A Renter’s Guide – DOS, DON’TS & NICE TO KNOWS!

residential lease pic

How Much Will it Cost

  • Income versus rent:  Your income should be 3x’s the cost of the rent.  A good rule of thumb is to not exceed 35-40% of your income for rent.
  • If you want your credit score, request an annual report by going online to:  annualcreditreport.com , call 1-877-322-8228 or write to the Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga.  30348.  If you have been denied credit in the last 60 days you will be entitled to a free report from one of the consumer reporting agencies:  Experian, Trans Union or CBI/Equifax.  The landlord, brokerage or property management company will pull your credit report as part of the application process.
  • Have documents handy, including your driver’s license, social security card, green card and passport. Proof of income including paystubs, W2, possibly tax returns and bank statements may be required.
  • In addition to the rental application fee, ranging from $35-75 per adult applicant, expect to pay the equivalent of one month’s rent for the security deposit, the first month’s rent and pet deposit up front.
  • Some landlords allow pets, and will require an additional security deposit ranging from $300-500 or more per pet. There can also be a monthly increase to the rent for the allowance of a pet.
  • Be sure to ask about utilities: electric, gas, trash pick- up, water and cable/internet, as the cost may or may not be included in the monthly rent.  Pool/gym passes may be an included amenity or services with a fee.
  • If you use a Realtor, confirm their fee is the responsibility of the landlord.  In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia the Realtor fee is paid by the listing party.
  • If you have filed a bankruptcy in the past several years, expect to pay a higher security deposit, possibly multiple month’s rent may be required in advance.
  • Always get Renters Insurance to protect the contents of the apartment, your prized possessions!

Who’s Responsible

  • Be truthful in the process of completing an application and throughout the occupancy period.
  • Don’t be shy about asking questions regarding the process, moving in and out, condition, etc.
  • You may be asked to provide personal references and their contact information.
  • Other than “normal wear and tear” the tenant is held responsible for any damage to the property caused by humans and/or pets.  Cleaning up after your pet is your responsibility. Inquire about a designated area where pets are allowed to be walked.
  • If you cannot live without your favorite color, ask if painting is allowed. You may be expected to repaint the home to the original color/neutral before you leave.
  • The lease specifies the condition in which the property must be left. If expectations are not met, your security deposit will be used to pay for cleaning, damage, repairs, painting, flooring, etc.
  • Do a walk through and take photos of any damaged areas.  Submit copies to the landlord. There may also be a checklist available for these notations.
  • The lease term is usually one year.  The military community is allowed a special clause for early termination due to relocation. Be sure to learn how much notice is required to vacate.
  • Who will fix things when they break?  If it is not noted in your lease, ask your landlord to specify how they handle the process. Some leases require a repair deposit. This is meant to encourage tenants to take care of small things and reserve more serious repairs for the landlord.
  • Trash, recycling and large items you no longer want – where do they go?  Find out the schedule and location for disposables and the rules for what is allowed.
  • Ask to see the HOA or Condo guidelines if applicable so you can be an outstanding tenant and receive great references and accommodations when it is time to leave.
  • Smoke detectors need fresh batteries. Install new batteries and request the landlord install detectors if not present.

Rental ads and listings can be found in several ways – online, Craigslist, newspapers, through friends and co-workers and more.  A Realtor, a trusted source for rental listings in addition to buying and selling homes, has up to date information, provides access to properties, helps you navigate your search even if you find something on a website and most importantly can assist you through the rental process by providing helpful information and answering your questions. Your Realtor can also negotiate items of importance on your behalf, including fees, and ensure the lease affords you every possible advantage. Happy home hunting!


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