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What (not) to do before signing a lease

What (not) to do before signing a lease

Whether seasoned or fresh, all renters make mistakes. Remember that time you thought it would be such a riot to live near a ballpark? And then the noise kept you up late on weeknights? Or the time you thought you *had* to live in a community that had tennis courts? But you never actually ended up using them and paid more for a smaller apartment than your previous digs? Renter mistakes can vary from annoying to disruptive to downright disastrous. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of renting:

–          Do not rent sight unseen. It doesn’t matter that you’re busy or moving cross country or any other excuse. If you haven’t walked through a unit, don’t rent it. Real life and pretty retouched, perfectly lit pictures are not the same. Neither are bumps and dents, which takes us to the next point:

–          Do document all the damage. Make notes, compile a list and take time-stamped photos of everything that can be considered damage: from the tiniest scratch on the coffee table to chipped tile, to a fridge door that doesn’t close properly. Make sure you share the damage compendium with your landlords, so they also have it on file. Foregoing documenting damage is nothing short of signing over your deposit.

–          Do make a commute test drive, both pack and forth between your future digs and your place of employment. Try out on multiple days. This saves you from realizing your commute is a nightmare that shaves off hours off your free time and being trapped in a 12-month lease.

–          Don’t skim the lease, read it! Multiple times, including the fine print. Make sure everything is covered. If you’ve reached other or additional agreements than are present in the standard contract, put those in writing as well. As the old adage goes “verba volant, scripta manent”. Put everything in writing.

–          Do research a community’s and its owners’ online reputation. A few bad comments and disgruntled former tenants are to be expected, but if there’s a torrent of bad online reviews and complaints, especially over long periods of time, it might be best to look somewhere else.

–          Don’t ignore the neighborhood. Walk and drive around to see what the neighborhood offers and what it doesn’t. Do you have a dog, but not parks nearby? Does the neighborhood have enough retail options or is it a food desert? Is it a safe neighborhood or does it have a bad reputation?

–          Don’t ignore renters insurance. It’s an inexpensive safety measure should anything happen. If you already have a policy, the moment you sign a lease, make sure you contact your renters insurance provider to let them know beforehand you’ll be leaving and give them your moving date, so you don’t go one day without protection. Happy apartment hunting!