5 best tips for newbie roommates renting.

April 16, 2013

Here is some advice on finding that rental agent and more. Be careful how to get started because based on years of personal and anecdotal experience, many of these rental arrangements do not go well. These 5 tips will increase the likelihood of a good experience…

Totally different taste experiences

Reader Question: Hello Monty, 3 of us are looking to rent a place. We want the total rent to be as close to $1,350.00 per month as possible. We want to start a lease in August 2013. Can you find an agent for us? Kirsten D. – Tampa, FL

Monty’s Answer: Hello Kirsten, Monty can only find an agent for a homebuyer or seller. Here is some advice on finding that rental agent and more. Be careful how to get started because based on years of personal and anecdotal experience, many of these rental arrangements do not go well. These 5 tips will increase the likelihood of a good experience.

1. A pre-lease group counseling session.

Get together for the sole purpose of sorting out each of your expectations. Do not sugarcoat your feelings. We often think “we are all good friends and we have gotten along well for years. We are all very compatible.” Yes, but you have not lived together. One neat freak and two slobs is a dangerous combination. There is trouble ahead without conversation and agreement.

2. Agree on house rules before going ahead.

Here are some sample questions to get started.  Who does the dishes? How late can friends stay in the evening? Can they stay overnight? How is laundry handled? How are food costs shared? Will food be stored daily so as not to attract critters? There are plenty of other questions to come up with together. An agreement between the three of you with some written rules will help in the future.

3. Finding the right leasing agent and the right landlord.

What I recommend is a preliminary phone interview with several rental agencies to get a sense of several potential issues:

a) Do they serve the market in which you are looking; both by price range and neighborhood?

b) Are they a full service property management company?

c) Do they manage the properties, or are they simply “renting it”? Finding the right property manager is very much like finding the right real estate agent. If they are simply renting the property, try to interview the property owner or on-site manager you would be dealing with day to day. Start by asking the right questions. An example; If we rent a unit and the neighbor next door is playing music all night, who owns the problem? If it is the landlord’s problem, is that clearly stated in the lease? Can the lease be broken if serious problems go unresolved? You will quickly learn if this landlord is someone you want to be dealing with for the next 6 months to a year.

4. Finding the right place.

Here is an article about getting a home ready to show. Is the apartment sparkling clean and ready to move-in? This is a good sign about the landlord or manager. If it is clean at the start, you will be expected to leave it in the same condition. Trying to view a number of properties, and not just “take the first one you see,” may provide more rental price comparables to use during negotiations.

Look carefully at what is going on outside the apartment. Try to get a glimpse of other tenants or neighbors. Are the hallways well lite and clean? Is the building itself in good condition? If dirt, spider webs, dirty light fixtures with burnt out bulbs, broken windows, loose banisters, sticky doors and more are present, all represent a red flag. What is the condition of cars in the parking lot? Is the parking lot well lite?

Schedule the appointment in the early evening, when people are returning from work. This can provide a good sense of place. Ask people, “I am thinking of renting here, what can you tell me about living here?” and listen closely to what they say.

5. Negotiating the right lease agreement.

When you have found the “right” place, ask to review the lease a day before signing it, and make certain the other two occupants have also read and signed the lease. Does the lease address promises made in negotiations? Is it balanced, or heavily slanted toward the landlord? If one co-tenant decides to leave early who pays that portion of the rent? Who finds a suitable replacement? Ask about a move-in /move –out report, which protects tenants from repairs or damage present upon occupancy. On move-in, take photos of any uncorrected condition issues as they may come in handy.

I hope you find this information helpful, Kirsten. Ask me other questions. Good luck in your search.

Respectfully,

Monty