Know the neighborhood you are renting in. Visit it in the daytime and at night and walk around the block, the routes you would take to the grocery store, bus stop, or park; how does the “vibe” feel? Are neighbors out and socializing, or is everyone behind barred doors? Most police departments have websites where you can check the crime statistics, offender registries, and gang activity. In the unit, check the entryways, the windows and doors. Make sure the locks are present and make sure you have at least one lock that can only be opened from the interior on your entryway doors. Try to talk to the neighbors to get a feel for the building and block, and trust your gut; if something seems off, it’s best to continue your rental search elsewhere.
You should ask any potential landlord about the monthly rental price, average heating costs if the rent doesn’t cover heat, how much they want for the deposit (usually equal to one month’s rent), and if there are any move in fees. Make sure to get this in writing if you decide to go ahead with the rental!
You may love your bevy of Beagles, but many landlords do not like the noise or damage that come with certain pets. If you fall in love with a rental that doesn’t allow pets, don’t try to sneak Snoopy in — level with your landlord before any lease is signed. Some may have a “policy’ against pets, but know that many pet owners are responsible and conscientious renters. Try to get a referral from a previous landlord — if you kept the property in good shape most would be happy to vouch for you. You can also offer to pay an additional pet deposit, but make sure you document and bring attention to any damage you see (scuffed floors, scratched paint) in the unit before you move in, so you don’t get slapped with fines later.
Before you sign it, read it! Read every single word in your lease. Clarify everything you don’t understand with a lawyer or the landlord. Most leases specify what building quiet hours are, what the communal space can be used for, if parties are allowed, and any stipulations about decorating. Once you sign it you are legally bound to adhere to it, so know what you’re getting into.
All the details: Are there specific move in days, times or elevators that you can use? What happens if the fridge breaks, if the ceiling starts leaking, if you get locked out? Know who to call for maintenance issues and how long they usually take. What day is garbage day, and does the building have a recycling center? Do you have a car? Ask your landlord about street parking permits, parking spaces, or garages that are available for rent. Knowing the protocols for the building will help lessen the stress when you move in and have a million things on your mind. Once you get these questions out of the way, you can focus on what really matters, and make your new place a home.
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