4 Things Tenants Should Know When Renting a Home

Working in the property management field, I have seen numerous times, applicant after applicant, tenant after tenant, common occurrences that I’d like to note and talk about in this blog. 

Here are 4 Things Tenants Should Know When Renting a Home, from beginning to the end of leasing a property.

  1. When a person finds a home that they are interested in to rent, the best thing to do is to call the company to make sure the property is legit. Most times, if you see an ad on Craigslist and you think the rental price of a home is too good to be true, it usually is. If the ad tells you to send money, and they will send you the keys, THIS IS A SCAM. If you see a property available now, but you are not planning to move until 3+ months later, it is best to keep the company’s information and then contact them until about a month before you are looking to move. Property management companies will not generally hold homes vacant longer than one month.
  2. When you go to view the homes you are interested in, bring a list or know the amenities that you want in a home. Is central heat and air important to you? There are homes in Vallejo and Benicia, CA, for example, which do not have standard central air conditioning because of how cool the weather tends to be. Also, don’t be afraid to take as long as you need to look through the home or ask any questions. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard, “We did not know that the home didn’t have __________ (fill in the blank).” There are items, such as window screens, that are not required by California Rental Laws to be provided in a rental home. If this is something that you feel you will need to live in the home, ask the agent to ask the owner. Most owners will install window screens if it means they can get a qualified tenant in their property.
  3. Once you are approved, and go to sign a lease, make sure to get everything down in writing. If you and the owner have agreed to certain terms, review that this has been included in the lease. Understand, or ask the agent, who is responsible for maintenance of the home. When you move into the home, it is imperative to write down everything: every mark, every scuff, every knick, every discoloration, as the home’s move-in condition. Be as thorough as you can, and take pictures of every item if possible. Even if you are not required to return this list to the management company, file it away until you move out, because in either instance this is referred back to your security deposit. Also, remember that when you first move into the home, it is not a brand new home. Someone has most likely lived in the home prior. Talk with the management company about items that you feel need attention, but please be patient with them. They generally will take care of certain items, or tell you why they cannot.
  4. When it comes time to moving out, the security deposit is held liable for unpaid rent, unpaid charges, damages, or cleaning of the home. Items generally forgotten that need to be cleaned upon move-out are the blinds and windowsills. I would suggest taking pictures or video of the move-out condition of the home as well, so there is something to reference if a discrepancy comes up regarding damages or cleaning. If any personal items are left in the home, this can be grounds to continue to charge rent until they are removed. With any rental home, you are only responsible by law to give back the rental home in the same condition as it was given to you.

When renting a home, the main things to remember are to thoroughly check out the house beforehand, get everything in writing, understand the rental terms, and clean all the nooks and crannies to secure the highest security deposit return. Always keep in mind, as well, that if you have any questions, contact the management company, or send an email request so there is something in writing.