Resources for Renters

If you have never rented a home or apartment before, there are many steps you must take to prepare yourself for the experience.

Entering into a rental agreement blindly is almost sure to lead to disaster.Before ever signing a lease, you must understand how the rental process works, both from the renter’s perspective and from the perspective of the landlord. Only by fully understanding the relationship you will have with a landlord can you prepare for the challenges you will face as a renter.

You may also be faced with other difficulties associated with renting, such as being unable to afford an apartment on your own or suddenly having to move out before your lease is over. That is why studying all aspects of the rental process is so important. The exact information you will need will depend on your circumstances, but some resources for renters are universally essential. Information about some of the most important aspects of renting a home or apartment is outlined below.

How to Find the Perfect Roommate

Some people may argue there is no such thing as the perfect roommate. While nobody may be perfect, it is possible to find a roommate whose lifestyle and personality will mesh well with your own. You must take the time to search for a good roommate rather than choosing the first person you can find who is in need of a place to stay. Otherwise, conflicts are likely to arise quickly.

The first step in finding a good roommate is to choose your goal. If your goal is to make a new best friend, you may have to be quite particular about the selection process. However, finding a polite, neat and trustworthy roommate is often a more easily attained goal. He or she might become a good friend, but building a close bond with a stranger is not necessary to pay bills and coexist peacefully.

Apart from goal setting, another way to make roommate selection easier is to use all of the resources at your disposal. Begin by speaking to family members and close friends. Those you already have close bonds with may be most trustworthy. However, that will not always be the case, so even a friend must be interviewed. You must feel completely comfortable with him or her before entering into a rental agreement together.

Your Landlord’s Responsibilities

Another rental resource you must explore is information about what you can expect from your landlord. Some landlord responsibilities are the same across the United States. For example, as a tenant, you have the right to expect your landlord to make repairs or call for repair services in a timely manner, when necessary. Of course, the length of time it takes for the repairs may be directly related to the severity of the complaint.

Your landlord is also obligated to keep your living environment as safe as possible. Many actions must be taken by the landlord to keep an apartment or rental property safe. Some of them may include:

  • Screening tenants.
  • Maintaining walkways and stairways.
  • Making sure doors and windows can be sealed securely.
  • Lighting outdoor and common areas well.
  • Supervising repair service employees.

Some additional landlord responsibilities are state specific. For example, the state of Massachusetts has no rental payment grace period. Therefore, if you are a Massachusetts tenant, you must pay rent on the first day of the month or your landlord can legally start the process of evicting you. The only exception is if you have a written agreement with your landlord allowing other rental terms. However, if you do not live in Massachusetts, your state laws regarding rental grace periods may be different. You must take the time to explore your state’s legal resources for renters and learn about such policies.

Understanding Tenant Rights

Tenant right resources for renters are also important to explore. You must be aware of the rights you have as a tenant in case those rights are ever violated. For instance, under the United States Fair Housing Act, you cannot be denied housing in any state based on your:

  • Religion.
  • Race.
  • Nationality.
  • Gender.
  • Disability status.
  • Familial status.

Not all tenant rights are established at the federal level. Many are based on state or local laws. Therefore, you must familiarize yourself with tenant rights outlined in the area where you intend to live. You must also understand your tenant rights are based only on local, state and federal laws.

If you sign a lease containing a clause that violates the law, you are not legally obligated to stick to that portion of your rental agreement. For example, if the law in your state says the landlord is responsible for major repairs that are not your fault, you cannot be forced to pay for those repairs, even if your lease says you can. Since your landlord may be unfamiliar with all local, state and federal laws, it is in your best interest to educate yourself about such policies.

Mistakes for Renters to Avoid

When preparing to rent, especially for the first time, it will also be beneficial for you to learn about common mistakes renters make so you can avoid them. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not investing enough time in the rental process. You have to investigate all of the details associated with any property that interests you. Those details include information about the property itself, as well as the neighborhood in which it is located.

Above all, you must never rent an apartment or home without first touring it in person. Inspecting an apartment in person is important for safety. It may also help you assess your general comfort level with the area, building and landlord.

Another common mistake you can easily avoid is allowing yourself to assume you will never see your security deposit again. There is no need to write off the idea of security deposit reimbursement, as long as you take steps to reclaim it. For example, learning about federal, state and local laws can help you get your security deposit back. The disagreement may never get that far if you take steps to protect your money, such as documenting the condition of the home when you move in. If you have proof you deserve to be reimbursed for your security deposit, your landlord will be less likely to withhold it.

How to Sublease a Rental Unit

As a renter, you must also prepare for unexpected circumstances that may arise. One of those circumstances is the need to move out suddenly. Whether you decide to move due to family obligations, a promotion at work or a financial setback, you will still be obligated to fulfill the terms of your lease. Therefore, unless you sublease the rental unit, you must continue paying the rent for it until your lease expires or break your lease and risk the repercussions.

Subleasing, also known as subletting, is the process of renting the property out to another tenant in your absence. The rules relating to subleasing are typically established by the landlord, not by any state or federal agency. Therefore, the first step of the subleasing process is to make sure your landlord will permit it. His or her subleasing policy should be outlined in your original lease.

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