Things to Know If You're Becoming a Tenant
By John Voket
Whether relocating, downsizing or going through a lifestyle adjustment, I know that thousands of folks each month transition from living at home, or living in their own home, to becoming a tenant of someone else.
So a recent post from Providence, R.I., attorney John T. Longo, a contributor for GoLocalProv (golocalprov.com), seemed particularly timely. He offers the following tips for both first-time and frequent renters:
Don’t Talk Like a Lawyer - Coming across as a demanding or litigious person may give a potential landlord a reason not to rent to you. Be easy-going, polite and avoid saying things such as “that’s illegal.”
Know Your Equal Housing Rights - Unless your apartment is in a small owner-occupied building (generally four units or less under federal law), it is against the law for a landlord to discriminate based on multiple criteria.
Got Kids? - Landlords who refuse to rent to people with children often say something like: “Do you have kids?” (It’s illegal to ask.); or “The apartment is too small for kids.” (You get to decide that, not the landlord.) Longo advises anyone experiencing trouble renting because of children to get an attorney or contact HUD.
Inspect and Take Pictures - When moving out, a landlord may claim damage or cleanup costs against a security deposit. To prevent that, take lots of pictures, or make a video of the apartment before moving out or in. Photograph the inside of appliances, closets, a basement storage area and even common hallways.
Finally, Longo says it’s important to watch out for illegal fees.
Depending on the state, a landlord can require the first month’s rent, the last month’s rent, the cost of a new lock and key, and a security deposit equal to one-month’s rent.
If a real estate agent helped a tenant find a rental, there may be a fee involved. If the landlord used a real estate agent or agency, Longo says you do not have to pay their fee.
Resist paying prohibited charges for credit checks, applications, or pet, key, utility and cleaning deposits. Or, consider paying illegal fees with a separate check with its purpose written on the memo line. Renters can then try to get the fees refunded when moving out.