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Five Things to Know Before Renting a Home

Renting a home can be a "happy medium" between home ownership and apartment renting. If you're considering this option, you should be mindful of the following:

Your Rights

The Fair Housing act forbids landlords from discriminating against tenants on the basis of race, sex, religion, ethnicity, mental or physical disability, or family status. Some states have additional laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status.

Your Lease

Always review the language and terms of your lease agreement. It dictates the policies and procedures in place during the life of the contract. Take note of anything that seems unfair or unacceptable. With your potential tenancy as a bargaining chip, you can try to negotiate for your desired changes. At this point, a potential tenant has more control over their future living conditions than at any other time. Once you've signed your name on a legally binding agreement, that bargaining power is diminished.

Your Paperwork

Never settle for verbal assurances ? get any promises in writing. Verbal commitments from a potential landlord can't be enforced, as there is no legal obligation to keep promises that aren't in the contract. Make sure you understand who is responsible for yard work, snow removal, appliance repairs, and maintenance work both minor (i.e. broken porch lights, extermination) and major (i.e. HVAC, roof work)

Your Deposit

Do a final walk-through before you move in. Carry a journal to document the condition of the home before you moved in. Take photos of "problem areas" (i.e. mildew spots in the bathroom, or windows/doors that are stubborn to open). This record of pre-existing damage could be useful down the road should you attempt to secure the return of your deposit. These records won't prevent you from getting charged for any damage you commit during your tenancy, but it can protect you from being held liable for pre-existing damage.

Your Insurance Policy

Renter's insurance protects you against losses or damages due to fires, flooding, robbery, electrical damage, or similar adverse occurrences. Renter's insurance also protects you from personal liability for accidental damage to the property of others in your care, or for harm done to visitors in your home.

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