Local Rental Info

Anyone who has ever rented a living space knows that there are many expected and unexpected complications that arise renting. From getting your landlord to come fix your plumbing, to noisy neighbors, to lease arrangements, they come in all shapes and sizes. That's why we have created our 'Renters Tips' section and continually add more tips to help renters get through the day-to-day grind.

You may have already figured this out: Landlords tend not to be very appreciative of pets. If you have a cat or a dog, your search will be considerably more difficult, but not impossible. As a general rule, the tighter the rental market gets, the more selective landlords will become, showing a preference for tenants who don't have pets, particularly dogs.

Here are some good tips for pet owners

  • Get some references for your pet. Former landlords or building managers are best. Even your vet may put in a good word. The point is to make it clear that you don't have a problem pet.

  • Much of the resistance to dogs is a fear they will bark too much (especially when the tenant isn't home), disturbing other tenants. If your dog is not of the barking variety, be sure to emphasize that when applying for a place.

  • Some cat-friendly managers may consider small dogs.

  • Cats have a better chance of being accepted if they are declawed, neutered and guaranteed to be housebroken.

  • Houses are more likely to accept your pet, as they often have yards, so you might want to concentrate on that route.

8 Tips for Renting the Right Apartment

Whether you're a first-time renter or an seasoned apartment dweller, it's worth taking the time to decide what's most important to you in where you live and to plan your search strategy accordingly. With that in mind, here are eight tips to consider:

1. Make a list of your top housing priorities:
Do you need extra parking spaces? A place that welcomes pets? A large kitchen or linen closet? A ground-floor entrance to your home? Thinking through your needs ahead of time can help you find an apartment that meets those needs, instead of one that just strikes your fancy at first glance.

2. Check out the property:
In addition to examining the condition of the for-rent unit, walk through the property to see whether it appears to be well-maintained. Is the landscaping healthy or dying? Nicely trimmed or growing wild? Are any windows, steps or railings broken or dangerous? Do the access doors open easily and shut tightly? Walk through at night, too. Are the parking areas and pathways well lit? What about the stairwells and hallways?

3. Talk to the neighbors:
If you're serious about a particular apartment, knock on a few doors and ask your potential neighbors whether they're satisfied with the building's amenities, management's responsiveness to repair needs and other issues of concern to you. Ask: Would you tell a friend to move into this building?

4. Examine the lease:
A lease is a legal obligation to pay rent for a specified length of time, and every lease has variations on the terms and conditions of tenancy. How much notice must you give before moving at the end of the lease term? Can the rent be increased? Are pets allowed? What provisions cover your security deposit and end-of-lease cleaning costs? If the terms of the lease agreement don't suit your needs, negotiate or reconsider renting the apartment.

5. Consider security:
Does the building have controlled access? If so, are the exterior security gates and doors closed? Are the locks in working order? Does your individual unit have secure door locks and window latches? (Some states have specific laws regarding minimum security devices for apartment units.) Does the building have a security service? If so, is a guard on duty 24 hours or does he or she just drive by periodically?

6. Ask about amenities:
Does the building have a swimming pool? A recreation or fitness room? Tennis courts? Laundry facilities? Who is allowed to use those facilities and during what hours? Is there an extra fee charged for use of the facilities? Where are the facilities located in relation to your prospective apartment? Do you really want to live poolside or near the laundry room?

7. Ask about utility costs:
Is the water bill paid by the owner or separately by the tenants? Are electrical or gas utilities included in the rent? Is there a single thermostat for the entire building? If so, who controls it?

8. Take notes:
Before you move in, document the condition of your unit and make note of any nonfunctioning doors or windows, leaking plumbing, missing fixtures, stained carpets and so on. Ask your landlord to initial a copy of your documentation to prevent disputes when you eventually move out. Better yet, take pictures or make a video of the premises before you bring in any of your furniture or belongings.

 

Apartment Safety

Before committing yourself to a particular apartment, try to ensure that:

  1. All locks on the apartment doors offer good security, and the cores of the locks will be changed when you move in.
  2. The doors of the apartment have peephole viewers.
  3. The hallways are well lit, and no bulbs are missing or burned out.
  4. There are mirrors at bends in the corridors to prevent someone from waiting unseen.
  5. The intercom buzzer system for the front door works properly.
  6. Mailboxes show no evidence of tampering.
  7. All exterior doors and locks are in good working order.
  8. All windows accessible from ground level are protected by bars. (Make sure that the bars or grating can be opened from the inside in the event of a fire, and that you will be given a key, if one is required.)
  9. All fire escapes are alarmed or enclosed to prevent unauthorized access.
  10. Trees and bushes near the building are not overgrown, and bushes are kept below window height.
  11. Garage doors are kept locked, and are controlled by either a key or magnetic card.

Once you've chosen an apartment, and have moved in:

  1. Never leave your apartment door unlocked, even while taking out the trash. You may find someone waiting inside when you get back.

  2. If required to give the superintendent a key to your apartment for emergency use, seal it in an envelope and sign your name across the flap with your signature overlapping onto the body of the envelope. This will deter against tampering. Periodically ask to see the envelope.

  3.  Make an effort to meet your neighbors. Learn to look out for each other's interests. Know who "belongs."

  4. Don't get on an elevator with a stranger. In an elevator, stand beside the control panel to have direct access to the alarm button.
  5. Never isolate yourself in a basement laundry room. If possible, arrange to do laundry with a neighbor.
  6. Never open your door to a stranger. Utility company employees can slip their IDs under the door. If in doubt, look up the company telephone number yourself (don't rely on a number they give you), and call to verify the information.
  7. Do not prop outside doors open for any reason. If you find one propped open, close and secure it.
  8. Use only your first initial on your doorbell and mailbox, and in the phone book.
  9. Immediately report any building security problems to the superintendent. Follow up to be sure the problem is corrected.
  10. When your apartment is unoccupied for a long period of time, leave a radio or television playing to give the impression that somebody is home.

Leases

Make certain your lease contains the details you and the landlord have agreed
upon:

  • The specific address of the apartment you selected

  • The length of the lease

  • Whether or not there is a sublet clause which will allow you to rent your apartment to another person if you will not be living there during your co-op period

  • The amount of the rent:
    1) when it is to be paid
    2) where it is to be paid
    3) what the penalties are if you pay it late
    4) whether the landlord can increase it during the period of the lease

  • The utilities you are to pay in addition to the rent i.e. electricity, heat, water, and sewage.

  • How you can terminate your lease or renew it.

  • Whether you and your landlord have to give 30 or 60 days notice to terminate or continue the lease. The penalty you must pay if you have to break your lease.

  • The amount of security deposit required

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