We all make mistakes from time to time. Some mistakes don’t cost us anything while others can mean losing thousands of dollars. For tenants, mistakes often fall into the losing money category. Whether you are new to being a tenant or just haven’t rented in a very long time, avoiding the mistakes listed below can save a you headaches, embarrassment and a whole lot of money.
Mistake #1: Under estimating the cost of renting. Rent isn’t the only thing tenants have to pay for. Anything that is separately metered, meaning usage can be attributed to a specific unit, is the tenant’s responsibility. Be sure you understand what utilities are your responsibility before signing the lease. You can find out the average cost (plus highest and lowest bill) of utilities for a rental by calling the utility company. It would be a shame to move into a rental only to find out you can’t afford it because the utilities were so expensive.
Mistake #2: Not looking at the property before signing the lease. The rental market here in Bend is pretty crazy and it is easy for people to get a little flustered while looking for a place to rent. Don’t let that make you feel like you are backed into a corner and have to sign on the dotted line as soon as you see the ad on CraigsList. There are questions about the property that you should know the answer to: Will your furniture fit? What about smells? You can’t tell how a rental property smells over the internet and you also can’t hear the traffic. Does everything work? Does the neighbor’s living room have a great view of your bedroom window? Is it neon green and orange?
Mistake #3: Signing the lease without reading it. A lease is a legally binding contract between a tenant and landlord and you’re right, they aren’t any fun to read but do it anyway. Ask the landlord for a copy of all lease documents when you apply for the rental. Many property management companies have multiple addendums and notices in addition to the lease itself. Make sure you are able and willing to abide by the rules and restrictions outlined in the lease. If you don’t understand something then ask what it means.
Mistake #4: Failing to complete the Condition Checklist. This is a key to how much deposit you get back when you move out. Most property management companies will have a form (Condition Checklist) for tenants to complete and return within a short time period after taking possession of the rental. Without this form there is no documentation of the condition of the rental property when you moved in. That means the property management company could hold you responsible for damage caused by previous tenants.
Mistake #5: Ignoring a lease buyout fee. The lease buyout fee is to encourage tenants to fulfill the term of the lease and it is usually one and a half times the amount of rent due each month. Lease buyout fees are common on long term agreements but seldom seen on month-to-month agreements.
Mistake #6: No renter’s insurance. Most Bend, Oregon property management companies require tenants to have renter’s insurance and Preferred Residential is one of them. Thankfully renter’s insurance is one of the least expensive types of insurance you can buy. Generally cost is between $12 and $21 a month depending on the amount of coverage and the neighborhood. Renter’s insurance protects the tenant’s possessions in the case of theft, fire or other disaster. The owner’s insurance policy only covers the building and infrastructure.
Mistake #7: Waiting for the landlord to send a bill for rent. Your landlord or property management company isn’t going to send a bill each month to remind you to pay rent. You can wait for it but the only bill you will receive is for late fees because your rent hasn’t been paid.