Traverse City Record-Eagle

Real Estate News

June 6, 2012

Know Your Rights as a Renter

Syndicated — The housing market's slow rebound makes renting a good option for many. Former homeowners looking to recover their financial stability are joining new renters on the hunt for their first apartment and long-time tenants facing rising rental costs. But in the ]]>

Do your research and shop around

This past year saw rent increases in 70 percent of markets. The good news about the demand: the market is spurring investors to purchase distressed inventory to convert to rental properties, which may help bring rents back down. Shop around by checking free real estate websites with dedicated rental features, including maps and local information on desirable locations. Some websites have rental mobile apps that make exploring a particular neighborhood on the ground even more convenient. Additionally, research fair rent prices so you don't find yourself overpaying for a place.

Work with your landlord, but know your rights

Keep the lines of communication open with your landlord, but know the laws that protect you. On a federal level, the Fair Housing Act protects against discriminatory housing practices, so if your renter's application has been turned down, be sure to find out why.

Read up on your state's landlord-tenant laws, as tenants often do not realize their specific rights. Attorney Ryan J. Weatherstone of Mercer Island, WA, offers one example: "Seattle tenants are required to be given a packet stating their rights under landlord-tenant law when they begin a tenancy each time a lease is renewed. Failure of the Landlord to provide these documents allows a tenant to break the lease early and/or seek a fine of $100 plus attorney fees."

Read the fine points of your lease before you sign

Typically, a lease protects you from rent increases while committing you to pay rent for the full term of the lease, even if you have to move out. But read your lease closely to prevent surprises. If you don't agree with certain provisions, see if you can negotiate with the landlord and make sure any changes are made on all copies of the lease. Pay attention to provisions about the security deposit, which is legally refundable - provided you leave your rental in the condition you found it. To ensure there is no dispute, first walk through with your landlord or property manager and document any damage in a written checklist as one would with a rental car. Send copies of date-stamped photos to your landlord.

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