6 Things Every First Time Renter Should Know

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It’s your first apartment; going out on your own is accompanied by feelings of excitement and trepidation all at the same time. I’ve been there. I’ve even assisted young people in finding their first place to rent as a real estate agent. However, there are some rookie mistakes that I made on my own first place and witnessed plenty more. Thankfully, every single one of these faux paux is easily avoided.

Total cost of living
The total cost of living in an apartment or a home rental is different. However, it’s more than just the rent in most cases. Find out the last 12 month averages for power bills, water bills, and waste water by calling the local companies. The companies often maintain records for the previous year to provide you with an average expectation for your budget. If renting a house, inquire about the cost of lawn care and maintenance as an addition to the utility costs.

Additional fees
Some apartments or landlords impose a fee or deductible regarding repairs needing to be done on the unit. For example, if the oven breaks, the tenant might have to pay the first $50 of the repair. This fee is outlined in the lease, if it exists in the agreement. If you do not see information regarding additional fees for repairs or liability, inquire with the leasing consultant, apartment locator or real estate agent assisting you. As a side note, this fee is more common in rental homes than it is in apartments.

Read the lease
Of course, for many renters (especially new ones), the lease reads like Sanskrit. However, it’s essential that you read it, understand the dates of move in and move out, the deposit return policy, any additional pet deposits and how to communicate or file grievances with the property owner or manager. Make sure you get a copy of the lease once it is signed, and keep it in a safe place so that you can refer to it with any questions.

Longer terms, mean locked in rates
The longer the lease term, the longer your current rental rate is locked in. There are pros and cons to this. If you sign a two-year lease and want to move out after a year, you will be stuck paying a fee, or having to sublet the apartment or house for the duration of the lease. However, if you know you are going to stay put for longer than a year, a longer term means less fluctuation in rental payments year over year.

Early termination fees
It is rare to find a lease without an early termination fee. In some cases, the lease requires that the tenant buy out any remaining time on the lease with a fee equivalent to one month’s rent for each month remaining on the lease. For example, if the tenant wants to break his lease 3 months prior to it’s expiration, and pays $1,000 per month in rent; he would owe 3 months of rent, or $3,000. However, most leases contain clauses allowing a tenant to terminate before the maturation of the lease if they are military and come down on new orders or if the landlord is not maintaining the property or the property floods or burns down. Be sure to understand the clauses regarding all aspects of early termination.

Renter’s insurance
Many renters go without renter’s insurance. This is a dangerous thing. Paying $15 – $30 a month protects your personal belongings against damage or theft, something that your landlord is not liable for. Having renter’s insurance is crucial.

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