By Elli Bishop
You’ve found the perfect house or apartment, paid your security deposit, and now it’s time to move in. Of course you’ve read over the lease and chatted with the landlord about dos and don’ts, but he or she probably didn’t cover all the fine points you need to be aware of.
Before you get too settled in, make sure you review these six details your landlord might not remember to tell you, but you still need to know.
1. Get Renters Insurance
Your landlord likely has an insurance policy that covers structural damage to the house or apartment you’re living in, but that policy probably doesn’t cover your possessions. That’s why it’s important you get renter’s insurance. The good news is, renters insurance is affordable; the average renter’s policy costs less than $200 per year.
Tip: Renter’s insurance from Progressive or Travelers offers a “protective device discount” that helps you save up to 15 percent if your rental home has smoke detectors, fire alarms, or other qualifying devices.
2. Consider Purchasing a Monitored Home Security System
Some insurance companies may reward you and/or your landlord with a policy discount of up to 20 percent if your rental home has an active monitored home security system. There are a number of highly customizable and affordable home security options available today.
Explore your security options and then let your landlord know you’re considering a security system that may save him money on his insurance policy. If it does, he may be willing to help pay for the security system.
Tip: A wireless home security system is a great choice for renters because it’s not only easy to install, it’s simple to pack up and take with you when you move.
3. Make Your Landlord Aware of All Maintenance Issues
It might seem silly to bother your landlord with a “petty” problem, like a dripping faucet, but you’ll both wish you had when the seemingly small issue becomes a big one. Letting problems go is a recipe for disaster, and in some cases you could be held liable for damages that occur as a result.
Whether it’s a minor maintenance issue or you think there could be a hazardous situation, call your landlord right away. Write down when you contacted your landlord and what he said he was going to do to correct the problem. Save emails and any other correspondence associated with the issue.
Tip: Before you move in, document the condition of your apartment. Take pictures of any concerns you have and make your landlord aware of them so you aren’t held responsible. Be sure to notify your landlord about safety and security issues, such as a weak deadbolt or windows that won’t lock.
4. Read, Understand and Abide by Your Lease
The typical lease has a number of components, and some can be quite confusing. But understanding your lease and abiding by it keeps you in good standing with your landlord and can also help you avoid extra charges and possible eviction.
Ask your landlord to explain any sections of your lease that are vague or confusing. If there’s something you don’t agree with, talk to your landlord about it before it becomes a point of contention.
Tip: Be sure you know what conditions must be met for you to get a full refund on your security deposit. For example, if your lease states the apartment must be left in “good condition” ask your landlord to put in writing exactly what that means. Tenants aren’t usually held responsible for general wear and tear, but some landlords may require you get the carpet professionally cleaned, fill nail holes, etc.
5. Don’t Hesitate to Negotiate on Rent
A landlord doesn’t want to lose a responsible tenant because finding a new one costs time and money. If you’ve abided by the terms of your lease, paid the rent on time and been an all-around first-class occupant, you’ve laid the foundation for negotiating on rent when your landlord decides it’s time for an increase.
Tip: Keep an eye on the local rental market. Find out how much rentals similar to yours are going for in your neighborhood so you have a good idea if the rent increase your landlord purposes is fair- or if you might save money by moving elsewhere.
6. Be Extra Cautious with Pets
As much joy as they are, pets can present challenges when it comes to living in a rental house or apartment. You may be asked to pay a pet deposit or a non refundable pet fee in addition to your security deposit.
But keep in mind you’re still responsible for damages your pet may cause. If your pet chews on baseboards, urinates on the carpets, or scratches the hardwood floors you may not only lose your pet deposit, you could be left with a hefty repair bill. To avoid complications, be sure your pet is well trained before you move in.
Tip: If your lease states pets aren’t allowed, don’t get one or you’ll be violating your lease. If pets are permitted, be sure to ask your landlord if there are any restrictions on the size or type of pet you can have. It isn’t uncommon for landlords to set a weight maximum for dogs, or even forbid certain breeds.
When you fully understand your tenant rights and responsibilities, renting can be a great alternative to owning. Remember to read your lease carefully, communicate concerns to your landlord and keep these helpful tips in mind.
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Elli Bishop is a writer for the home safety and security website SafeWise. SafeWise provides you with hundreds of reviews on a variety of America’s top security providers so that you can find the perfect system to protect your home or apartment.