How to Protect Yourself as a Renter
All renters have rights. Some are guaranteed by law, while others will be outlined in your lease agreement. Here are some things you can do to be a savvy renter and protect yourself if things go wrong:
Insure your personal property: Your landlord is required to have insurance on the property, but it won't protect you or your stuff if anything should go wrong. Renter's insurance is generally very affordable and will cover damages to your personal property under many different circumstances. Talk to an insurance agent to find an affordable policy that's right for you.
Know the law: Before you sign a contract, find out what the tenant/landlord laws are in your state. These laws outline the rights and responsibilities of both parties, including what can legally be included in your rental agreement and sometimes, how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit.
Understand your contract: Make sure to read your lease agreement carefully so you understand what your responsibilities are as a tenant. These may include things like keeping up the property, following city codes, and paying your rent by a certain date each month.
Inspect the property: When you move into a new place, it's important to document the condition of the property. When you move out, your landlord can deduct the cost to fix any damages that go beyond reasonable wear and tear. Take photos, go slowly, ask questions, and make sure that both you and your landlord are on the same page.
Understand your rights: Just as you have responsibilities as a tenant, your landlord must abide by state laws and the rental agreement, too. Your landlord cannot enter your property without providing proper notice, and they have a responsibility to keep the property maintained and livable. State laws vary, so be sure to become familiar with landlord requirements and responsibilities in your area.
Notify in writing: If the pipes burst, the heater stops running, or any other issues come up, it's fine to make a phone call, but it's also a good idea to let your landlord know in writing. That way, if the landlord fails to resolve the issue, you will have documentation to support you in any dispute. If you do just make a phone call, be sure to write down the date and what was discussed or agreed on.
Hold up your end of the bargain: If you fail to take out the trash or pay your rent on time, get a dog without permission, or violate any other terms of your lease, then your landlord has the right to terminate your rental agreement.