This week’s tip addresses some key points to help you be proactive while you are searching for a house or apartment to rent.
If you have been all over town looking for your new apartment for the last three weeks, it is easy to overlook some crucial steps when you are tired of the search. Skipping these steps, however, can put you in a very tough situation in the future. If you rush to accept a unit without knowing exactly what you are signing up for, you can end up regretting being bound to lease terms that you did not fully investigate or understand. So, be proactive and aware of your rights as a tenant!
An important very first step is to communicate clearly with your prospective landlord and ask questions about the property and neighborhood. Get to know who you are doing business with — especially if you are signing a long-term agreement such as a year lease. Drive around the neighborhood. It’s a good idea to drive there at night as well. And, if possible, talk to other tenants that live there.
Some landlords show tenants a ‘model unit’ which is supposed to be identical to the unit you will be moving into, but be sure to ask to see the actual unit before you sign an agreement or give the landlord any money. Often tenants really like the ‘model unit’ but when they move in to their actual unit it is very different — and by that time, they have already signed a lease and cannot leave easily. If the landlord tells you he has to finish making some repairs in your unit, you can let him know you will sign the lease after the repairs are completed and the unit is ready to rent. You can also write into the lease the specific repairs that need to be made and the date of completion by the landlord. After reading the lease carefully, if you write in changes, be sure that both you and the landlord sign and date the changes as well as the lease. Do not sign a lease unless you agree with the terms and you are sure you want to move in!