Renters play a more prominent role in the real estate market following the burst of the real estate bubble. According to the U.S. Census, three million households have become renters since this time. In the past four years alone, the number of renters has increased two percent to 33.6%.
Renters have more rights than they used to. Each state (except Arkansas and Colorado) has passed a law requiring landlords to provide "a fit and habitable place to live," allowing renters to withhold rent or deduct repairs from their rent. Unfortunately, few people are aware of these rights. Many are recent or first-time renters. Regardless, it's important to rent from landlords with acceptable policies. The best way to determine this is to preform research and ask questions.
First, research the condition of the home according to your own personal walk-through(s). Take your time when you walk through a rental home. Note every imperfection and test everything you can: lights, stoves, toilets, hot water, water pressure, air conditioners and heating units, etc. Still, many things are not readily apparent when walking through a home. When in doubt, ask:
Recent home maintenance. How recently was the property renovated? Has mold been an issue? How recently have the windows been insulated?
Pest control. Is it included in the rent? How often is your unit serviced? Who is responsible for infestation (i.e, who has to foot the bill)?
Service providers. Does your landlord employ vendors to repair major appliances, or does he have a go-to handyman? Ask about your landlord’s service plan, including the process you must take to submit complaints and the average response time.
Incidentals. Be sure you are fully aware of parking arrangements (where can your quests park?), pet policies, laundry facilities (including method of payment, if applicable) and natural disaster preparation and damage control. We may not have to worry about hurricanes in Central Ohio, but tornados pose a very real concern. Is there a safe storm shelter? Finally, know what is included in your rent. Some landlords include bills in their rent, such as water, waste removal, electricity, cable & Internet, and gas bills.