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Common Mistakes First-Time Renters Make

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Renting for the first time is kind of a big deal! It’s an exciting time and spells out independence, stepping out on your own and navigating those uncharted waters of adult-hood, independently. Of course, being on your own also means that there’s a great deal of responsibility that’s just landed on your shoulders as well and you’re going to have to spend some time figuring things out on your own.

Fortunately, learning the ropes as a first-time renter isn’t too difficult. The most important things to remember are to always, always pay your rent on time, and ensure that you read and follow your lease carefully. Almost everything else you can learn as you go along.

While no one expects you to know everything about renting, you can save yourself a world of issues by ensuring that you sidestep some of these common mistakes that first-time renters often make

Mistake #1: Looking at Properties That Are Out of Budget 

First up, there’s more to renting than simply finding a place that you like. It is also important to consider how much rent, and other expenses, will run you and determine if you can afford it. A good guideline is to never spend more than 30% of your income on rent. Be sure to calculate your security deposit costs as well. If you can’t afford the monthly rent payment, or you will be tapping into savings every month, then you’ll want to reconsider. Not only will spending more on rent than you can afford each month leave you in a tight spot financially, but if you are late on rent or end up getting evicted this will reflect badly upon you as well and future landlords will think twice before rending to you. Be sure to find something that is within your budget. Additionally, most landlords and property managers will want to confirm that you meet the income requirements so make sure you look at properties that are in your budget or consider bringing on a co-signer who meets the income requirements themselves.

Mistake #2: Not Reading the Lease Completely 

We’ve all done it, signed our name to a paper that we haven’t completely read. Checked the box saying that we agree to terms and conditions that we’re clueless on. But when it comes to signing a lease, it is important that you read it completely and understand what is being said. No matter how rushed you may feel to sign a lease just to have a place, you should always take the time to read it in full. Your lease will help you determine what is included and what is expected of you. Signing your name to it, regardless of if you have read it or not, means you are in agreement with everything. You need to ensure that your rights as a tenant aren’t being violated and make sure you’re clear on what your responsibilities will be. Are you responsible for mowing the lawn? Are pets allowed? Where can your friends park when they come to visit? While these things might seem minor, they can be massive areas of confusion and conflict between tenants and landlords. Read and understand the lease before signing and ask questions if you don’t understand something. It’s better to know ahead of time, than to be ‘surprised’ at a later date. 

Renters: Discover landlord and tenant myths—busted! 

Mistake #3: Underestimating Expenses

Another potentially costly mistake is overlooking just how much things will cost when you’re renting on your own. If you’ve never lived on your own before then it may come as a surprise to you just how many additional costs there are when you’re renting your own place. If they aren’t included with your lease you’ll want to factor in utilities like electric, water, sewer, and garbage service as well. You’ll also want to consider Wi-Fi, cable, and of course, renters insurance as well. If you have a pet, you will need to calculate the extra cost of rent that many places charge for a pet. 

You should also be sure to put away a little extra for those unexpected expenses that will inevitably arise. While most repairs and maintenance issues fall to the landlord, there are those unexpected costs that you might not have considered that could arise as well. Even small things, such as the cost of toilet paper and lightbulbs can add up quickly. Prepare yourself for unexpected costs by saving a little extra so you aren’t caught completely off-guard when these expenses come up.

Mistake #4: Neglecting Maintenance

Sure, your landlord is responsible for most maintenance, but you’ll want to check your lease to see if there’s anything that you’re responsible for as well. In most cases, tenants are expected to keep the place clean and tidy, wash the windows, and mow the lawn. You’ll also want to keep an eye on things and notify your landlord if you notice any small issues at the property, such as watermarks on the ceiling or a leak under the sink before those small problems escalate and become worse. Your responsibilities will vary depending on your state, the type of rental you’re in, and your rental agreement. But replacing lightbulbs and other small maintenance tasks will almost certainly be your responsibility.

Mistake #5: Renting “Sight Unseen” 

In hot markets, where rentals get snatched up as soon as they’re listed, it may be tempting to agree to rent without first checking out the property. After all, you need a place to live, this place is for rent, what is the worst that could happen? But looking online and looking in-person are two very different things. First of all, looking in person will help you to avoid common rental scams from less-than-reputable companies, where the property you’re viewing is not the same one as the one that you saw in the listing. And secondly, putting boots on the ground allows you to take note of important details that can’t be conveyed in pictures. This allows you to get an idea of how the neighborhood is, the noise levels, and how busy the area is as well. Whenever possible, it’s important to visit the property in person or at the very least, try to arrange for a virtual tour before submitting an application and getting into a lease that turns out to be a bad idea. 

