How should I prepare to start renting?
December 26, 2005 12:21 AM   Subscribe

18 year old planning to start renting within a month or so.

I'm 18 years old and, even though I am still rather young to start doing so (especially here in Sydney), I am planning on renting my own apartment or terrace within a coule of months. I am about to start university, but am earning enough with my current part time job (around $400 AUD a week) and may potentially be in a higher paying part-time job shortly.

While I plan to do this with a few friends, there is much about renting that I don't know. What sort of things did you find you wish you knew before you started renting? How zealous will landlords be about their properties and what will they do? What items would students living on their own most definately need?
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get renters insurance on top of whatever security deposit you have. If you do have a fire, get robbed or whatever, your deposit isn't going to cover anything.

Sounds like you're going to have a party or two. Damage will probably happen because of this. Might be worth it to walk through the apartment with a video camera and record every corner of the place. If the landlord comes back and says, this massive gash wasn't in this wall when you moved in, you can pull up the video and say, yes it was prick.

Make sure to play "Let's Lynch the Landlord" whenever he comes by.
posted by raaka at 12:49 AM on December 26, 2005

I plan to do this with a few friends

Be very careful about the friends. There's nothing worse than falling out with someone over money, and if your friends are as inexperienced with money matters and adult responsibilities as you are, it's a real possibility.

Make sure everyone knows what's required of them, can afford it, can be trusted, relied upon etc.

One simple example -- don't sign a lease, then move out, leaving the lease in your name just to save your mates the hassle of the paperwork.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:10 AM on December 26, 2005

One simple thing that I have found that is especially true when renting with friends is to simply write down what all everyone has pain in terms of a deposit. It sounds stupid -- like of course you would be able to remember. But in 6 months or a year when someone wants to move out, you get to do this little dance of "oh but I paid half the security deposit", "no I paid the whole thing and you owe me half", "no, I paid the first month's rent, remember", "but you owed me that thing from before and I lent you the money, so you owe me"... So just jot down precisely what each person has pain (both monthly rent amount and deposits) so that everyone is clear on what's owed when you move out.

Make sure that if you go in on a lease with a time period (e.g. a year) that you know what you're getting yourself into. There will probably be some kind of fee for early termination and for someone your age I wouldn't expect to be able to commit to living in a given place for a year, let alone 2 or 3. So try to look for something with a month-to-month arrangement.

When you move out, try to have the common courtesy not to leave a bunch of trash lying around. Vacuum/clean everything. Most landlords (i.e. the ones that are not crazy) are pretty reasonable here about accepting "reasonable wear and tear" as long as you clean up after yourself when you leave. But if you leave behind a bunch of junk that you don't want to take with you, or the place is filthy, then they are much less likely to disregard those nail holes, or the broken towl rack, etc. In other words, a little cleaning up goes a long way to getting your deposit back in full.

Remember that you should feel comfortable with calling the landlord about his property -- for example, if the toilet runs, or the bathtub needs recaulking, or there's a mould problem, or the heater doesn't come on at night. It's a lot better to call him to fix these things early before they turn into problems (e.g. water damage due to the tub needing recaulking.)

I think most of the advice for having a pleasant renting experience basically boils down to the golden rule -- respect his property, pay rent on time, and in return you should expect him/her to basically leave you alone to do your own thing, and fix any problems with his property. It's a two way street. Of course, there are always landlords that are crazy and have bizarre or unrealistic expectataions, and you should try to sniff this out before committing. They will drive you nuts if you happen to be unlucky enough to experience one. But for the most part I've found most landlords can be reasonable if you show respect.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:35 AM on December 26, 2005

Wow, multiple typos of paid -> pain. I wonder if that's subconsciously trying to indicate some deeper feelings....
posted by Rhomboid at 1:38 AM on December 26, 2005

Here in Australia, the entrance and exit report are king for getting your bond back.

In general, the agency will only mark down the minimum obvious things. Make sure you put every little nick, scratch, wear mark, toilet stain carpet stain in the apartment. You will feel petty, but it's really, really important and the agency won't give a shit that you're being petty. The bond doesn't come out of or into their pocket.

Other things to note on entry, so you don't get pegged with excessive cleaning bills:
Dust on blinds
Dust in sliding door tracks
dirty windows.
scuffs on walls.
mould in the tile grout

Landlords can be incredibly picky on exit - why? It's in their interest to claim as much bond money as possible to put into the upkeep.

I speak from experience as someone who has gone to the small Claims Tribunal here in Oz over cleaning.

