Before you commit to a home purchase, you may be more inclined to rent for a while. When it comes to renting, though, there are still many things people should keep in mind before signing any documents.
Here are six potential considerations that can help you avoid some pitfalls in the renting process.
Get a First-Hand Look
This one perhaps seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said—in an era in which purchases and other interactions occur wholly online, avoid doing the same when renting. If you can, do visit the space in person before signing anything. This can get tricky when you're moving from out-of-town, but make the effort if possible. If you have no other option, consider calling on a friend nearby the area to visit the space or ask the property manager to do a live-stream walk-through with you over the web. Keep in mind—nothing can replace seeing it with your own eyes.
Pay Attention to the Lease
In this digital age, we're inundated with lengthy usage agreements on a daily basis—and our knee-jerk reaction is often to click "Accept" and keep moving. But when it comes to rental agreements, it's important to keep an eye out for particular items, rather than simply signing on the line after skimming the document. Look for important elements that pertain to your living situation—pet policy, parking agreements, late-payment fees, upkeep responsibilities. Save headache down the road by taking a little extra time to read documents upfront.
Consider Renter's Insurance
Since you don't own your rental property outright, it can seem odd to take out an insurance policy. But the truth is, renter's insurance is very helpful if you have belongings of value in your apartment. In the event of something the property manager may not cover in the lease agreement, such as theft or fire damage, your belongings can't be easily replaced without shelling out the money. If you can part with as little as $5-10 a month to cover your belongings, renter's insurance might be the right route for you.
Take Your Own Measurements
A rental ad may include square footage or even dimensions of particular rooms. But until you're in the space on a visit, it may be difficult to plot out how you might position your furniture and other large belongings. Bring a measuring tape to your visit and get a sense of whether or not your bed, entertainment center, dining table, etc., will fit in designated areas. (And don't forget to measure stairwells and door-frames—don't get stuck in a bind on moving day when your couch can't quite make it up to the second floor!)
Investigate Visitor Policies
Depending on how you plan to use your rental property and whether or not you intend to have roommates, it is important for you to check out the property manager's policy on guests. Some properties may have limitations on how long a guest may consecutively stay in the unit before he or she is considered a "roommate," which would affect the terms of the lease agreement. If you're a frequent host to friends and family, make sure you understand the limitations.
Understand Fees & Renewals
Read the fine print on your property manager's documents to find out whether there are penalties for leaving your agreement early or options for extending your lease month-to-month if a potential move doesn't time out with the end of your lease. When your annual renewal period comes on your rental unit, keep in mind that many property managers will take that time to increase (or simply change) the required rent. Plan ahead in your budget, and be prepared to consider your options once your annual lease agreement ends.