Selecting the right rental home and finding a property that meets your needs and budget can be complicated. Here are some tips to help you determine what’s most important to you and help you work your way through the rental process.
Assessing Your Needs
Carefully assessing your needs and knowing what to look for and what to avoid is the key to success in finding a rental home. Your Real Estate Agent can provide detailed information on target areas prior to your home finding trip, helping you maximize your time and efforts. One of the most important steps in finding your new home is knowing exactly how much rent you can afford. Your rent should be no more than 30 percent of your gross monthly income (although there are exceptions to this rule).
Advance Deposits And Fees
It is also important to remember that renters are typically required to pay a security deposit (usually one month’s rent) in addition to the first month’s rent prior to move-in. Additionally, some renters are required to pay their last month’s rent in advance. This is usually the case when renting a home from a private owner. A rental application fee, which can cost between $35 to $100 to process, is often required as well. If there is a home owners association you can expect to pay an application fee ranging from $50 to $200. Pet owners will also have to contend with additional security deposits and/or nonrefundable pet fees in the neighborhood of $250 or more for each dog or cat.
Inspecting The Property
When you have found a property that meets your needs, examine it carefully before you sign a lease.
- Windows should open, lock properly, and have screens.
- Sliding glass doors should open cleanly. Screens should be operable and intact.
- Check the roof for missing or curled shingles and ceilings and walls for water marks and other signs of leaks.
- Check plumbing and water pressure by flushing the toilet and running the faucets.
- Make sure any included kitchen appliances work properly (range, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, etc.)
Before Signing The Lease
Once you’ve decided on a property, the landlord will probably ask you to fill out a rental application. This information allows the landlord to check your credit history (usually through a credit bureau) and your relationships with former landlords. The form will request information such as:
- Previous and current employers and landlords
- Salary history
- Banking information
- Credit card information
- Social security number
- Personal (non-work related) references
The Rental Agreement or Lease
Before you occupy your new rental property, you will be asked to sign either a rental agreement or a lease. A lease specifies a fixed term and monthly payment, for example, a one-year lease at $1,000 per month. Rental agreements are sometimes known as “month-to-month” arrangements. Either you or the landlord may end the arrangement at any time with proper notice (specific notice requirements vary by location). Similarly, the landlord can adjust the rent with proper notice (again, the laws and regulations vary by area.) A lease is usually the more favorable option, as it guarantees a fixed rent for a longer period. However, if you are uncertain how long you will be renting, a rental agreement offers more flexibility. Lease Basics A lease is a binding legal document that states that a tenant can occupy property owned by the landlord under specified conditions. Although leases vary, they usually specify the following:
- A full description of the rental property.
- The amount of each rent payment and the due date, including late charge and grace period information.
- The amount of the security deposit, and the conditions under which it might be retained by the landlord -Services to be provided by the landlord (landscaping, repairs, etc.) and tenant responsibilities.
- Rules and regulations that the tenant is expected to follow while renting the property.
- Available amenities or services (trash removal, swimming pool, laundry facilities).
Clauses Requiring Your Attention
One of the most important parts of a lease is the Termination Clause, which describes what will happen at the end of your lease. Some leases renew automatically unless you notify the landlord that you plan to leave. Other leases simply transform into a month-to-month rental agreement. If you anticipate being relocated by your company sometime in the near future, we recommend having the following language built into your lease: “In the event the lessee is relocated by his or her corporation, the lessee may terminate this lease upon thirty (30) days prior written notice to lessor with no lease termination penalty.” Other clauses to watch for include those that address automatic rent escalation and transfer of repair duty from the landlord to the tenant. No smoking clauses are also common and strictly enforced.
This post was authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.