Document everything! Take digital pictures, and somehow tie them to the entrance date. This can be done by getting the photos processed somewhere where they put the date on the back of the paper, or have them witnessed by a JP.
posted by Dag Maggot at 2:19 AM on December 26, 2005

Evaluate the landlord (as best you can, which isn't much), not just the apartment, because some are cool, and some are completely overzealous - the answer to your zealous question is "it depends on the landlord". You don't want someone who will drop by at minimum notice every few weeks, or mount any kind of "inspection", and you do want someone who will have things fixed promptly (especially if there is whiteware that comes with the apartment).

I'd suggest avoiding anywhere where the landlord lives on the property unless it's a very large apartment complex.

You might want to ask a few friendly small-talk-type questions of the landlord to find out his/her situation, eg if your apartment is their only property for rent, they may be more inclined and able to keep much closer watch on it than if they manage many places. OTOH, if they're an apartment complex manager, there may be a system in place that is inflexible and well-honed over the years to work to their advantage.

You might want to ask about the neighbours. People your own age are probably less likely to cause problems if you want to turn up the stereo or the DVD. Of course, stereotypes don't always hold up :)

If you're being shown a place before the current tenants have moved out, you can ask them about stuff, they'll probably be much more upfront about the good and the bad than the landlord.

Also, it's a too way street. The landlord may be nervous that you're going to trash the place, and all you want is for them to trust you and leave you alone. It doesn't always work, but being worthy of such trust is a good start :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:09 AM on December 26, 2005

Important: Get everyone's name on the lease. Stuff is very likely to happen, such that one person may have to leave (run out of money, get a job elsewhere, whatever), and if their name is not on the lease, they can walk off leaving you spending food money to try to pay their share of rent while skipping classes in a desperate search for a replacement flatmate. If someone's name is on a contract saying they will pay rent until the end of the lease, or until they find someone else to move in and pay the rent, then you get to keep your friends as Life happens to them, not lose them over money.

Alternative: If your name is going to be the only one on the lease, MAKE SURE that your finances are sufficient to pay the ENTIRE rent every month. So many people I know have had their lives seriously screwed over by someone elses unexpected financial (or other) crisis causing them to bail, leaving the person legally on the hook for payments they can't afford. Then their options are either to take on debt to stay until replacements are found, take on debt to break the lease and leave, or get evicted and have immense trouble finding another landlord willing to give you the time of day.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:21 AM on December 26, 2005

Set up a fund for all household expenses, like utilities, phone, etc. Each roomie pays the exact amount into the fund each month. Start the fund with a month's cushion against the departure of a roomie, or unexpected increases.

Talk about how you'll buy food. Nothing ruins a morning quicker than finding out a roomie drank all the milk when your mouth is all set for a bowl of cereal.

Talk about household chores. Apartments don't clean themselves. If you have a roomie who tends to leave dirty dishes scattered about, you'll soon have other roomies - the creepy, crawly kind. Talk about this stuff beforehand. Maybe set up one day periodically for a 'Whole House Cleaning.'

Do not get long distance service on your land line phone! Block long distance calls from being made on your phone. I once had a friend who had a roomie who would get drunk and lonely for his girlfriend faaaaar away, and would call her, then pass out before hanging up. The bills were beyond belief!

Pets? Discuss it.

Discuss overnight guests. You're young, you'll have members of the opposite sex visiting. What happens when the visits turn out to be longer and longer, until suddenly you realize you have another roomie?

Make a list of every personal item you have that might walk away. CDs, electronics, etc. Taking pictures is a good idea for larger items. You won't be able to monitor the integrity of every single person that comes through your place.

Locks on your own bedroom door wouldn't be a bad idea. Keep your prized possessions in your own room.

Even if you have paid a security deposit to the landlord, you might want to consider an internal security deposit from roomies; a 'just in case' fund to offset any damage that needs repair during your residence, and against the departure of one of the roomies. If someone leaves and is replaced, their portion of the internal security deposit can be refunded.

I agree with getting everyone's name on the lease, too. It sucks to be left holding the bag for the entire responsibility.
posted by Corky at 4:50 AM on December 26, 2005

Response by poster: Might be worth it to walk through the apartment with a video camera and record every corner of the place.

That's actually a really good idea and I feel quite naive for not thinking that. Good thing is I have no shortage of access to video cameras. Something tells me that a video camera might be more handy than photos (Of course having both wouldn't hurt).

As for the friends I plan to live with, the actual people who were originally planned to be a part of it have changed somewhat, I certainly feel for the better. The people now in the picture certainly seem more enthusiastic and reliable.

Discuss overnight guests.

