- About ODC
- Agency ADA Coordinators
Entry to House from Driveway or from Garage: Is there an accessible walkway? Are there steps or thresholds that would be impossible to navigate? Would you need a ramp?
Other living and accessibility issues are the same as in this section on apartments.
FINAL POINTS FOR ANY RENTAL PROPERTY
If any of these items are not as you could live with daily, DO NOT SIGN THE LEASE. Even if the landlord says they will be changed, have the changes written into the lease. Once you sign the lease, changes may never be made. If the landlord is not willing to make the changes, keep looking.
Personal inspection of the property is essential to ensure it meets your needs. Always look at a rental property twice, at least once in the bright daylight. Artificial lighting can hide material damage to walls and floors. It can also hide a dark and gloomy place. Always view a prospective rental property at night as well. Viewing an apartment by day won’t give you a sense of how noisy your new neighbors may be or how full the parking lot is. Viewing a home in the daytime won’t let you know if the neighbors have a full driveway and park cars or let their children play in the street
If you are considering an apartment, ask other tenants if there have been any problems with bugs or rodents. If there have been, what was done about it? What is the situation now? What are the procedures should the problem arise again? Ask if there have been any break-ins in the apartment itself or into the apartment building. Ask how promptly repairs have been made when needed? How often has the rent been increased?
You may wish to check police reports to check on any neighborhood disturbances.
Warning signs: The landlord is overly pushy in asking you to sign a lease. The landlord’s name is not disclosed to you. The building looks run-down on the outside, inside, or both. Never sign a lease that’s for longer than 12 months, unless you feel that the rent is likely to increase, and that you are sure you want to remain where you are for more than 12 months. Six month leases give you some flexibility if you find a better deal. You never know when you will run into a better deal or have problems with the current property. Six month leases also give the landlord a chance to raise the rent more often.
Your Rental Agreement: You can often negotiate the price of the rent to your advantage. Don’t hesitate to try to do so. You may have to fill out a lengthy application for the property you desire. If you don’t have a good credit history, you might be turned down. So if your credit record is questionable, be prepared to do some explaining. Read carefully. Be aware if the lease allows for rental fees to be raised during lease agreement dates.
References: A reference is someone who can vouch for your reliability and responsibility as a tenant. But if you’re a first time renter, an employer or relative who lives in the area might do the trick. Be sure to have at least two or three readily available.
Deposits: Many landlords require first and/or last month’s rent as a deposit. In addition, most landlords require a security deposit (usually equal to one month’s rent.).
Tenant’s Rights: Refer to the Landlord and Tenant Act in Chapter 5.
Renter’s Insurance: One of the things most renters often overlook is renter’s insurance. Most policies cost under $200 annually and without it, you could lose all the valuables in your apartment. The landlord does not insure the contents of your apartment.
Prematurely Terminating Your Lease: This is very difficult but possible to do. Before signing a lease, be sure you understand what the landlord’s policy on termination is. Usually you will not be able to get the deposit back and are responsible for the amount the rent would be until the end of the rental agreement. If circumstances arise beyond your control, try to negotiate. First, talk to your landlord and give him or her detailed reasons as to why you need to prematurely terminate your lease. If the reason is serious financial difficulty, illness or death in the family, your landlord might agree. You might have to offer to find a suitable new tenant for the property. In this case, you will need to talk with your landlord about the cost of advertising and showing the apartment as well as what the cost and terms of the agreement should be. It might cost to advertise the property, but it may save you money and anxiety in the long run. If you are able to reach an agreement with the landlord, you would want to get it in writing and keep any pertinent papers in a file so that later you wouldn’t be sued for the loss of time on the lease. If you have found a new tenant, make sure the agreement releases you regardless if tenant keeps agreement or not.
Sharing the Rent: Many people start out by sharing the rent with friends. One of the disadvantages of roommates is that the time may come when your friends can’t abide by the rental agreement. They might have to relocate to a new job, or they might be laid off. This could suddenly leave you having to pay for the whole apartment yourself. Sharing a lease can be hazardous to friendships. So can sharing the rent with strangers, either by moving into a shared house together, or renting rooms out. If you go this route, prepare a written agreement between yourselves that spells out who pays for what. In the event that one or more parties break the lease, if your name is on the lease, you can be held responsible for the entire amount of all rent, even if all parties are named on the lease.
Sharing with a significant other is an option that requires a great deal of maturity, financial and otherwise, on both sides. Who will pay what amount of each household bill needs to be clearly determined at the outset and again in writing. Should the relationship dissolve, if your name is on the lease, you will still be responsible.
(See Home Safety Checklist in Chapter 1 for helpful information.)