Be a Smart Renter

September 15, 2011
There is a good chance you or a family member is a renter – or will be.

Since the housing market bust, nearly 3 million households have become renters, with another 3 million expected by 2015, according to census data analyzed by Harvard’s Joint Center for House Studies and The Associated Press. Thirty-eight million now rent apartments or houses.

Be smart when renting.

If you are searching on the Internet for a place, be careful it’s not a scam. Home rental scams are extremely prevalent. The con artists take the pictures of a house/condo for sale off the Internet and put it on their website and advertise on venues such as Craigslist.

You can check on the real estate company with the Better Business Bureau. Then, call the company to verify the house or apartment is for rent. You can also check with your local assessor’s office to verify ownership. If you do not live where the rental is located and you still want to rent it, ask if you can place the deposit on a credit card. Your chance of getting credit for the deposit if there is fraud, is good if you file a written dispute in a timely manner. If you write a check to a con man, you can say good-bye to that money.

Before signing a lease, know the terms of the lease, such as are utilities included or paid separately. Do a walk-through if at all possible. Take pictures of the rental to be able to verify the conditions before moving in. Know the use and refunds of your security deposit. Have all agreements put in writing, such as what improvements will be made and when. Keep copies of all correspondence. Make sure they give you a copy of the lease. Sometimes the landlord/real estate agent will say they will mail a copy of the agreement to you, and it never comes.

If you have a pet, make sure you know that it is acceptable to have a dog or cat. Is it in writing?

Also, work to keep a good relationship with the landlord so that repairs will be made quickly. Remember that you have certain rights to a livable place such as heat, water, electricity and clean, safe surroundings.

Lastly, do you have adequate renters’ insurance? Too often people do not carry insurance needed to protect them from losses due to theft or disasters, such as a fire or tornado.

What interesting renter sagas have you encountered?