10 Important Things to Consider Before Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment is a cumbersome process because the fees pile up, the paperwork is complicated, your life’s history is investigated, and every complex and its ownership has its own unique personality. The price you pay for the apartment, high or low, means nothing. Bad property managers and owners come at “every” price, and pests could care less about the neighborhood where your apartment resides. However, we are here to help unravel the chaos with a list of 10 things to consider before renting an apartment, so that nothing comes as a surprise during the process, you are protected from incredulous property management, and you have the best possible solutions available as you search for your next residence.

1) Laws Protect You from Inconsiderate Neighbors and Eviction without Cause

First, as an apartment tenant, legislation protects you against many untoward situations. For instance, you have the right to “peace and quiet”. The lawmakers calls it “quiet enjoyment” and that basic right says that you cannot be evicted without cause in the middle of a lease because it disturbs your right to live in peace. You are also protected from the wrongful behavior of other tenants. Their noise, their trash, and their overall inconsiderate nature should never be your problem, by law.

2) Your Landlord Must Provide You with a Healthy, Safe, and Secure Environment

You are also afforded the rights of health and safety, and security. In most states, a justice of the peace has the authority to order repairs in situations that affect your health and safety http://realestate.findlaw.com/landlord-tenant-law/a-tenant-s-rights-to-landlord-repairs.html. You can get this done by simply going to justice court and requesting a repair order, and you do “not” need a lawyer to do this. In addition, it is law that your landlord must provide you with basic security items http://realestate.findlaw.com/landlord-tenant-law/tenant-safety-and-landlord-liability.html, including smoke detectors, window latches and deadbolts, door viewers, and pin locks or security bars on sliding doors.

3) Don’t Sign a Yearlong Lease without Doing Diligent Research

Find an apartment situation in which you don’t have to resort to measures that require time, and create anxiety and strife. You shouldn’t have to plead with your landlord to fulfill their obligations to provide you with a peaceful and quiet residence, and you shouldn’t have to visit courthouses to resolve matters of health, safety, and security. Find a place that is perfect from the beginning of your lease to its end. No one wants to be “the hostile tenant” because of “a neglectful landlord”, and you can find that tranquil oasis where no landlord takes advantage of you and you never have to worry about your security and overall happiness. You have to research, though. Surely, you will be looking for convenience, and whether or not the apartment is close to your work or school, but it won’t matter if you can’t sleep at night because a moment of quiet is nowhere to be found, or you have anxiety over the safety and security of your physical being. Saving a few bucks is never a good idea for taking an apartment with terrible reviews because you will be paying for every stressful moment.

Online apartment guides are fine, but they don’t include every apartment you might come across, and complexes often pay guides for placement on their Website, which leaves one wondering about their objectivity. The reviews on these sites just aren’t as raw as those you might find by using Websites like Apartmentratings.com as a reference, which ranks complexes on a five point scale, and rates individual factors like noise, safety, grounds, maintenance, neighborhood, and office staff. They also include the percentage of people who “recommend” the property against the city average. You will read the real deal about the apartment you are looking to lease on this Website, no questions. However, you will find “planted” reviews as well, which are obvious in their generic, overly complimentary wording. Watch out for those; they are easy to spot.

4) There are Fee Limits on a Security Deposit

Most states do not have a statute for how much an apartment can charge for a security deposit, while others set a limit of one or two months. The security deposit is a payment made to the tenant other than rent. The deposit is a safeguard for landlords in case the tenant breaks the rental agreement or violates the terms of the lease. Additionally, the fee, which is normally paid by the tenant before the move-in date, covers the cost of any damage to the apartment while the resident lives there. It can also cover cleaning costs and key replacement.

In most situations, the security deposit is never more than one month’s rent. In some cases, tenants with poor credit are charged two months. If the deposit goes beyond the price of one month’s rent, then you can question the landlord because it is rare, and if the sum goes beyond two month’s rent, you might be dealing with a shady property owner, and you should consider other options.

However, having a pet will cost you more. Typically, a pet “fee” is $200 to $500, and sometimes is not “technically” a deposit because the damage your animal causes isn’t covered by the pet fee, and will come out of your standard deposit instead. In other words, a pet “fee” is more like pet “rent“. If the pet fee goes beyond $500, the property owner is basically telling you they don’t want pets in the apartment, but will certainly take your large donation if you offer it.

