Looking out for your finances as a renter
Landlords and property owners have their fair share of problems: They have to manage, accommodate, repair, etc., their property. It's a lot of responsibility, and with great responsibility comes great headache.
But it ain't all roses for renters, either. We've got rent increases, security deposits, and unannounced, inescapable construction. Last Saturday, I woke up to the sound of drilling on the wall next to which I sleep. It was 7:30 in the ever-loving morning!
As a renter, there are a handful of important laws and considerations that many of us overlook. At least, I know I've overlooked them. So I figured they were worth sharing. Here are some money-related things to keep in mind if you are a renter.
There's a High And Low Season For Renting
I never really thought about this, but it makes sense. There's a busy season for renting, and, according to Apartment Guide, it's between May and September.
“If you've got the flexibility, winter could be the best time of year for a move. Following the busy holiday season when most people are tuckered out (and their bank accounts are running low), fewer renters make a move. Because demand for apartments is lower, you may find a hot deal on rent during the cooler months.”
Rental site RentHop studied some data and found that November, specifically, was the best time to look for an apartment. They also found that morning was the best time to hunt online for apartments, as most brokers post between 9 and 10 a.m.
Renter's Insurance Is Worth It
For the coverage you get, renter's insurance is a pretty good deal. Depending on your policy, you're covered for personal property theft, damage from natural disaster, liability if someone hurts themselves in your place, relocation expenses — in some cases, you're even covered if someone steals something from your car.
And the average cost of a standard policy? Less than $15 a month. According to the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America:
“…renters insurance policies cost as little as $10 per month. The average cost of renters insurance is $12 per month for about $30,000 of property coverage and $100,000 of liability coverage.”
Not bad. Yet, in their recent poll, they found that two-thirds of renters don't have it. Another perk of renter's insurance? You might qualify for a multi-policy discount if you go through your auto insurance carrier. That makes that low premium even lower.
Your Security Deposit Might Have a Limit
Depending on your state, your landlord is only allowed to charge you a certain amount for your security deposit. This might seem obvious, but it helps to know what the limits are in your state. You can find them here.
Document repairs, broken appliances and fixtures — everything. Take pictures. Send emails. Save receipts. Should an issue arise, this will make the process of finding a solution a lot smoother. For example, let's say your apartment management company charges you for a damaged tub that you complained about repeatedly but they never bothered to fix (ahem). Well, if you have photos and email evidence, it makes it a lot easier to prove your case and get your deposit back.
I always feel more motivated to document everything when I rent from a company rather than an individual. It's easy for a company to hide behind clerical errors or miscommunication. Having proof can help get the issue resolved quicker.
You Can Negotiate Your Rent
I haven't tried this, but I really, really want to. I can't imagine a world in which you ask for cheaper rent and your wish is granted. But apparently it happens.
I've read about how to negotiate rent and, when people tell me they've actually done it in real life, I'm always impressed. Here are a few tips for doing it effectively:
Offer to pay months' worth of rent up front
Sign a longer lease
Security Deposit Interest
Depending on your area, you might be able to get a return on interest earned on your security deposit. For example, in Los Angeles:
“Since 2004, interest payable to tenants may be determined in two ways: 1) use the simple interest rate established by the Rent Adjustment Commission; or 2) pay the tenant the actual amount earned on the security deposit. If the second method is used, the landlord must provide the tenant with a copy of a bank statement indicating the interest earned on their deposit for the year.”
The amount might not be much, but it could be worth looking into. In Los Angeles, our apartment company is allowed to pass along a small fee from the city to the renters each year. It's something like $5, but I balk at it every time.
If that's worth balking at, perhaps my interest is worth asking about too.
When you're a renter, it might seem you're at the mercy of your property owners. And many times, you are. But you may have more tenant rights than you think. And, in general, there are at least a few simple ways to look out for your finances.