5 BIG Mistakes Renters Commonly Make

puzzle of rental house with 'home sweet home'Renting a house or apartment can feel like the story of Goldilocks: the search for not too big, not too small.  While it makes absolute sense to get caught up in important details like amount of bedrooms, location, size, garage (or absence of one), renting a house or rental unit is a legal agreement signed by both the landlord and tenant.  If you want to make sure that legal agreement goes smoothly before and after you rent, avoiding these top tenant mistakes saves you time and headaches throughout the rental process.

Not reading the fine print

A rental agreement is a legal agreement, so don’t just blindly sign the piece of paper without reviewing the document.  Particular items to look for is the length of the lease, any penalties spelled out, responsibilities you need to fulfill, and the terms of breaking the lease.  Don’t take everything your landlord says for granted; make sure it is spelled out in the agreement in case the landlord forgets or gives you incorrect information.

Not getting it all in writing

If you and your landlord make any verbal agreements, make sure those terms are written out in the rental agreement—and don’t sign it until you’ve seen the additions added on to the form.  For example, if your landlord has agreed to repair the water damage in a corner of your bedroom, have them write that out (in full detail, including repair and location of repair) on the rental agreement.  This is going to be helpful later if the repair isn’t made.  If you have it writing, it’s going to be a lot easier to hold the landlord or landlord company to their promise.

Not getting a signed copy of the rental agreement

A signed lease is like gold when any disagreements arise, and when getting your security deposit back.  Unfortunately, some landlords promise to send the copy and don’t follow through.  Don’t just ask for a signed copy—insist on it.   This is important when consulting an attorney about any problems with your landlord, and one of the first things an experienced lawyer requests.

Not taking pictures

Before you move in, or shortly after, take pictures of the property—especially any areas that are in disrepair.  Some examples of items to look for are scratches or damage to drywall, caulking that is pulling off, chips to the counters, sinks or flooring, and any other issues you find.  Keep these pictures for when you move out; this simple action can help you keep from paying for damage that was already there.

Not knowing your rights—especially concerning the security deposit

Don’t step into a rental agreement without knowing your rights as a tenant.  What actions can you take if the landlord doesn’t make repairs?  When do you get your security deposit back (more about that in our article about rental security deposits here)?  What can you do if the condition of your unit or rented house becomes unsafe?  Remember that regulations vary based on the locality of your rental.

Once you have a signed agreement, make sure you contact your insurance agent about renter’s insurance.  It’s inexpensive and incredibly valuable should anything happen to your items in your apartment or rented house (i.e. via fire, flooding, etc.); most renter’s insurance policies ensure that your items are replaced when you need them the most.

If you have any issues with your landlord, such as having him fulfill a promise made in the fine print or getting your security deposit back, consult an experienced local attorney. Take note of the ‘local’ part because a lawyer that does business in your area is going to have a thorough knowledge of local rental regulations which do vary from state to state.

 

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Make the Most of Your Lawyer Meeting

lawyer documents for meetingWhen you’re on the clock, no one wants to waste time.  This is especially true during your free consultation (if your attorney offers it) with your lawyer.  You don’t want to waste you or your lawyer’s time—and you certainly don’t want to pay them for an action or information you could have given them up front.  To avoid both scenarios, use these tips so you can make the most of your time during your consultation—and the most of your funds.

Know what you want (and be realistic)

Go into your meeting with your lawyer with a purpose.  What outcome do you want?  What outcome would you settle for?  We’ll use this scenario to illustrate this point: let’s say you are mad at another family member for the way they are dealing with executing a will.  What do you want changed?  What outcome of this process do you want?  Knowing your goal or outcome can help you decide what kind of lawyer you need and which lawyer you should contact.

Hire the right attorney for your case

Research attorneys in your area before you contact lawyers.  Look for an experienced lawyer or law firm with experience related to your case (i.e. custodial issues, estate planning, etc.)  If you need affirmation that you are making the right choice, ask others you know who have gone through a similar case for recommendations of a good, experienced lawyer to contact.

Come prepared

Don’t hold anything back when you are talking to your lawyer—-but remember you’re on the clock.  To make sure you get all your information out and presented, be prepared with the necessary documents and information.  Make a list of documented interactions, actions, and points related to your case on a tablet BEFORE you go with ALL the information your lawyer needs; this can help you later so your lawyer doesn’t have to chase after information you haven’t given them.  Add any questions you have for the lawyer to your list; this can also help you state the facts without being overly emotional.

Leave your emotions at the door

It doesn’t matter if you’re transitioning your business, drafting or executing a will, dealing with custodial issues, or pursuing any of these other reasons you need an attorney, there’s bound to be some sort of emotions involved.  Try to leave those emotions behind, and look at your case with a neutral and unbiased view.  It’s not easy to do, so make sure you think through the meeting before you go and have easy coping strategies (i.e. deep breaths, tissues, etc.) that can help you calm down when you start to feel upset or angry.  Remember, your lawyer is there to help; try not to take your emotions out on them.

Ask questions

It’s inevitable: your lawyer is going to use legal terms (it’s what they have to do every day).  Don’t get lost in all the legal jargon that comes out of your lawyer’s mouth.  This is your case; don’t be afraid to ask questions so you understand and know your role and responsibilities.

Know the next step

Don’t leave your lawyer’s office without knowing what the next step is, such as what paperwork you need to bring or send in, paperwork that needs a signature, discussions that need to happen or any actions the attorney has promised to do.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.