This is the one thing I'm not entirely clued up on. What is the deal with landlords and their disposition to people who crash from say one night to a week? If a person sticks around for a fair bit of time is there anything that needs to be seen to? (A few people have shown interest in staying over for a few short periods, making up by contributing to the 'house kitty', simmilar to harlequin's suggestion).

Thanks a lot for the input so far guys.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 5:44 AM on December 26, 2005

I'd agree with get everything in writing from the landlord and agency, in the UK we don't have anything like a system for banking deposits with a third party so it took me a year to get it back from the agency as we were missing a recipet.

Again take nothing on trust from landlords or their agents, if any repairs need doing to the property get them to put in writing they will carry these out. We ended up putting in roof insulation ourselves and then taking the money out of our rent.

Also I agree with the above about bills, get everyone to put their names on the bills. Otherwise if people 'do a bunk' you're legally responsible for their share.

As for sharing with mates, make sure they're all roughly the same as you when it comes to the level of cleanliness. If you're a slightly messy person and other people are anal about keeping things tidy then either change (difficult) or don't rent with the other person.

In my experience Rota's don't work so much as making sure everyone cleans up their own mess and then have a blitz once a month where everyone tidies the shared areas. And a good rule, clean up after a meal, don't leave it till the next day, that way lies madness.

The most important thing is communication, talk about how stuff is going to work before you move in with people, assume nothing. You don't have to have a list of rules, you just need to make sure everyone understands each other. and make sure you keep talking to each other about stuff.
posted by invisible_al at 6:05 AM on December 26, 2005

What is the deal with landlords and their disposition to people who crash from say one night to a week?

That discussion has nothing to do with your landlord; he's not your mother, so he's (probably) not going to be watching what you do. It's a discussion between roommates- set some ground rules before all of a sudden one girl has a boyfriend you like, but he's there all the time, eating your food, using your soap, and you don't want to say anything because you like him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:16 AM on December 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

The people now in the picture certainly seem more enthusiastic and reliable.

That's a good thing, but an awful lot of roommate-from-hell stories start off that way. Listen carefully to what everyone here is saying about getting living arrangements clearly stated and the money stuff in writing beforehand. You have a lot more to fear from misunderstandings with your roommates than with your landlord.

You don't have to present it to them as a "what happens if you freak out and stop paying rent" story. A better approach is to say "let's make everything clear and explicit so there's no way we can destroy our friendship later over this." The reality is that you still might destroy your friendships anyway, but at least you'll be able to deal with them based on things that they agreed to from the beginning.
posted by fuzz at 6:53 AM on December 26, 2005

What is the deal with landlords and their disposition to people who crash from say one night to a week?

If your landlord is paying utilities, (4 extra people * showers * Energy to heat showers/meals * wear & tear) adds up pretty quick.

It's also an escape clause for the landlord to stop the rental from becoming a biker den/flophouse/floating party, which tends to piss off the neighbors, damage the property and generally screw things up.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:07 AM on December 26, 2005

You've tagged this post with renting - have a good read over the other posts so tagged, along with those under the housemates, roommate and roommates (roomates?) categories. Great advice for finding the right place, and might be a good way to avoid having to post a 'housemates-from-hell' question in a couple of months.
posted by hangashore at 9:08 AM on December 26, 2005

Lots of good advice here. As for roommates, aside from monetary issues there will always be clean/messy issues. It's wise to find out ahead of time the cleanliness/messiness levels of everyone involved, and try to establish real ground rules -- certain messes to be kept in bedrooms, for example, a rotation for cleaning of shared areas (the bathroom and kitchen being the most important), etc. If you're all relatively neat or all slobs, your likelihood of internecine warfare is minimized on this count; it's when there's a significant imbalance that there's practically a guarantee of some combination of simmmering resentment, fights, and/or even broken friendships.

Remember to respect your neighbors, especially when it comes to noise. There will be people who work long hours, or who have children, or simply want to sleep on a regular schedule -- trust me, they don't want to hear your music/shouting/banging/fucking/partying on any sort of regular basis. At the very least, keep in mind that you may need your neighbors in a pinch someday. I had a woman living below me in a building who was so goddamn loud for so goddamn long at all goddamn hours from the very first day she moved in (yelling on the phone, slamming doors, blaring music, late-night parties, etc.) that I refused to help her jump start her car when her battery was dead and she was late for work once. Now, if she'd shown me a sliver of consideration in all the time that she'd lived there at that point, I would have been genuinely happy to help, but as it was there was no way I was going to give her 5 minutes of my time. So buy yourself some karma points, and don't be that person. :)
posted by scody at 7:07 PM on December 26, 2005

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