In recent years, due to an uncertain market, fluctuating interest rates and declining home prices, we have seen the rental sector pick up substantially. More people are deciding to rent their homes to tenants, as opposed to selling at a loss; people with savings and investors are scooping up bargain properties to rent for profit; and many people are continuing to rent simply because of the market’s instability. For whatever reason–or combination of reasons–we are seeing growth.
As a tenant or renter, you have rights. Granted, the property you occupy is not legally yours, but you do have certain protections and privileges that should be guarded. Ensure they are protected by knowing what you’re entitled to before you put your name on an official lease.
1. Understand your landlord’s financial situation.
While it may seem stable because he or she has properties to rent, some landlords are also struggling. You don’t want to get into a home only to turn around and move back out because the owner loses the property to foreclosure.
2. Research the neighborhood first.
Don’t assume because a property looks good and is seemingly well maintained that the community and neighborhood are right for you. Drive around; stop in for lunch; and seek out property management companies in the area that can tell you the ups and downs.
3. Understand the tenant screening process.
This can differ among landlords and property management companies, but many people perform tenant screenings before renting out a property. This can include your employment history, pay stubs, rental history, background check, credit check and more. Most of the time, what people are looking for is a guarantee that you can afford to rent the property and that you don’t have a criminal past, but you can ask exactly what will be included in your screening to ensure your privacy isn’t being threatened.
4. Be sure your landlord is properly insured.
Just as you carry car insurance to protect against injury to yourself and other motorists, your landlord should do the same–protect themselves, as well as the tenants. If your landlord only has homeowner’s insurance, ask about what it covers. Commonly, an addition or special rental insurance is required.
Also, look into renter’s insurance for yourself. It gives you an extra level of security and should you or your possessions be damaged during your lease period, you will feel safe having added insurance.
5. Ask about lease termination and lease period flexibility
We can’t tell the future, and we while we sign a lease believing we will remain for the duration of the stipulated lease period, it is possible something may come up. Is month to month an option? What if I lose my job? How much is the termination fee? Answers to these questions are good to know simply as a point of education and foresight.
If you are currently a tenant or are looking to sign a new lease, you will want to be as knowledgeable, protected and secure as possible. If you’re not sure what questions to ask or you have concerns not addressed by your landlord, seek out a third party for advice–a property management company is a great resource for tenants and owners alike.