Whether you are renting an apartment in a complex or renting a house from a private owner, there are certain things you should consider before taking the plunge. Apartment complexes often offer the convenience of quick repairs, common area maintenance, and certain amenities like a pool or gym. Similarly, renting from a private homeowner often allows you to develop a more personal relationship with your landlord without many of the rules and regulations that complexes force you to abide by. Each type of rental arrangement has its advantages and disadvantages; however, regardless of which option you choose there are always things that a renter should do to protect themselves and avoid future headaches. Above all else, make sure to keep detailed records and copies of any relevant paperwork or pictures.
For convenience, the term “landlord” refers to leasing agents, private homeowners, etc.
What should I do before moving into or before vacating a rental property?
DEMAND AN IN-PERSON WALKTHROUGH FROM YOUR LANDLORD PRIOR TO AND BEFORE VACATING THE PROPERTY
Most landlords will require a walkthrough prior to moving into the property. However, many complexes will simply give you a checklist to fill out before you move in. As a tenant, you want to make sure that any damaged areas, stains, or wear and tear are brought to the attention of your landlord before you move in. Going through your rental property with a fine-toothed comb and making sure that any irregularities are clearly explained and documented can help save you the expense of having to pay for those items when you move out. If at all possible take time-stamped pictures during your walkthrough as future evidence should any dispute arise.
To that end, also request an in-person walkthrough of the property with your landlord once you have decided to move out. The paperwork you completed and the pictures you took before moving into the property can be invaluable during this time. Make sure any issues with the apartment or home that were not present when you moved in are clearly documented and photographed. As a precautionary measure, you may want to consider having your carpets professionally cleaned or hiring a cleaning service before you do the walkthrough with your landlord. Some companies even offer specific cleaning packages geared toward tenants who are either moving into or out of a rental property.
What types of things should I discuss with my landlord before moving in?
MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU AND THE LANDLORD ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IN THE LEASE.
Your lease should clearly list what you are responsible for as a tenant and what the homeowner or apartment complex is responsible for as the landlord. Who is responsible for repairing appliances, changing air-conditioning filters, etc.? Who will provide for the fumigation or maintenance of the pool or yard? Are certain utilities included as part of your rent or are you required to have renters insurance? These are all things you want to consider before moving into the property. As a renter, you want to make sure that each party’s rights and responsibilities are clearly and adequately provided for in the lease. The more detailed and unambiguous the terms of a lease are, the better off both parties will be.
How can I save money when renting an apartment or home?
DON’T BE SCARED TO TRY TO NEGOTIATE YOUR MONTHLY RENT OR SECURITY DEPOSIT. SHOP AROUND IF NECESSARY.
Do not let your emotions or excitement toward a particular property get in the way of being a smart consumer. Shop around if necessary and know what similar rental properties are going for in the area. Although you may have more success with negotiating the terms of your lease with a private homeowner as opposed to a large apartment complex, there is no harm in trying. Sometimes if a landlord is not willing to budge on the amount of monthly rent, they may be willing to waive application fees or accept a smaller security deposit. Many landlords even offer a discount for paying your rent early or pre-paying a part of the rent. If comparable properties in the area rent for 100-200 dollars less per month, let your landlord know and have the facts to back it up.
What should I look for when renting an apartment or home?
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
Comparing rental fees is not the only research you need to do as a prospective tenant. Particularly, if you are moving into an unfamiliar part of town, make sure to survey the surrounding area and nearby neighborhoods. All too often renters unknowingly move into a particular area or apartment complex that is riddled with crime or drugs. Contact the local police department and see if they offer statistics or keep records of both violent and non-violent crimes in the area. The internet can also provide you with a wealth of information concerning a particular area’s propensity for crime and/or drug activity.
- The Orlando Sentinel offers a tool that shows certain crimes throughout Orlando. To access the Orlando Sentinel’s “Orlando Area Crime Map” .
- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement offers a tool that allows you to search for sexual predators within the area of a particular address. To access the FDLE’s Neighborhood Sexual Offender Search tool .
What should I look for in a residential lease?
READ YOUR LEASE AND BECOME FAMILIAR WITH IT.
The best way to protect yourself and prevent future headaches is to read your lease! This point cannot be emphasized enough. Read every page of your lease, in detail, before you sign it. Make sure that each and every term you discussed with your landlord is clearly listed regardless of whether the landlord stated it orally. Whether your landlord said that he or she will provide for the exterior maintenance of the lawn, monthly pool service, or you are responsible for those items; make sure it is in the lease. The more familiar you are with your lease, the less likely you are to be surprised in the future. Some common issues you may want to be aware of when renting an apartment or home in Orlando include:
- When does the lease start and end? What are your renewal options?
- What are the penalties for breaking the lease early or failing to pay rent on time?
- Is there a particular way of providing important notices to your landlord?
- Are you required to provide advanced notice of your intent to not renew the lease?
- What options do you have if your landlord does not make repairs?