So you are looking to rent a home for perhaps more space or more privacy. Whatever the reason, that’s great, but before proceeding, ask these questions to avoid common pitfalls.
Renting a home from an individual is not the same as renting from a professional management company.
1. Who Handles Maintenance?
Unlike at a professional apartment complex which has maintenance staff, the homeowner you are renting from probably does not. Find out who will coordinate and pay for maintenance when something breaks? What types of maintenance requests are supported (i.e. pest control, light bulbs, clogged sinks, clogged toilets, frozen pipes, drain issues, sprinkler issues, roof issues). In a house, lots of things can and will go wrong.
2. Is there a Lease?
Even if you are renting from an individual owner, it’s always in your best interest to have a written lease with clear terms and conditions for you and your landlord to follow. This helps to eliminate disputes later.
3. Who Manages the Lawn and Snow Removal?
This falls into the maintenance category but lawn and snow care is a very important consideration to avoid issues and disputes later. You may not care, but the town and neighbors might. If you let the grass grow, you could be violating a local ordinance or rules of the homeowner association, and your homeowner/landlord might come after you later for the costs. Be explicit about who will handle this.
4. What Happens if There is a Structural Problem?
Structural issues like roof damages and leaks can occur when you are there. Find out how this will be dealt with in case it happens while you live there. The terms must be clear in the lease so you don’t have any problems later.
5. Is the Home Furnished?
Find out whether the home comes furnished or not. If furnished, what happens if there is regular wear and tear to furniture? It’s always best to have this laid out in writing so that you and your landlord know exactly what to expect.
6. Can you Forward Mail to the Address?
You will likely want your mail to be forwarded to your new rental address so find out about this. If the owner’s mail is also going to this address, it’s best to check what needs to be done here or if you will be permitted to get mail forwarded.
7. Who Handles Pool Maintenance?
If the house has a pool, who is responsible for maintaining and cleaning it regularly? Make sure you find out ahead of time.
8. Who Pays Utility Bills?
What are the expectations when it comes to paying for utility bills? In most cases, it is the renter, but it’s good to check ahead of time. If the landlord pays for a specific utility, there may be some expectations on usage. If you go over the expected usage, find out who is responsible for the overage payments.
9. What Can You Replace in the House?
There may be some items you can replace while others must stay the same. Find out what you can and cannot replace in the house.
10. Will the House Be Cleaned Before You Move In?
Find out if the house will be cleaned before you move in or if you have to do that yourself.
11. What is the Expectation When it Comes to Tenant Privacy?
Under some circumstances, the landlord may be expected to come into the house. But will the owner come in whenever they want or is there a specific limitation? Are they expected to give you notice before coming to the house? It’s always good to find this out beforehand.
12. What kind of security does the homeowner have?
Is there a deadbolt? An Alarm that you can use? Any cameras to monitor the house? These are just some of the questions you can ask.
13. What is the Lease Length?
Does the lease agreement talk about the lease length? Is there an option to renew if you decide to stay longer? Perhaps the homeowner is only looking to rent out his or her house for a year due to a temporary job re-location, and plans to come back next year, but you were looking for a 2 year lease. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
Tenants easily take this for granted in regular apartment complexes but they need to be considered when renting a home from an individual. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully now you understand how different renting a home from an individual homeowner can be. Renting a home may be the perfect choice for you, but do your research, and ask the right questions ahead of time. There are other questions too, but hopefully this gives you a nice start. Happy Renting.