In today’s volatile real estate market, it is more important than ever to qualify and verify a property and landlord before entering into a lease and parting with your hard earned cash! Use these 5 quick questions to simplify the process, and move on from properties that you don’t feel comfortable with. There are so many distressed properties and landlords out there that the best motto may be; “the odds are good, but the goods are odd”. Don’t fall into the trap of believing what you see!
— If you are considering renting a home, the most important question to ask and verify is if the person you are about to rent from has the right to rent the property, and that the mortgage payments are current. Landlords typically verify credit worthiness of the potential renter, but in today’s volatile housing market it is acceptable for the renter to verify the ability of the landlord to possess and maintain the property. There are now many cases of outright fraud where criminals represent then rent a property as their own, and instances where distressed properties are rented by owners and then lost to the bank which often leads to eviction of the tenant. Verify that the owner is represented and signs the lease, and that the property is not in danger of foreclosure before signing a lease to rent.
— With methamphetamine use at epidemic levels and residuals from manufacture or use an environmental danger for many years in homes, ask your potential landlord if the property has ever been used as a meth lab and if previous renters have been removed for drug use. Remediation of these toxic chemicals that remain in carpet, paint, and HVAC vents is very expensive and is often too prohibitive for landlords to undertake… which means that future tenants are exposed.
— Ask the potential landlord if there has been water damage to the property, and if there has been mold remediation work done. If the answer is yes to either question, and in particular if anyone in your family has mold sensitivities or asthma, you may not want to rent the property, or may want to specify in the lease that air quality causing respiratory distress is cause for ending the lease and return of deposit.
— Read the lease and ask the landlord to explain any questions you may have… don’t be bashful! Ask the potential landlord to explain the policies regarding return of the security deposit, and what your responsibilities are. Make sure that the landlord gives you a written explanation of exactly what these policies are, and ask the landlord for a signature on the document. Never assume that your state law will provide for the return of your deposit, and be especially careful if you have moved from another state, as security laws vary from state to state and within municipalities. You may be in for a very unpleasant surprise if you assume that the laws are similar to what you are used to.
— Ask for a detailed inspection of the property, and walk through the property with the potential landlord just like you would if renting a car… note every scratch, stain, tear, broken window and hole in doors etc, and make sure the landlord writes it down and signs it with the current date. It is best to take your own notes while doing the walk-through, and compare notes before signing the inspection document to ensure accuracy. Do not assume that the owner is taking note of every issue and entering it, you must verify it yourself or you will be paying for damage from a previous tenant. DO bring a camera and take pictures as you take notes… save the pictures on an online album to use when you leave the property as proof of prior damage.
Above all else, remember that whatever is not documented is not valid in court. In the excitement of moving into a new home it is easy to overlook the simple process of verifying the small things that later come back to haunt us when things go wrong. Landlords and property managers attend training to document and take notes on every conversation that occurs with a tenant, and these are admissible in court! You would be well advised to do the same, and keep all your rental records in a secure location where they will not be lost.
Contracts are meant to protect both parties… so the best way for a successful outcome when renting a home is to be vigilant and do not assume that the happiness of a new home and lease will continue. As we say in the property management business… verify, verify, verify. You will never regret knowing.