Mistake #6: Foregoing Renters Insurance 

Renting your own place has turned out to be more expensive than you thought, and you’re looking to cut costs wherever you can. Renters insurance isn’t all that important now, is it? After all, doesn’t your landlord already have insurance? While it is true that your landlord already has coverage, their insurance only covers them and their property. It doesn’t extend to provide coverage for the tenant’s belongings or liabilities. While it might seem like a good place to cut corners, renters insurance is important and should not be overlooked. 

Mistake #7: Relying on Verbal Agreements Alone

There’s nothing wrong with having discussions with your landlord, but if there’s something you have agreed on, be sure to get it in writing. If you make an agreement to mow the lawn for a discount on rent, get it in writing. If your landlord promises not to raise the rent on you until a certain date, get it in writing. Verbal agreements can be hard to prove and enforce. But if you have something in writing, you have proof should you ever need it. Getting things in writing will also help to prevent misunderstandings between parties as well. Often, it’s a good idea to send a quick email to get confirmation for something instead of making a phone call. 

Mistake #8: Not Taking Pictures When You Move In 

Moving into your new place can be exciting. You are ready to get started setting up the place to meet your needs and style. But wait! Before you get started it’s important to document the condition with pictures before you set up house. This will help to keep you from being held responsible for damage that isn’t your fault when you move out. Of course, any reputable property management company will do this task for you, and most landlords will have a walkthrough and pre-existing damage checklist that they will go over with you before you move in, but if not, don’t be afraid to make your own and get your landlord to sign it to help protect yourself in the future.

Mistake #9: Paying Rent Late 

Paying your rent late can be costly. Most landlords have a late fee policy with added fees and many have a limit on how many times you can be late before you are evicted. Missing payments or paying rent late can also be a violation of your lease agreement, which could be grounds for eviction and also hurt your credit and future attempts at renting. If you’ve hit extenuating circumstances, and you know you are going to be late with the rent, consider talking with your landlord first to see if they can extend a grace period to you. Always make sure to get it in writing and make sure you do your best to make late rent a rare occurrence. 

Mistake #10: Forgetting That You Rent, Not Own 

Renting is a whole new ballgame. You don’t own the property and you cannot just do whatever you wish to it. Want to paint the walls a new color? You’ll need to check with the landlord first! Hoping to rip up a portion of the yard for a garden? Get your landlord’s approval. Remember, it is your home but it is your landlord’s house, so you’ll want to ensure that you get permission before you move forward with any DIY projects. What about hanging pictures? Check your lease, or check with your landlord. Some landlords will require you to use damage-free hooks to hang pictures on the wall or will stipulate that you must repair any holes that you make. Likewise, if you plan to have long-term guests stay, you’ll want to check with your landlord first. The old saying, “Better to ask for an apology than permission,” in these cases, does not apply.

Want to be an exceptional tenant? Check out: 10 Resolutions All Tenants Should Make for tips on standing out!

Mistake #11: Not Visiting the Neighborhood First

Finally, before you sign a lease it’s important to scout out the neighborhood in addition to viewing the property itself. Sure, the dwelling itself is important but the neighborhood matters as well. After all, it’s one thing that can’t be changed so you’ll want to make sure it checks all of your boxes before you sign the lease. Is it located within range of important amenities? How is the walkability, if that’s important to you? Is there green space and parks nearby? What are the noise levels like? It’s also an idea to do a trial run of your work commute if you drive or take public transport. How long does it take to get to work during the times that you’re most likely to travel? 

Becoming a first-time renter is tremendously exciting, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. While you’ll figure things out as you go along, it’s helpful to have a rough idea of what to expect, mistakes to avoid, and things that you’ll want to ensure that you’re doing, before you move into your new home. Being aware of your obligations, paying the rent on time, and always following the terms of the lease, will help things to go smoothly for you, not only when you move into your rental, but when it comes time for you to move on to a different place. Applying for that second rental will be much easier than the first one. You’ll feel more confident, you’ll know what to expect, and of course, if you ensure that you follow the terms of the lease then you’re certain to have a great reference from your current landlord to aid you in getting your new place.

Looking to rent for the first time? Check out Renters Warehouse rental listings in your area to see what’s available. Who knows? You just might find your dream home today!

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