5) How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Every state requires that the security deposit is returned to the tenant in a reasonable amount of time, and that timeframe usually varies anywhere from 30 to 60 days, but some states require a quicker turnaround of two to three weeks. If you paid your rent on time, have no pending rent or late charges due, and you left the apartment with limited wear and tear and no damage, you should get every cent of your deposit returned to you. For anything less than the total amount you paid, an itemized list is required from the landlord that details every cost they charged you from cleaning to repair.

To get your deposit back, make sure you fill out the “Apartment Inspection Checklist” during the first few days of your lease, and return it to your landlord within the time they require, which is normally a week. Ask the property owner or management for repairs that you need immediately, inspect for mold, and mark every imperfection down from spots on the carpet to nail holes in the wall. Make a copy of the checklist for yourself, and on the day you move out of the apartment, clean it thoroughly or hire a cleaning service to do the work. Then, request that your landlord walk with you through the apartment to do a final inspection to assure that you do not pay for any damage that wasn’t caused by you.

6) Other Fees and Expenses Associated with Leasing an Apartment

Your credit history will be inspected and a background check will be performed by your landlord before your lease is approved. A third party performs the investigation, and those screenings cost money, which will be passed on to you. The application fee is anywhere from $30 to $50 per applicant. In other words, if more than one adult will be living in the residence, each person pays a separate fee. Many apartments refund the fee once you are approved to rent the apartment, and the amount either goes towards the security deposit or back into your  pocket. Normally, while your credit and background is being checked, the leasing agent will temporally take the apartment off the market for you.

7) Criminal Background Check and Leasing an Apartment

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates fair practices regarding leasing an apartment. Their laws assure citizens that they will not be discriminated against because of race, gender, disability, religion, nation of origin, among other factors. One in four American citizens has a criminal record, whether small or large, and it is considered discrimination to deny housing because of a criminal background. However, it is not wholly protected, and can be legally justified in many cases. If your criminal background is being used as an excuse to deny your application, but others with the same history are not being denied, and race, nationality, or another factor is part of the decision to choose another person over you, it is discrimination. All denials by the property management must be made to you orally or in writing, and if you feel that a landlord has violated your rights to lease an apartment, report it to the FTC.

8) Your Credit Score and Leasing an Apartment

Your financial health is evaluated by the property owner, and initially that is done through a check of your credit. Your report is pulled to see how financially responsible you have been through your life, and from there a number of different situations can occur depending on your credit score. You may have worked hard to pull yourself out of debt and credit issues, but your past follows you for years, and stays anchored to your credit report like a contagion. Regardless of your current situation, your past failures alert the landlord to the possibility that you will not pay your rent on time, or bail before the lease is up.

If you have never been evicted and your credit score is 620 or higher, you should have no issues with rolling right into your new residence. Anything lower, indicates a high risk, and while it is possible to improve your credit, it takes time. In the interim, your application may not be approved, but more likely, the apartment agent will give you some options. These recourses might include a higher security deposit, proof that you have been paying your rent on time in your current and past place of residence, the necessity for a co-signer or a roommate with better credit, or solid proof that your bank account has money in it and you have a reliable income. This proof will require showing wage stubs and bank statements, and contacting your previous landlords.

9) Utilities that are Covered and Not Covered when Leasing an Apartment

Your rent isn’t the only expense you need to consider when moving into an apartment. Sometimes your rent covers basic utilities, and sometimes your utilities are an added expense that is attached to your monthly rental fee. Normally there is an additional charge for trash removal and water usage, and sometimes electricity is sanctioned within the complex and added to your bill. Check on all the costs before you sign any lease, or even before you begin the application process. Find out if you will need to contact utility companies to acquire gas, electricity, and water, and if you are required to maintain rental insurance. Don’t forget about Wifi and cable, which will ding your budget as well.

10) Hire a Professional Mover or Recruit Your Friends to Move Your Possessions

You might have a moving service at your disposal, which consist of your friends and their privately owned vehicles. If your budget does not allow for a professional moving company to lend an experienced hand, then start calling those friends now. If you can’t round up a crew, or you aren’t so sure that you trust your friends with your possessions, you might be surprised by the relatively low price a moving company (link to Royal) will charge to safely and efficiently get your property from your old to new residence. You will save time in the process and your possessions are insured against any breakage or loss. If you decide to use a professional, call as soon as you know your move-in date to ensure there is professional available on the day of your move.

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