceptibility to break-ins, and ascertain if criminal incidents have occurred on the property or nearby. If the risk of crime is significant, your landlord may be obligated to implement measures to ensure your safety.

Tip 10: Communicate with your landlord.

Maintain open lines of communication with your landlord. If an issue arises — for instance, if the landlord is sluggish in making repairs — discuss it to see if the matter can be resolved without resorting to a contentious legal dispute.

Remember, your initial point of contact is the on-site manager. If an issue can't be resolved at this level, escalate it to the on-site manager's supervisor. Legal action should be a last resort.