There are plenty of things to keep in mind when you are renting a home or apartment, but here are 15 of the top tips to make sure you stay safe, informed, and legal.

1. Understand the Landlord-Tenant laws in your area. It’s important to research the Landlord-Tenant laws in your jurisdiction to ensure that you, as the tenant, understand your rights and responsibilities. If you don’t understand the lease then have an attorney go over it with you. This could save costly mistakes later on.

2. Inspect the property. You should inspect the water system, air conditioning unit, locks for doors and windows, plumbing (make sure the toilets flush), etc. Make sure to ask the Realtor or landlord about house maintenance and when the house was last maintained. You don’t want to rent a home with plumbing issues or heating problems during the winter. Better yet, if you don’t mind spending a few hundred dollars you can hire a professional home inspector to go over the home (with the owner’s permission, of course).

3. Read your lease carefully. Your lease is a legal contract between you and the landlord for use of the landlord’s property. A lease may contain extra clauses that aren’t legally required by Landlord-Tenant laws, but the clauses are legally binding when the lease is signed by both parties. If you are concerned that your lease might be unfair to you (e.g., the landlord requiring you to have property inspections every week), you can seek legal counsel and retain an attorney specializing in Landlord-Tenant relations.

4. Inspect the property again. Once the lease is finalized and agreed upon by both the landlord and tenant, you can request to see the property again. When you’re at the property, take photos and document any form of damage you see. If you see small holes in the walls caused by a wall-mounted television screen, take a photo and inform the landlord in writing. Your landlord may or may not fix the damage before you move in. However it’s important to inform the landlord prior to moving into home, otherwise the landlord may accuse you of the damage and take money from your deposit to repair it.

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5. Pay your rent on time. Once you move into your new home, you need to pay your rent on time. Rent can be paid with cash, checks, or electronic transfers. Paying in cash is not recommended because there’s no paper trail to track your money. If you decide to pay in cash, make sure you ask for a receipt that documents the date and what the cash is for.

6. Make sure your landlord has been paid. When mailing a check to your landlord, make sure your landlord deposits the check. If your landlord hasn’t deposited or cashed your check, inform your landlord that you’ve mailed the rent check. It’s better to inform your landlord in writing, such as email or text message. You don’t want your landlord to accuse you of failing to pay rent on time.

7. Establish a good relationship with you and your landlord. This doesn’t mean that you need to be best friends with your landlord. However, you don’t want your landlord to outright hate you. A disgruntled landlord can be difficult to deal with during the duration of your lease. Be kind and respectful to your landlord. If you want to go the extra mile, you can send greetings cards during the holidays. A happy landlord may respond quicker to any emergency repairs. If you only communicate with your landlord’s property manager, then establish a good relationship with that property manager.

8. Document all communication between you and the landlord. Emails and text messages are good ways to document any correspondence. Even if you have a good relationship with your landlord, you should always take the necessary steps to protect yourself in case things get ugly. (And things can get ugly quickly.) Verbal promises are hard to prove in court.

10. Contact your landlord if the property needs repairs. As a tenant, it is your responsibility to inform your landlord if something needs fixing in the home. If you fail to contact the landlord and the damage gets worse over time, you could be liable for some of the damage because you failed to notify the landlord.

11. Don’t sneak pets onto the property without approval from your landlord. If you plan to adopt a dog or cat, you need to ask permission from your landlord. Many landlords do not allow animals to live on their property. Animals can cause a lot of damage to a home. To be on the safe side, ask permission from your landlord if you plan to get a goldfish.

2. Allow your landlord to perform inspections, but don’t allow your landlord to harass you. Landlords are allowed to inspect their properties as long as the tenants are properly notified. However, these inspections must occur at reasonable times and frequencies. It could be considered harassment if a landlord visits your home every few days for “inspections.”

13. If you’re having problems with your landlord, retain an attorney to handle your landlord. Many disgruntled landlords will attempt to “bully” ignorant tenants by claiming that the landlord has ultimate power. However, tenants do have rights that landlords cannot violate. Even though lawyers are expensive, an attorney can protect your rights and ensure that your landlord does not take advantage of you. If money is an issue, there are tenant protection organizations that could help you.

14. Photograph the property before you leave. Take pictures of the rooms, appliances, backyard, and etc. It’s important to visually document the condition of the property before you move out. While most landlords aren’t spiteful enough to do this, some landlords will deliberately damage their homes and accuse the previous tenants of causing the damage.

15. Try to leave on a good note. If you continue to rent in the future, your potential landlord may want to contact your previous landlord. You don’t want to lose a good rental property because your old landlord said something bad about you.

Courtesy: 15 Tips for Renting a House – ToughNickel

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