“Some issues that concern first-time renters and their families are contractual,” says Paul Smith, executive director of the Utah Apartment Association. “More often however, families are concerned about the safety of their loved one’s first apartment.”
When scouting out potential homes, renters should make sure the property is equipped to protect them from incidents such as fires and intruders. The following precautions should be taken by everyone, and for the families of first-time renters, they can help reduce anxieties about safety.
Before you rent
· Look for safety features such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, locks and peepholes, and verify they are working. Cell phone reception should be checked as well. If anything is missing, ask the landlord to install it.
· The locks must be different than the last tenant’s. You can ask to see the work orders that show proof of the change.
· Entryways, parking lots and stairwells should be well lit and shrubs should be kept groomed. Anything less should be reported to the landlord.
· Write up an inventory of valuable items with descriptions, serial numbers, values, photographs of the items and their receipts. These records can expedite insurance claims.
· Lurking burglars take note of how long newspapers and flyers have been lying around, as they can signal if the home is vacant. Take them inside daily.
· Broom handles are inexpensive locking mechanisms for windows and sliding doors. They can be placed in the tracks, keeping intruders from pushing the doors or windows open.
· Make a fire escape plan, ensuring there are multiple exits and a meeting place.
· Store firewood and other flammable items away from the property.
“Once you feel you’ve found a home you can feel safe and comfortable in, it is now a matter of knowing your way around rental agreements and policies,” says Lee Payne, PropertyPond.com marketing director. “We advise future tenants to ensure that the apartment or home being rented is reputable. Using PropertyPond.com in your apartment hunt is a great place to start, because we filter the information to eliminate scams and make sure the data is current.”
The following list is designed to help renters protect themselves as well as be prepared to make the process of finding a suitable home as smooth as possible.
· Review the rental criteria before you apply in the event you do not meet them.
· Run an inspection of the property with the landlord. Ask him or her to keep a checklist about the conditions, such as leaks, damages or lack of hot water, air conditioning or heating. Keep a copy of the record until you move out; it can avert disputes.
· No less than one week before moving in, turn on the utilities in your name by contacting the local utility companies. A list of companies may be provided by your landlord.
Meeting the landlor
· Remember, the landlord is screening you as well so it is wise to make a good first impression.
· The landlord has the right to ask these questions:
What is your income and how often are you paid?
What is your occupation and how long have you worked there?
Have you ever been evicted?
Are you over the age of 18?
How many people will be living with you?
Will you consent to a background/credit check?
· However, some questions violate fair housing laws:
What is your race/ethnicity?
What is your religion?
What is your gender/sexual orientation?
How old are you?
Do you have anyone under the age of 18 living with you?
Do you have any physical or mental disabilities?
“Renting a place for the first time can be a daunting task,” says Payne. “Taking time to do research about the process and how to stay safe on one’s own will help ease jitters and turn it into the exciting rite of passage it can be for college students.”