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Before you rent a home

Renting a new place is exciting, whether it’s your first time or not. But it’s also filled with potential landmines. I’m going to give you 5 tips so you can enjoy your new home without worry.

1. Research the property or landlord: Nothing is worse than having finally schlepped all your stuff to your new place, unpacking, and spotting black mold under the sink.  Nothing’s worse than mold. Well except maybe bed bugs. And then what if your landlord won’t address the problem? A bit of research online, a peek at the Better Business Bureau or other review sites can help reveal whether your landlord has a history of these issues and if they dealt with them properly.

2. Inspect your unit before leasing: In some bigger buildings, landlords show off “model” units.  You get excited about the place you see but your apartment could have a different layout or worse --  odors, noise issues, or damage. Insist on seeing the unit you’re planning on renting.

3. Check for Provided Services:  Determine the services that your landlord doesn’t specifically say they’ll provide.  Look for how long the grace period is on rent payments, for who’s responsible for various types of repairs and maintenance, and for the rules around eviction and lease termination. If the landlord makes additional promises, they need to be written on the lease document before signing.

4. Do not hand over personal information or money: If you haven’t met your landlord, signed an application or lease, or seen the property, do not hand over private information.That includes requests for wire transfers, a check that isn’t part of an application fee, social security number, or credit card or bank information. These requests aren’t appropriate until you’re ready to lease and they can lead to financial problems.

5. Take photos of everything: There is one last step after you've signed the lease before you move in: do a walk through of the unit and take photos of every room, cabinet, floor tile--even the toilet.  This’ll help ensure you get your full security deposit back.

Follow these basic tips but also know that local and state level protections exist to prevent discrimination, ban high security deposits, and more. Check our list to find a link to state level information.