BEFORE YOU DECIDE, BE SURE TO VIEW THE RENTAL IN THE EVENING
A daytime viewing of the potential apartment or home will show off the natural light and landscaping, but what happens when the sun goes down? By driving by or viewing the same rental in the evening, you can tell so much more. For instance, once everyone returns from work, you will able to clearly see the availability of parking in the area. A good question to ask your prospective landlord is if there is any assigned parking and how many spaces are available per unit if it is a multi-residential property. With a majority of residents at home in the evening, you will also be able to see exactly who your neighbors will be. The demographics of your home may be just as important to you as the space layout or the square footage.
THE WALLS THAT BIND US
Walk through the unit when others are at home. This is a great idea, especially if the rental is downstairs. If you’re sensitive to noise, you may want to rent a place where you don’t hear the TV or from the next door or the footsteps from above. Historic buildings often do not have any insulation before the floor levels as it wasn’t a readily available item 70 years ago. Some cement buildings often have open pipes painted with an open floor plan. It looks chic and contemporary, but you just may hear some of the water from the unit above. Lastly, not all builders are created equal. Some developers take the cheaper route and opt for lesser grade materials. The last thing you want to do is pay good money, haul your stuff across town, unload it, decorate, sit on your couch to relax and then…oh no, you realize that you’ve made a huge mistake.
“KNOW” BEFORE YOU SAY YES
Another good idea is to call the local utility company and get the average utility cost for the prospective rental. You can request an average of the electric and an average of the water/sewer bill. If the previous tenant was a typical user of utilities then you can usually assume that your monthly cost will be about the same. This will help you budget your fixed costs. Some rentals will include the water/sewer in the cost of the monthly rental price (even better!) and some will separately bill the water/sewer. Be aware that some landlords will split the cost of the water/sewer each month and the charge may vary according to the actual bill received. The problem with this scenario occurs when there is an imbalance of consumption (i.e: 1 apt may have a couple living there while you are a single individual using less water but still paying for an equal portion). Be sure to question this charge prior to signing the lease and get everything in writing.
What’s Bugging You?
Chapter 83.51 of the Florida Landlord Statutes states: (2)(a) “1. Unless an agreement is reached or modified in writing with a tenant for any part of this this chapter, a landlord must provide pest control or extermination services.”
Do not assume that the landlord is responsible for sugar ants, roaches or the like if and when a problem arises. Landlords often retain (but it is not mandatory) a quarterly exterior spray contract and a yearly termite inspection but the interior is almost always the responsibility of the tenant. Of course, the implied expectation is that you should be given the rental in a bug free state. However, the reality is that tenants should always ask if the landlord provides pest control, or if it is the tenant’s responsibility. Dealing with pests is never specifically the landlord’s or the renter’s responsibility. It’s all dependent on the property, the property owner and the tenant. Since landlords are not required to handle the problem, it’s probably in a tenant’s best interest to work pest control into their lease on a regular basis. If you notice there is a problem right when you move in, a suggestion would be to bring it to the landlord’s (or management’s) attention right away. Many times, they may not even be aware.
CAN YOU HEAR ME?
Lastly, I can not stress enough, that you should check the cell service of your phone while viewing the potential rental. There just may be a weak signal in the apt or home that you are viewing or the materials that the building is made of may be too strong for any signal to break through. Ever have that happen to you when you’re in a courthouse or school building? You may love the rental now, but come move in day, and you can not hear anyone on the receiver that calls you, you will quickly start to regret your decision.
Two other noteworthy nuggets would be to request a copy of the condo rules for review before signing a lease, and to see how long the morning commute to work will be. These two items sound pretty basic but if the commute to work takes an extra 30 minutes because of traffic and if the condo rules state that all cars, at all times, must be parked in the garage then you may wish to look at a few other options before choosing this rental.