It`s no secret that the Great Recession of 2007 was mostly caused by a catastrophic housing collapse. Mass amounts of Americans wound up losing their residences, being forced to go from homeowners to renters. Now the housing market is mostly back on the right track, but there are still plenty of folks out there firmly entrenched in the world of renting. And that`s to say nothing of those kids who are leaving the nest and looking for that first apartment in which to hang their young-adult hats.
Of course, most people out there are familiar with the fundamentals of apartment hunting. Price, location considerations, etc. – these things are certainly important. Having said that, there are common mistakes both first-time renters as well as seasoned apartment hunters often make. Here are the most important tips to remember.
Always take pictures
Even more important than the location, or scrutinizing the renter`s agreement, or factoring in square footage, is the notion of a new tenant taking photos the moment he or she moves in. Surprisingly, many people overlook this recommendation, and it costs them in the long run. It`s crucial to have a visual record of the state of a new place in order to prove which party – landlord or tenant – is responsible for any damage that comes up. Dents in a door or wall may very well have been caused by the previous tenant, but without any visual documentation there is nothing to prevent a landlord from assigning all blame to the current resident.
Don`t sign a bad lease
Now, this doesn`t necessarily mean an unfair lease, more along the lines of an undesirable lease. While it goes without saying that the prospective tenant needs to go over the lease with a fine-toothed comb, it`s also important to take lifestyle into account. For example, those who are often away on business and might want to sublet will certainly want to look for any “no subletting” clauses in the contract.
Take advantage of tax breaks
To many younger folks, the notion of diving headfirst into taxes of any sort is an automatic turn-off. And even seasoned renters often don`t realize there are often tax breaks to be had merely for paying rent. Many states, such as Maryland and California, have picked up on the fact that landlords sometimes offset property tax increases by hiking up the rent on their tenants. To this end, many states are offering incentives for renters in the form of tax breaks. It`s important for all renters to check their states tax laws to see if they apply for a rebate.
Hold the landlords feet to the fire
Many renters assume, rightfully so, that the landlord holds the cards. However, those who run the apartment complex are not made of Teflon. Landlords can – and should – be held accountable for any shady practices they take part in, such as unfair rent hikes, neglecting repairs and turning a blind eye to unsafe living conditions. The best recourse for any tenant who feels he or she is being taken for the proverbial ride is to contact their local housing agency before moving on to state organizations.
These are some of the more common lapses in judgment many renters make before and after moving in. There are other tips to bear in mind, however, such as always being sure to attend any appointments regarding the property with all roommates, and never letting square footage be the end all/be all of the rental equation.
Lisa Hendricks is a professional blogger that shares advice on managing rental properties. She writes for LRG Rentals, a rental company providing high quality apartments and townhomes for rent.