Here are 4 tips for renters:
1) Due to the rise in "Rental Scams", I would do some due diligence to make sure the owner is truly the owner of the property you are renting and if you're dealing with an agent who is representing the owner, make sure they still have their license active also. I wrote a blog post about it in my blog here: http://www.thebayarearealestatenews.com/2012/02/29/3-ways-to
The last thing you want to do is pay rent and a security deposit to someone that doesn't even own the property.
2) Make sure you understand what is required of you upon move-out to protect your security deposit. Does the owner want you to not only vacuum the carpets but professionally steam clean them since they did that before you moved in? Does the owner want you to remove all of the nails from the walls and patch them? Have these things written down on the lease so there isn't a surprise later on.
3) Understand what is/what is not included in the rental price (ie. parking, water, garbage, utilities, gardener, access to gym, access to pool, etc)
4) Definitely look around before signing a lease. Since there is really no central database to track rental prices, you should price compare and look at different rentals in the area before committing to one. I have sometimes noticed significant rental price differences for similar units in the same complex. Try to go to sites like: http://www.craigslist
.org or http://www.padmapper.com
and do your homework.
Hope this helps!