Unfortunately not all landlords and property managers are honest and until you become a tenant it’s difficult to determine what to expect from the relationship. Contracts and leases are meant to protect both the tenant and the owner but there is a large gray area that contains the emotions and intricacies of each tenant/landlord relationship.
Beyond reviewing a lease with a fine-tooth comb, there are some simple precautions to take that will protect you during the course of your lease and more importantly at the end of your lease.
1. Take Photos Moving In- When viewing the property, make sure you take plenty of photos. Not only of the space in general which can help with decorating and layout ideas but more specifically of the walls, floors, ceilings, doors and windows. Narrow in on damage or stained floors that won’t be fixed before move-in. Walls with scuff marks or dents. Broken glass or inoperable windows. Doors not hung straight or damaged.
Photograph anything else that is out of the ordinary. Digital photos are best for this application and make sure your time setting is correct.
2. Communicate with Landlord – It’s always best to be upfront with landlords when making any alterations to a property. If it’s a change that adds value most owners won’t have a problem and if it’s painting or other cosmetic changes that can be reverted its also less likely to be an issue, but keep in mind you may be responsible for the supplies and labor it takes to paint a wall white again.
3. Keep Records – Make not of all communication especially if you are reporting a problem. If you send a letter to a landlord with an issue make sure you have a copy for yourself. If repairs are done try to get a copy of the work order for yourself as typically they will just bill the owner but it’s always good to have in writing what the cost was directly from the contractor.
4. Everything is Negotiable – You never know unless you ask. Sometimes landlords are amicable to repairs or updates in exchange for reductions in a months rent or utilities. If they feel comfortable knowing you are competent at making a repair to their property they may cut you a break on rent. You’re probably going to be cheaper than a professional. By communicating your intentions you build trust that pays dividends down the road.
5. Keep it Clean – If you know the owner or landlord will be entering your home, consider cleaning up the place. Don’t worry so much about dusting but rather giving an impression that their home isn’t being occupied by a pack rat but rather someone who loves living on their property and cares for it as they would. Even if it’s not the owner but a property manager who will see your house, they always report back good or bad regarding the condition.
6. Take Photos Moving Out – Clean the property as best you can and remove everything you brought in. Take photos again that match up with the photos you took at the beginning of your lease to show that there is no damage. Some scummy owners have passed on damage to tenants that they know weren’t responsible but they knew they could push around.
There are plenty of honest and friendly property owners but regardless of their smile, do yourself a favor and protect yourself by following these guidelines.