Sometimes life and circumstances make renting a property preferable to owning. Whether you are just starting out, looking for temporary housing, scouting out a new location, or building credit for a future home purchase renting may be a viable solution to your housing needs.
My family has rented a couple of different properties over the years, and I’ve discovered a few questions that you may want to ask before renting. The purpose is to cover a variety of questions so that every potential renter has a better understanding of the legal relationship into which they are entering before the lease or rental agreement is signed.
Questions to Ask Before Renting a Property
What are the qualifications for renting?
Renters, just like home buyers, must often pre-qualify for a rental. It is important to ask about the requirements for qualifying as a renter. This may include a minimum credit score, questions about bankruptcy, and requests for professional and personal references. Finding out exactly what your landlord wants is the first step in moving toward a rental agreement.
How much is the security deposit ?
It is common practice to require one or two month’s rent as a security deposit. You need to find out how much the security deposit will be, whether the landlord is willing to break the security deposit payment up over two to three months, and what exactly the deposit covers. Is the deposit to cover repairs and cleaning when you move out? Is the deposit refundable if the premises is left in good condition? Under what conditions do you forfeit your deposit? Don’t forget the details should be in writing as part of your lease or rental agreement.
How do I get my security deposit back?
Reasonable wear on rental property is assumed and, in most states, cannot be deducted from the security deposit. Additionally, your state has guidelines and deadlines which landlords must follow in returning your security deposit. It is generally up to the landlord to return your deposit in a timely manner, but it helps to get this question out in the open at the beginning of the agreement. It may help you avoid small forfeiture of your deposit or small claims court later.
Is there a grace period for late payments?
Unless it is in writing, in most states there is no grace period for paying rent. A “pay or quit” notice may be delivered the day after the rent is due, beginning the eviction process. Most landlords, however, may agree to a grace period of 3 to 5 days.
At what point does the landlord add late fees?
Your landlord may agree to give you a grace period, but they may also intend to charge you a late fee. Find out before you sign an agreement when your landlord will add a late fee and how much that fee will be. These terms should be agreed upon before the agreement is signed and be contained in the written agreement.
Who is responsible for maintenance and repairs?
Find out who is responsible for minor and major repairs and get the answer in writing. Agree upon a way in which you will communicate regarding repairs with the landlord and how the expenses will be handled. Remember, in a household a lot of things can break. Major appliances can break down. Who’s responsible? Accidents can happen which leave holes in the walls or torn screens. Who will be responsible for those repairs? By law the premises has to be livable and maintained, but you and your landlord should see eye-to-eye on the subject.
Are there provisions in the rental agreement for unrestricted entry?
This is not something that you want to find in your rental agreement. Most states have guidelines for the number of days notice which a tenant or renter must receive before the landlord can visit or inspect the property. The landlord can create a loophole by writing it into the rental agreement, so watch out for these terms. Set down a prescribed amount of time during which notice must be given, or hold your landlord to your state guidelines.
Can a roommate be added to the lease agreement?
Whether you are renting alone or renting as a family it is important to be clear on how many people are covered by the rental agreement. Can someone else move in after you have taken up residence on the property. If so, what are the qualifications for an additional renter or roommate.
Are pets allowed?
Some landlords forbid pets, some allow pets with no additional stipulations, others require an additional security deposits for pets because they tend to make a mess and damage property. Do not make any assumptions about your pets, even if you own a fish. Ask about your specific pet and any additional charges that you may incur for bringing a pet on the premises, such as additional security deposit or additional monthly rent.
What are the consequences of breaking a rental agreement?
Sometimes it becomes necessary to move before the term limit on a rental or lease agreement has been reached. In most cases you can be held to the terms of your agreement, however, most landlords will include a clause by which you may buy your way out of the agreement if the need arises to terminate the agreement before the end of your rental term. Find out these things ahead of time because life is unpredictable and you never know what may happen to cause you to have to move.