Whether you’re getting ready to move again or you’re moving into an apartment for the first time, it’s important to protect yourself as a renter. Before you sign on the dotted line on that lease, be sure to avoid any of the following, which are common mistakes that renters frequently make. It can be especially easy to overlook these things if you’re renting a place on your own for the first time, so be sure to:
Carefully read through the terms of your lease
It can be daunting when you’re signing a lease, and it might seem like an endless amount of paperwork. While it can be tempting to just rush through it and sign it all as quickly as possible, don’t. After all, signing a lease is a big decision, and you are agreeing to the terms that are outlined in this document. Although having a lawyer go through the lease may be unnecessary, it certainly couldn’t hurt. At the very least, have a second pair of eyes go through the lease with you, whether you enlist the help of a friend, family member, or soon-to-be roommate. If you’re new to renting, ask someone who has been renting for a while now, or perhaps has some professional experience in the field (such as a real estate agent). You’ll want to make sure that your rights as a tenant are protected, and that you know everything you’re agreeing to pay for. For example, an apartment manager may have stated that just a pet deposit is all you’ll need to pay for your dog, but he or she may have been mistaken and the lease states that a monthly pet rent is also mandatory. You’ll want to find out about these things before you’re bound by a contract.
Get renters insurance
Nobody ever plans for an accident or disaster to happen, but alas, they do. Some landlords and apartment communities require that their tenants purchase a renters insurance policy, but not all do. Even if you’re not obligated to buy renters insurance, however, you’ll want to strongly consider it. Considering the level of protection you receive, it’s fairly cheap, and generally costs about $100 to $300 annually. Not only can you protect your own things in case of a flood or fire, but at the very least, you can protect yourself from any property damage liability. For the small investment, you can potentially save thousands of dollars and a lot of aggravation.
Look for and document any damage
Your landlord may or may not ask you to document the condition of the home once you move in, but regardless of whether you were asked, you definitely should. This includes even minor damage, such as dings in the refrigerator or a chip in the tiled floors. Report it immediately after you move in—not just so it can be fixed, but so that the repair costs aren’t taken from your security deposit once you move out. If you fail to look for and report any damage in your apartment once you move in, there is no way for your landlord to know whether it was your fault or not.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.