Know what's expected of you — and your landlord — to get the most out of being a tenant.
In the world of renting, the relationship between a landlord and a tenant can be a tricky one. The reality is, landlords want what’s best for their investment property and that means they want you, their beloved tenant, to know a few important things so the time you spend under their roof is a great one!
Here are the five key things every landlord wants their tenant to know:
1. Everyone wins when you read your lease
This sounds so simple and basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many people have never actually read their entire lease agreement. At first glance, it’s an unending list of paragraphs and jumble, especially if your building or home is managed by a property manager or large company. But within all those pages, the tenants can learn not only what is expected of them, but also what is expected of the landlord. Knowing your rights and the rules helps you avoid issues before they become problems. Most leases have very specific guidelines for every category: rent payments, late penalties, tenant utility responsibilities, noise issues, additional occupants policy, proper notice for vacating, procedure for repair requests, etc. Understanding the lease allows you to avoid costly extra charges and protects you from giving the landlord reason to financially penalize you or, worse, evict you. Take the 15 minutes to read your lease — it is a win-win for everyone.
2. Landlords don’t want to charge you late fees or returned-check fees
Think landlords love to receive all those late fees and other charges from you? They don’t. They also really hope you not are late each month or bounce checks so they can up-charge you extra fees. No matter how much more they are receiving because of your inability to manage your finances, it’s not worth the hassle of chasing you down for the overdue rent and bounced funds. The bottom line is, they will charge you, and if you do not pay all due rent and fees, at some point they can evict you. But trust me, it costs you far more than it bothers them. Late fees can range from 5 to 10 percent of your rent, and banks are charging huge fees for returned checks these days. Consistently racking up those fees can cost you an enormous amount of money each year. And it can set you up for eviction proceedings, which will then also affect your credit score and your ability to rent elsewhere.
3. Pet stains will cost you far more than you think
We love our dogs and cats, and thankfully, many apartment buildings will allow them. However, the big shocker always comes when a tenant moves out and is hit with a huge repair bill. Why? Well, that little stain on the wall-to-wall carpet may seem pretty small to you. However, pet urine seeps deep into carpeting and into the padding below. Your landlord is not going to be able to rent that apartment to the next tenant with pet-stained carpeting. And unfortunately for you, most of the time the entire roomful of wall-to-wall carpet and padding will have to be replaced. What about those shiny hardwood floors? Even more expensive to repair. Pet urine will soak into hardwood and leave dark stains that often cannot be sanded out. Actual floorboards will need to be replaced. So whether you have carpet or hardwood, your deposit will become a distant memory if sweet little Fido has one too many accidents.
4. Your deposit is not your last month’s rent
More and more landlords are now asking for first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit when you move into an apartment. That is a lot of money. On a $1,900-a-month apartment or house, that comes to $5,700—just to move in! Sometimes, you get lucky and you’ll be asked for only your first month’s rent and the security deposit up front. But this is where you can get yourself into a lot of hot water down the line. Many tenants assume that their deposit money can be used as their last month’s rent. Wrong. It is a security-damage deposit. Something completely separate. Refusing to pay your last month’s rent by offering up your deposit can ultimately cost you far more than that rent payment. You will be slapped with a notice of eviction and late rent charges. This can potentially ding your credit, destroy your ability to use your current landlord as a reference for your new apartment, and open you up to legal action. Plan ahead, don’t get stuck short for cash — allocate enough funds so that when it is time to move, you have enough for the upfront fees for your new place, as well as enough to cover your current obligations.
5. If you are a good tenant, landlords don’t want you to move
If you are quiet, nice, clean, and pay your rent on time, chances are you’re considered a good tenant. Good tenants are valuable. One of the biggest costs associated with being a landlord is the apartment turnover process when a tenant moves out. There is lost rent for any time the unit is not occupied, cleaning costs, and high-dollar improvements to be made. Yes, landlords need to continually raise rents to keep up with the increased costs of running the building, taxes, insurance, etc., but if you do some homework and determine that you are paying close to the current market rent, you may be able to make a case to forgo a rent increase this year or at least come to a compromise. If your landlord is asking for a 5 percent increase on a $1,500 rent ($75 a month), he won’t want to lose you over that $75. You may be able to ask to split the difference or even skip the rent increase entirely this year.