Stress-Free Renting

I spent the entire weekend moving back into my house after a summer in central Maine. Though I didn’t have to move furniture or other big items, it seemed like I had so much stuff to do to get settled back in at my place. I’m still working on organizing my office and putting all my things away, and I probably won’t be finished until next weekend.

Since I moved back into a town with a lot of other renters, the streets were abuzz with moving vans and pick up trucks. So many people in this area choose to rent an apartment or house because they will only live here temporarily for school. Renting is often a cheaper alternative to on-campus housing.

I’ve been a tenant for the last four years and while I’ve had a positive experience with my landlords and with the places I’ve rented, others have not been so lucky. I’ve heard horror stories of moldy bedrooms, faulty heating and hot water systems, and lazy landlords.

The key to a successful renting experience is beginning your rental agreement with a clear understanding of what is expected of you as a tenant and what you expect from your landlord. If you moved into a new place this past weekend or will be moving soon, keep these things in mind to ensure you have a stress-free renting experience.

Read your lease Word for word

A lease is a contract and you should never, ever sign a contract without reading it. If you’ve already signed your lease and can’t remember the finer details of the agreement, take a few minutes to read it over. If anything is unclear to you, it might be too late to get it changed, but always ask for clarification from your landlord on terms and conditions you don’t understand. Rereading your lease also keeps the information fresh in your mind, so if an issue arises you’ll have an idea of what the protocol is for the situation.

Take time stamped pictures of everything the day you move in

Keep these pictures in a folder with your lease, either digital or hardcopy, so you can settle any dispute about damage. Give copies of the pictures to your landlord so there is no question about the condition of the unit when you moved in.

Tell your landlord if something breaks

If the back burner on the stove stopped working or the furnace doesn’t seem to be running properly, tell your landlord immediately. If you and your Hulk-like strength accidently snapped the handle off the refrigerator after an intense gym session, still tell your landlord, then discuss how you will handle the repair. Keeping your landlord up-to-date on needed repairs, whether they’re your fault or not, will make it easier to get the issues addressed.

It’s also a good idea to know your landlord’s policies on appliances that aren’t considered a necessity. For example, if your rental unit has a washer and dryer and the washer breaks, some landlords won’t repair it because it is not considered a necessary appliance like a stove or furnace.

Ask for a timeframe for the landlord to address any maintenance issues

This should be discussed before signing the lease, but if the language in your rental agreement isn’t clear on the topic, ask for an amendment that states how long the landlord has to address any important maintenance issues. The timeframe should be shorter for things like the heating system and smoke alarms or security features.

Late on your rent? Tell your landlord

If you are on a budget and follow it diligently, making rent shouldn’t be an issue for you. However, we all hit rough patches and it may be tough to come up with that payment by the first of the month. If you know you’ll need a few extra days to pay your rent, call your landlord immediately. Depending on the terms in your rental agreement, you may have a few extra days before the payment is actually considered late. Your landlord will appreciate the heads up about the situation and is likely to be more forgiving.

Keep your landlord updated

I send my landlord an e-mail update every month or so. If there are any non-pressing issues with the house, I include these in my message. I save all of my questions for this e-mail so I don’t overload her with frequent e-mails every week. I also let my landlord know via e-mail when I will be out of town and away from the house. Landlords like to know when their units will be vacant incase of an emergency. Keeping your landlord in the loop, especially if you rarely have any in-person interactions with him or her, will make your rental experience much easier.

Did you move into a new place over the weekend?

Kylie K.