RENTAL TIPS FROM T&E CARE*

*These tips have been gathered by T&E Care volunteers while working with folks over the years, and are not legal guidance to anyone planning on renting.  They are just suggestions to consider.

1 – Avoid rentals where there are utilities paid directly to the landlord, outside of the rent.  Often these utilities (such as water and electricity) are calculated by determining an average cost of what EVERYONE in the complex uses, so the tenant has no way to control those costs.  And that tends to make everyone spend more with the attitude of “well my neighbor’s got his AC down to 65 so what is the point of me suffering by leaving it at 80 – I might as well turn mine down too.”  

2 –   If you want to apply for Section 8 assistance (federal government assistance for housing) the waiting list for this assistance can be years.  You certainly should get on the list ASAP – but just be prepared that this option is not fast.  And while it can help to cover the cost of SOME of the rent – you would still be expected to pay for some yourself.

3 – Be very cautious when making a decision on a rental.  Many people jump into signing for a place thinking only of the rent and forget to consider other factors.  Things to look at when reading the lease include:

  • Rent:  What is the rent?  When is it due?  What are late fees and how are they assessed?  What is the policy related to eviction?  What is the policy related to raising the rent?  What utilities (if any) are included in the rent?  Will the tenant be responsible for paying any utilities directly to the landlord outside of the rent?  
  • Lease:  Is the lease month to month or yearly?  What happens if you decide you want to leave – what advance notice must be given? What if you need to leave before the lease is up?
  • Security Deposit:  How much is required?  What are the terms by which the landlord would keep it at the end?  (i.e. – many landlords repaint a place after a tenant leaves – is that cost taken from the security deposit or is that normal wear and tear?)  Are there additional payments required prior to moving in (first month rent?  last month rent?)  If the last month rent is required – then just confirm that you really do not have to pay the last month of rent when it comes time to move out!!!  (Many seem to forget about that.)
  • Appliances – Which are provided by the landlord?  Who pays for repairs? If the landlord pays, who arranges for the repairs to be made (is this the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant)? Does the lease give any indication that, if the landlord is responsible the repairs, they should be made in a TIMELY fashion?  Does TIMELY ever get defined?  The lease should be specific as to which appliances are included.
  • General maintenance – Who is responsible for lawn and yard maintenance?  Snow removal?  Roof and home repairs?  Is there a definition here of doing these things in a TIMELY fashion?

4 – Keep EXCELLENT track of all payments made to the landlord – even if that means for years.  You never know if an issue will occur and the better your records, the better the chance of any disputes being made in your favor.  Keep a ledger that records:

  • initial payments made prior to moving in and how you paid it – if by check put the check number; if by cashiers check or by money order – make a copy; NEVER pay with cash – there is no good record of this – UNLESS you get the landlord to sign/date a paper saying that he received the payment, then keep these!)
  • every rent payment made – same record keeping as above
  • every late payment made (if you ever needed them) – same record keeping as above
  • every utility bill paide (if you pay them to the landlord)- same record keeping as above

5 – If there is a dispute between the landlord and the tenant – the tenant should not try to solve that dispute by withholding the rent (i.e.:  I won’t pay the rent until you fix the kitchen sink).  The rent is a separate issue and if the landlord decides to evict for non-payment, the landlord will likely win, even if the sink is not fixed.  

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T&E Care is an IRS recognized non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.   The official registration and financial information of Tredyffrin & Easttown Care may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1 (800) 732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

 

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