How to Protect Yourself When Renting a Home
Most people, if they are not independently wealthy, will end up renting a home at some time in their life. Whether this means you live in an apartment for a period of years or simply grab a house for a few months at a clip, it is essential to understand the financial pitfalls that may await. Real estate agents and landlords tend to be all smiles at move-in, but such relationships can quickly grow toxic once damages and repair are on the line. This is why experts recommend keeping assiduous records and a detailed paper trail throughout the duration of your tenancy.
The most important step you take to avoid trouble down the line is a thorough walk-through. Too many would-be renters agree on the spot and move in within days. Weeks later you realize that you should have conducted a detailed investigation of the premises. The result is all too familiar – major disputes over the condition of the property when it comes time to move out. Just a few hours of dedicated attention are all you need to record everything about the condition and operation of that home. Pay special attention to door frames, HVAC units and kitchen appliances, as these have a tendency to be more problematic.
You also want to look into any records or documents from the former property owners pertaining to repairs and issues. Many websites care able to allow renters to evaluate their own prospective rental properties and landlords. It is a good idea to check these before you sign any contract. You may also want to speak to governing city and state agencies about your rights as a renter and what you can expect in terms of liability. Finally, check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and see if any liens or claims have been drawn against the owners. This can help protect you from future headaches.
Once you have moved in, it is essential to do research and select comprehensive renters insurance. Landlords maintain their own insurance policies to protect against liability they may owe you. It is wise to do the same on your own behalf. Most renters insurance allows for itemized lists that include your most valuable possessions. Some even include replacement cost values rather than existing values which will reimburse you a much larger amount of money in the event of theft or damage to your property. It is important to keep in mind that most renters insurance policies will not protect against earthquakes, flooding and other “acts of God”. Because of this, you may want to look into supplemental insurance if you plan to live in a high-risk area.
The good news is that most major rental companies take the responsibility of home ownership off your hands appropriately, leaving you with a hassle-free and convenient living arrangement. As you move up into nice apartments and freestanding homes, it pays to maintain strong relationships with the renters in case of any unforeseen events. Litigation should only be used as a last resort, so read your contact carefully if you want to avoid ugly and expensive deliberations down the line. You’ll be glad you protected yourself during an often unpredictable and costly process.