1. I found a place I want to rent. Now what?
You will probably be asked to fill out an application and give authorization for the landlord to run a credit check and maybe even a criminal background check.
The landlord will often ask this of every adult planning to reside on the property, and there may be a separate application fee per adult or per family.
Landlords generally set criteria for what they are willing to accept, and you can ask for this in advance. They will likely also make a call to confirm your employment.
Some landlords will gather multiple applications and application fees and run all of them, whereas others may accept multiple applications but only ask for the fee from the one they are running first.
Depending on the property you are looking at, the Fair Housing and Americans with Disabilities Acts may impact what the landlord can and cannot do.
Realtors must also abide by a code of ethics. The National Association of Realtors opposes housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin, and authorizes sanctions in response to finding that a member has violated any fair housing law, including local and state laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
2. How much should I pay for rent? Will landlords want to know my income?
Definitely, don’t pay more than what you are comfortable with. However, landlords will usually look for a monthly income of at least three times the monthly rent, or for your annual income to be 40 times rent.
So, if you are looking for a $1,200-per-month rental, they will be looking for you to make at least $3,600 per month, or up to $48,000 per year. If you have other debts like car payments, private school tuition, or loans, they might look for more income.
The landlord needs to be convinced of your ability to pay the rent.
3. Can I change the paint colors or put up a fence?
It is important to read your lease. That’s where you’ll find the terms of your agreement – for example, the monthly rent, the start and end date of the lease (the lease term), and important rights and obligations.
Most leases will provide that tenants cannot change the paint color, put up fences, or make other changes without written authorization from the landlord or the owner.
Or a lease may say that you have to put the property back in its original condition prior to moving out.
A lease of a condominium unit will also be subject to the rules and regulations of the association, so make sure you are in compliance with those, as well. You’d do well to get permission before installing satellite dishes, too.
4. Can I break my lease?
The lease will usually spell out the consequences for moving out early. If it’s silent, you may be liable for the balance of the rent, in addition to damages for other violations that may be contained in the lease, like not keeping utilities on through the end of the term. There is generally some language as to how early termination will work.
For example, the lease might specify that tenant may vacate upon 60-day notice, along with the payment of a three-month penalty, plus the payment of the final two month’s rent.
5. How do I make sure I get my security deposit back?
Read your lease and check for special requirements. Take care of the property like it is your own. Put sliders on the bottom of the furniture if you have wood floors, and take care not to scratch the floor.
Always make sure to fill in the holes you made in the walls, deep clean the appliances, and wash the carpets.
Check for non-refundable deposits, administrative fees, etc. Most leases require you to return all door keys, mailbox keys, pool keys, etc., in addition to leaving the property in the same condition as you found it, with the exception of normal wear and tear.
Some states require that the landlord fill in a move-in and a move-out form, cataloging damage, in order to withhold some funds of the security deposit. Make sure to remove all your items and take out the trash.
MEET THE EXPERT : Elida Baverman
After graduating from Emory University School of Law and developing a thriving litigation practice, I returned to real estate, my first love, to serve the needs of homeowners. With four decades of experience in real estate and an extensive knowledge of the real estate market and contract law, I developed curriculum and obtained approval and accreditation for a real estate school, serve on the Atlanta Realtors Association Professional Standards Committee, continue my real estate brokerage business, and also am managing broker for an award winning real estate office of over 200 sales associates. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org