What to Expect From a Landlord. A First Timer's guide

Whether you own or rent your home, it should be a safe place of comfort. If you are a renter and will be moving into a new home or apartment, you need not only to find a residence in your desired location and in your price range, but with a landlord that is responsible and accessible. To best determine if your landlord fits the bill, consider the following tips and advice.

Ask the Right Questions
When choosing a new landlord, there are many factors to consider. The below questions will help you determine if a prospect fits your needs as a renter and if they follow local state and county regulations:

Ownership: Ask if they are the property manager or the owner and how long they have owned or managed the property. If they are an independent owner, ask if they have a backup person to call in case of emergencies.

Repairs and Maintenance: Ask what the average and maximum response times are for maintenance and repairs, if there are any repairs you are responsible for as a tenant, what the move-in condition of your unit will be and what their procedures are for snow, ice and trash removal.

Safety and Security: Ask if the locks are changed between tenants, what the procedures are for lockouts and what security measures are in place for the building or unit.

General: Ask how frequently and at what rate the rent is increased, what the pet policy is and if you will be able to view the actual apartment you will be renting prior to signing your lease.

A good landlord will be able to answer all of these questions without hesitation. If any of the answers you receive are not included in writing, feel free to ask for the specifics in writing.

Learn Your City and State Tenant Rights
As a renter, you want to know your local tenant rights. Tenant rights vary by state and county. To obtain your tenant rights, you can contact your regional HUD Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity office either by phone or online. You’ll want to learn things like how long a landlord has to complete maintenance requests, how you need to communicate maintenance repairs, who is responsible for pest control, how long they have to return your security deposit, how much notice they must give to access your apartment and how much notice they must give you to vacate it they sell the building.

Do Some Research
With the easy access of online records and review boards, you can easily access your landlord's recent feedback. However, if you are renting from a private owner as opposed to a property management firm, it may be more difficult to find tenant reviews. Check with other tenants, local papers, the tax collector’s office to verify ownership, the zoning board for tenant complaints and city and state courts for any public records.

The majority of landlords are responsible to their tenants, but to safeguard yourself from a deadbeat landlord, be sure to ask the right questions and learn where to turn to if your tenant rights are violated.

 About the author:

This article was provided by Mike Gordon, recent college graduate and first time renter. If you’re in a Virginia resident, looking to buy a new home, sell an old one, rent one from a landlord, or buy and rent out a house and be someone else’s landlord, Mike recommends Avenue Realty, a Charlotte, VA Realtor.
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