First Time Renters: 10 Things Nobody Tells You

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blog Image

First-time renters listen up! Here’s some extremely valuable advice that you may not have been told.

1) Research your rights as a tenant.


As a first-time renter, it’s wise to learn some of the landlord and tenant laws in the city you’ll be residing in. In the event that you experience issues with a landlord, it’s extremely helpful to have a general understanding of the applicable laws.  Most regions have a Landlord and Tenant Board that can help first-time renters understand their rights as a tenant.

2) Take pictures of the rental unit before moving in.


One of the most common disagreements between landlords and tenants is over the refund of a security deposit. Before moving in, photograph and document the rental unit’s condition and have the landlord sign-off on it. This isn’t a surefire way to avoid security deposit disputes, but it’ll help stack the odds in the tenants favor.


3) Rental rates can be negotiable sometimes.


The advertised rental rate isn’t always firm. When dealing with larger property management companies and apartment complexes, it’s less likely they’ll be willing to barter over rental rates. But if it’s a smaller apartment building or independent landlord, it may be easier to negotiate rental rates. Even if you can’t get a cheaper monthly rate, there’s always the possibility to negotiate other things like including utilities in the price, a free parking pass, furnishings included, etc. When it’s time to renew the lease, it is also a great opportunity to try and negotiate a better deal. Renewals save the landlord time and money from not having to find a new tenant.


4) Don’t forget about security deposits.


More often than not, rental accommodations will require some sort of security deposit. This should be factored into a budget before a tenant moves out. On top of this, utility companies and other service providers often require hefty deposits, especially for first time renters. Some service providers will require deposits that exceed a few hundred dollars.

5) Purchase renter’s insurance.


Most rental accommodations won’t provide any insurance coverage for personal belongings. In the event of a fire, flood, break and entry, etc., personal possessions will not be covered. Renter’s insurance tends to be fairly affordable and can give peace of mind.

6) Never do any modifications or repairs to the rental without consent.


This means no painting, no hanging pictures, no adding fixtures, etc. Before doing any modifications, consult the landlord and get their approval first. Otherwise, these changes may violate the lease, if there is a section about doing any modifications. Even if a tenant thinks the modification is a great idea and will improve the rental’s value, ALWAYS run it by the landlord first.

7) Always ask a variety of questions when viewing rental accommodations.

This list may seem incredibly long, but here are some key questions worth asking:


- What is included within the rental rate (parking, utilities, etc.)?

- When is the move-in date? (Just because they are showing it, doesn’t mean it’s available right away.)

- What is the grace policy on rent?

- Is there an application fee? (Yes, you’ll often be charged just to apply!)

- What security features does the apartment have?

- How frequently do rental rates go up? When was the last rate increase?

- What’s the average cost for utility bills?


8) A tenant’s income should be at least 2.5X more than the monthly rent.

As a general rule of thumb, a tenant’s income should be 2.5X what the monthly rent will be. Don’t forget about hidden costs as well. Utility bills can add up quickly and increase the cost of living, once factored in. If a tenant can’t find a suitable place within their price range, it might be wise to consider searching for a roommate to help minimize the rental costs.


9) Don’t forget to provide notice before moving out.


Certain leases may have an automatic-renewal clause; meaning that if a tenant doesn’t indicate termination of the lease, it will automatically renew and it might cost money to get out of it. Read the lease and review the terms regarding how much notice must be provided before moving out.                                                   

10) In certain markets, there is no such thing as an 8 or 9-month lease.


Just because the school year is only 8 or 9 months in duration, doesn’t mean the rental market accommodates its lease terms according to this. Students should expect to find that most landlords and property managers seek 12-month leases, especially in competitive rental markets. In some cases, shorter leases may be available, but there is the possibility of a premium being charged for the shorter timeframe. 

The Team