As a renter, you want to believe that landlords are doing their best to provide a livable property and charge reasonable rent, but if you’ve been a renter for long, you know finding a nice place at an affordable price can be hit or miss. What you might not know is that there’s a lot your landlord isn’t telling you, either because he/she doesn’t know or because it’s not in his/her best interest.
What secrets are landlords keeping, and how can knowing them help you to find the best possible living situation or negotiate a more favorable lease? Here are a few things every renter should know.
Rent is Negotiable
In truth, this will depend largely on the market. In urban centers where housing is at a premium, you won’t have much wiggle room to negotiate rental rates or lease terms like the deposit, whether pets are allowed, and so on, even if you’re a great candidate with a solid rental history and stellar credit. In suburban or rural markets where rental housing is in greater supply and lower demand, you’ll find you have more leverage to negotiate a favorable arrangement.
The Rental Unit Isn’t Legal
You may be tempted by homeowners offering up their basements, attics, garages, and other unusual living spaces for rent at bargain prices. However, if these spaces aren’t properly outfitted with insulation, ventilation, lighting, fire exits, and other necessary amenities required to meet housing codes, owners could be renting them out illegally.
Naturally, the homeowners aren’t likely to disclose this information, and they may not even know themselves. The unfortunate truth is that living in an illegal rental unit is not in your best interest. Not only could living conditions be unsafe, but if you suffer harm or damage befalls your belongings, you may have little legal recourse since you were renting an illegal space.
The best way to avoid this turn of events is to do your homework. Contact your local building safety department to request information about any property you’re considering renting. If everything is on the up and up, an inspection will have been done and the home will be listed as providing dwelling for two units, instead of, say, a single-family residence.
You Can Check Up on Buildings and Landlords
Often, you can tell just from touring an apartment or building that things aren’t up to snuff. If you see a lot of cosmetic issues like cracks, leaks, and pests on the property, there’s a good chance the landlord isn’t working very hard to keep the property in good shape.
However, just as a landlord will check your credit and references, you have the option to check him/her out before you wind up in an untenable lease situation. You can uncover past violations by researching the property at your local building management office and you can run a search on the landlord using public court databases to see if any current or former tenants have filed lawsuits.
They Can Drop In to Check on the Property
There are privacy laws that prevent property owners from entering a rental unit with their key any time they please, even though they own the property. However, you should know that landlords also have rights, one of them being the right to inspect the property. In most cases, laws require that property owners provide 24-48 hours of notice prior to inspection, but you’ll want to make sure this is written into any lease you sign.
Renting isn’t easy. You don’t have a lot of rights and you’re often at the mercy of the property owner when it comes to addressing issues from breakage and leaks to pest control. However, if you exercise due diligence and avoid problem properties, you can find a decent place to live until you save enough money to purchase your own home.