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by Melanie Pinola in Lifehacker.com
When you’re a renter, you have more flexibility in moving and deciding where to live. There are other pros—and cons—of renting, though, so here are our top 10 tips to make life as a renter easier.
10. Don’t Let Poor Credit Limit Your Ability to Rent
Poor or no credit can make renting an apartment more difficult, but it’s not impossible if you come armed with things like a letter of recommendation from former landlords or agreeing to a larger security deposit. Then you can work on improving your credit (even without credit cards). Regular rent payments can help improve your credit history too.
9. Choose Between a Managed Property or Renting from a Landlord
Managed communities and individual landlords both have their pros and cons. With a management company, it’s easy to contact someone if there’s a problem and there’s a maintenance staff to help you out. With an individual landlord, however, you have more neighborhood options and more room to negotiate rent. Either way, pay close attention to who you’re renting from so you don’t end up in a difficult relationship.
8. Start Your Apartment Search with the Right Tools
These days we have tons of tools to help you find the perfect next place to live. The five most popular ones among Lifehacker readers? PadMapper/Craigslist, Hotpads, Lovely, Tulia, and WalkScore. When you’ve found a potential place, ask the right questions to make sure it’s a good fit (talk to neighbors, ask the landlord about maintenance requests, and so on). Bring along some essential documents if you find a place you want to grab right away.
7. Upgrade Your Rental Without Pissing Off the Landlord
When you rent, you’re usually prohibited from making major changes to the place, but you can still customize just about every room without upsetting your landlord. Add more storage organization in the kitchen, for example, or replace ceiling light covers and light switch covers. Bathroom fixtures, such as towel bars and mirrors, can also be easily replaced (and taken with you when you move), quickly changing the look of your bathroom.
6. Know Your Rights as a Tenant
As one landlord advised us, your state likely has a tenants’ rights handbook available online. This will tell you what your rights are and services that might be available to you if your renting situation gets bad. This is especially important if you’re a first-time renter and don’t know the ins and outs of renting yet and how to hold your landlord accountableif something goes wrong.
5. Pretend That You’re Buying a Home When Hunting for an Apartment
If you plan on renting for even a few years, the condition of the building will matter to you, so you might want to think as if you’re buying the place to make sure you really want to live there. For example, you could ask questions like if there’s lead paint on the walls and how old the appliances are. Thinking like a homeowner can also help you save more money: If your mortgage payment would be greater than your rent, take the difference and invest it.
4. Know How to Deal with Noisy Neighbors and Difficult Roommates
Unfortunately, you can’t choose your neighbors. If yours make too much noise, send them a subtle message or contact management if need be. If you’re sharing a pad with roommates, you’ll want to make sure early on that you’re compatible and set some ground rules to make living together easier. (If worse comes to worst, you can evict them, so to speak.) Let’s assume that your roommates (or future roommates) aren’t terrible, though, and you do want to live with them. Split the rent and divvy up the rooms fairly with this calculator.
3. Save Space (Even in a Tiny Apartment)
Many apartments, especially in big cities, don’t offer a ton of living or storage space. Simple storage hacks, like raising your bed to get more storage space or using over-the-door shoe hangers to store just about everything, can go a long way in even a small place. Also, command hookscan do wonders in a home.
2. Save Money on Rent by Moving at the Right Time
Spring and summer offer more rental space options, but there’s also more competition for renters. Winter, while offering less choice, is a slower season for apartment hunting, so landlords might be more open to negotiating the monthly rent. There might not be one absolute “best” time to shop for an apartment, but if you know the neighborhood and how scarce apartments for rent are, you can plan when to look for a new place accordingly.
1. Avoid a Rent Increase and Negotiate Your Rent
One last thing you can’t control as a renter: The rent. Or can you? Rent prices are all over the map and rising across the country, but landlords still want to retain good renters like yourself. Exchange something you don’t care a lot about for a decrease in rent or to prevent a rent increase, things like: a longer lease or prepaying the rent months in advance. You might also convince a landlord not to raise your rent by reminding him or her how good of a tenant you are, both in terms of paying on time and being low maintenance.