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Guide To Affordable Renting

Home ownership is a wonderful thing, but it's not for everyone. For many of us renting is the best option, or sometimes the only option. If you've decided to rent a house or apartment, you'll need to find the right rental at the right price. It's a big decision, and getting it wrong can have serious consequences down the line. Here are some tips to help you get it right! First, let's look at the decision to rent.

Renting Versus Buying
It's a good idea to look at the pros and cons of renting. You may have no other option, or need another option, but it's always best to know what the possibilities might be so that you can make effective plans for your future.

Pros

You can move as many times as you like with minimum hassle before settling down.
The landlord is responsible for property taxes, repairs, and maintenance.
Renting (and making payments on time) can build or repair your credit for the future.
You don't have to worry about paying a mortgage or homeowner's insurance.
The money usually required for a down payment on a house is available for other investments.

Cons

If you have young children, landlords may see them as a noise issue or a risk of potential damage.
If you're an animal lover, your pets may limit your rental options as most landlords won't allow them.
It's not your home. You can't do any interior decorating or remodeling without the owner's consent.
Rent may be subject to increases each year.
Again, it's not your home. You're not building equity.
The rental contract will eventually end, and the house or building can be sold.
Dead money. Your monthly rental payments are going toward paying the landlord's mortgage, not yours.

None of that makes renting the right or the wrong decision: what's best for you depends on your personal circumstances. Before you decide, though, you should think the question through in a methodical way and consider all alternatives.

Best Practices
All Communication Should Be In Writing - Let's say that again: all communication with an actual or potential landlord should be in writing. Keep all communication on file.

Check Out The Area - Know the neighborhood. Is it safe? What are the neighbors like? Is there a noisy nightclub nearby?

Pets - If you have pets, bring this point up early in the conversation with your potential landlord. If pets are prohibited, you've saved yourself a lot of time. Move on. Never try to sneak pets into a house or building if the lease prohibits them. Breaching your rental agreement can, and probably will, lead to eviction.

Appliances - Take a close look at any appliances included with the apartment and inform the landlord of any defects immediately. You are entitled to working amenities, but you also want to avoid blame for "damages" later. Does the landlord agree to repair or replace dysfunctional appliances? Get the answer in writing. It's useful to photograph the appliances in a way that shows their condition, for possible future reference.

Water Pressure - Run the faucets of sinks and shower when you're taking your first look at the place. Is there a problem with the water pressure? If there is, what does the property owner agree to do about it? Get the answer in writing.

Release Clause – You may need to relocate suddenly. Does the contract contain a release clause? If so, what are the details?

Maintenance Requests - If you want the walls repainted or the carpet cleaned before moving in, make these requests and have them completed before you sign the contract. Get all agreements in writing, and don't sign anything until the work is done.

Stand Your Ground - If you're uncomfortable with certain terms of the rental agreement, you may want to challenge them. Do this before you sign anything, and only sign an amended agreement that you find satisfactory. If the landlord is unwilling to make changes to your disputed points, don't sign. Wave goodbye and keep looking.

Inventory - Create a through inventory or everything in the house or apartment, and make a note of the condition of said items (especially damaged items) with photographs. Give a copy to the landlord, and get an independent witness to sign both copies.

Guarantor - You may or may not need a guarantor, regardless of how good your job is. The landlord will make this decision based on the perceived risk.

Upfront Costs – Most agreements require one month's rent up front, and there may be a deposit of the same amount. The amounts are at the landlord's discretion, and your deposit is due back at the end of your rental agreement if you've left the home undamaged. Find out where your deposit will be held. The landlord is required by law to protect that money in a deposit protection account.

Know Your Financial Rights – The landlord must place your deposit in a secure account within 30 days of receiving it. Otherwise, the landlord will lose the right to serve an end-of-tenancy notice until your deposit has been returned, in full or as a smaller amount with your signed agreement.

Rent Increases - Rent cannot be legally increased, without your agreement, within the written fixed-term of the agreement. i.e., one year. However, the rental agreement may include yearly increases, a 5% increase on rent the following year, for example. Read your agreement carefully.

Whether you're renting a whole house, apartment, or just a single room in either, you still have the same rights, if your name is on the tenancy agreement. If not, you may not be liable to the landlord for issues like rent arrears, for example, but you're also an "excluded occupier." This term means you're living in the dwelling with the permission of your fellow tenants. Those fellow residents can have you removed from the home without any need of a court order.

Get Everything In Writing – We've said it already, but it is of vital importance. Get absolutely everything in writing, with signatures. Any verbal agreements are worth about as much as the paper they're NOT printed on.

Read the tenancy agreement very thoroughly, and sign nothing until you're comfortable with it.

Your Final Checklist
Here's a short list of information you should obtain. Be sure to keep copies.

Names of property owners and other tenants (if any).
Rental address.
Tenancy Start-Date.
Do other tenants have access to property amenities (pool, gym, etc.)?
Tenancy duration dates.
How much rent is payable, when it should be paid, and how it should be paid? Does it include utilities?
When can the rent increase and by how much?
Are there any provided services? (laundry, maintenance, etc.)
How much prior notice must the landlord give before tenancy ends?
What is the release clause or break clause?

We hope this guide will be of some assistance in your quest to find the rental property that's best for you. Just remember, get everything in writing and don't sign any agreements until you're happy with the terms.

Best of luck in finding a place you'll love to call home!