4 Things To Know Before Renting Your Next Apartment

If you rent your home, there are several things you need to do in order to get the best deal possible, and also to protect yourself in case anything goes wrong.

Even if they won't bend on the rental rate, some landlords will give a discount for signing a longer lease term, such as 18 months or two years.

And, the lease terms themselves can be somewhat flexible. I know it's a pain, but read through the lease thoroughly for anything that seems excessive or unreasonable. For example, I have a friend who rented a three-bedroom apartment in order to be able to have relatives visit on weekends just to find out the hard way there was a clause in his lease that permitted a maximum of three overnight guests.

Get it in writing

If your landlord agrees to modify any lease terms, or offers any special arrangement, make sure you have a written copy. Don't accept something like "don't worry, we don't enforce the overnight guest policy" as an answer.

Another thing that needs to be in writing is the names of any roommates or other occupants who will be living with you. Even if their credit and income wasn't used to qualify for the lease, they still need to be listed as occupants of the home in order to protect you. If your landlord won't allow them to be on the actual lease, you should still get a written statement from the other occupants saying they agree to share the responsibility with you.

flickr/ NobMouse

If you are the only person on the lease, expect to be held solely responsible for any damage caused by your roommates or for any other issues they cause.

Know your rights as a renter

If you know what your landlord is and isn't allowed to do, it can keep you from being taken advantage of. For example, during a fixed lease term, your landlord is not allowed to raise your rent for any reason. I've heard stories where a landlord says "my property taxes went up, so I'm going to need an extra $50 per month." This is not legal, and you need to be given notice before your lease expires (amount of time varies by state) if your rent will increase.

Every state and city is different, so it's a good idea to spend a few minutes reading up on tenants' rights in your area. The department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains an excellent list of tenant rights by state.

Insurance is a must

Renters insurance is relatively cheap and covers a lot more than your personal possessions in the home. It does cover the replacement value of your possessions in the event of theft, loss, or other destructive events, but it has other benefits too.

For one thing, renters insurance comes with liability coverage to protect you if anyone is injured in your home. If your kitchen floor is wet, and your friend slips and breaks a leg, you could be found liable. However, with renters' insurance, the liability coverage can pay for their medical bills and other damages.

And, if your home is destroyed or damaged by a fire or other disaster, renters insurance can pay for your temporary living expenses, like a hotel, while your home is being repaired.

Most rental insurance policies are very cheap for the coverage they provide (usually less than $20 per month), and it's a wonder that more people don't take advantage of the coverage offered. In fact, according to one survey , only 31% of renters have renters insurance.

The bottom line

The best way to approach most situations in life is to become as knowledgeable as you can before jumping in, and renting a home is no exception. With a little preparation, you can do a much better job of protecting yourself, and may even save some money in the process.

Take advantage of this little-known tax "loophole"

Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report " The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now! ," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

The article 4 Things To Know Before Renting Your Next Apartment originally appeared on

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

Copyright © 1995 - 2014 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Other Topics


Latest Markets Videos

    The Motley Fool

    Founded in 1993 in Alexandria, VA., by brothers David and Tom Gardner, The Motley Fool is a multimedia financial-services company dedicated to building the world's greatest investment community. Reaching millions of people each month through its website, books, newspaper column, radio show, television appearances, and subscription newsletter services, The Motley Fool champions shareholder values and advocates tirelessly for the individual investor. The company's name was taken from Shakespeare, whose wise fools both instructed and amused, and could speak the truth to the king -- without getting their heads lopped off.

    Learn More