What to Know About Renting a House
Renting a house has plenty of advantages over renting an apartment. You’ve got more space, you don’t have loud upstairs neighbors and you might actually have some green space to call your own — but before you go all in and sign your lease, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Check out our tips for doing your research, working with your landlord and knowing exactly what you’re responsible for as a renter.
Do Your Research on Rental Homes
Since they’re often in more secluded, quiet and residential areas than apartments, it’s important to do your research on the home you’re thinking about renting, its neighborhood and its surroundings. We’ve gathered some tips that will help you decide whether a particular rental house is right for you.
See whether the house is near basic amenities. You can weigh the worth of living in a quiet neighborhood versus its proximity to things like gas stations, grocery stores and gyms, but at least get a good idea of how far you’ll have to travel for each of those conveniences and factor that daily travel time into your decision.
Check the safety of the neighborhood. Making sure your neighborhood is relatively free of crime should be a major part of your research. There are a wide variety of neighborhood social media and crime-mapping networks available to help you gauge the safeness of a neighborhood. And when you visit, you might even stop someone near their home or on the street and ask for their honest opinion, too.
Make sure there’s plenty of parking available. If your home doesn’t come with a garage or at least your own parking spot, you’ll need to find a parking spot on the road or in a lot close to your home on a regular basis. Take a look at street signs near the house and ask around to see if parking is hard to come by.
Ask the Landlord the Right Questions
Your potential landlord should be prepared for any and all questions you have about the property. In addition to asking questions about the neighborhood, make sure to get all the details on these topics before you get locked in to your new place.
Check the pet policy. If you have a furry four-legged family member, your landlord’s pet policy could and should be a deal breaker. If they allow pets, know how much you’ll be paying extra per month, on a deposit and your landlord’s rules for any damage your pet may cause.
See how much you can personalize your home. If you’re renting a home instead of an apartment, you might expect to have a bit more creative freedom when it comes to things like color scheme and lighting. While some landlords will give you a strict “keep it as-is” line, others might be okay with whatever you change, as long as you change it back when you move out. But always ask your landlord what you can and can’t do — it’s not worth losing your deposit over painting a wall without permission.
Find out when your landlord has tenants renew their lease. That way, if you're thinking about moving to a new location, you'll have a better idea of when you need to start looking for a new place.
Know what will happen if you move out early. If you get a job in an area that isn’t commutable from the house or move out for any other reason, know what steps the landlord will take to occupy the home and get the monthly payments off your books.
Know What You’re Responsible for as a Renter
With the advantages that come with renting a home instead of an apartment come more responsibilities. Make sure you know exactly what you need to take care of by combing through the lease agreement and clarifying any foggy areas with your landlord.
Utilities. Know exactly how you’ll be paying for the home’s utilities, including water, gas, electric, internet and television, if offered. Some landlords will add them into your monthly rent payment, while others will put the responsibility on you to get all utilities in order and pay them on time. Ask your landlord for an estimate on how much each utility generally costs per month, and double-check those estimates with the appropriate companies.
Basic maintenance. Whether it’s a malfunctioning toilet or a dysfunctional microwave, know beforehand whether you should call your own handyman or get in touch with your landlord to get it fixed.
Lawn care. Oftentimes, landlords will hire a lawn care company to mow your lawn and take care of other basic yardwork and include those costs in your monthly rent. But if you are responsible for keeping the grass short and the weeds at bay, you’d better know beforehand before your house has the wildest grass on the block.
Renting a house can give you much more freedom than you’ve had before as a renter. Make sure to talk to your American Family Insurance agent to protect yourself from the unexpected with renters insurance.