5 Questions Every New Renter Should Ask

So you are not ready yet to buy a home and have decided to rent a place, here are 5 questions every new renter should ask.

(Editor’s note: For answers to these typical new renter questions, we turned to local expert and career Realtor, Harry Yazbek, Broker and Branch Vice President for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Vienna.)

Number 1 – Do I Have to Have a Realtor®?

The short answer is no, but why wouldn’t you want one? A Realtor® can become your best friend and help negotiate terms and conditions you may not even think about. The way it usually works is you sign an Agency agreement with a Realtor® and you become their client. By law and Article one of the Realtor® Code of Ethics, they must represent your best interest and protect your rights. They will negotiate with the landlord or property manager and assist with lease review and other paperwork required.

Key point: Although a Renter’s Agent is generally compensated by the landlord and not the renter, they owe the renter all the loyalty.

Number 2 – What if My Credit History Isn’t Perfect?

Your credit history is, increasingly, a key factor in all areas of your life as a consumer and as a candidate for housing. Some may protest this trend but we must accept reality in that our credit “worthiness” is a major consideration to future employers, credit cards, auto loans, licensing bureaus such as real estate and mortgage loan officers–and, of course, landlords.
There is no set credit score for renters, most landlords select their tenants based on many variables, and credit is just one of them. For example, let’s say someone had great credit then lost his/her job in a layoff. After the job loss, many payments were missed and credit suffered a great deal but a new job was secured a few months later and credit payments have been perfect ever since. To some land lords, this scenario is not as risky as someone who has consistently had bad credit over the years. The two applicants may potentially have the same score but the one who was laid off will likely present a smaller risk to the landlord

Key point: If two candidates are equal in all but their credit ratings, most landlords will take the applicant with the better credit.

Number 3 – How Much is The Rent?

Rent is usually established by current market conditions, comparable rents in the neighborhood, property condition, amenities and term of lease. Generally speaking, the longer the lease term you offer, the more likely you may be able to bargain for a reduced monthly rent. Of course this ties up the property on both ends and if market conditions change, one party will usually get the short end of the stick.

Although rent amount is technically negotiable, one needs to keep in mind what type of market we have at the moment. When homeowners were losing their properties due to foreclosure during the financial meltdown, the rental market was very hot, in favor of landlords. Basic supply and demand kicked in, the majority of those former homeowners entered the rental market and demand exceeded supply, hence rents went up drastically.

Key point: Know the market and negotiate terms accordingly.

Number 4 – Who Pays for Normal Wear and Tear and Damage?

Answer is very simple, read your lease and negotiate it. Generally speaking, normal wear and tear is not the tenant’s responsibility but the cost to repair tenant damage is and will be deducted from the security deposit. When you first move into the property, conduct a “walk-thru” inspection where you can detail and take photos of any existing damage to the place, same as you would with a rental car.

Key point: Careful inspections–with photos–mean you will not have any existing damage to a property counted against your deposit.

Number 5 – What happens if I break the lease?

A lot of bad things can happen if you break the lease, depending on how nice you were to your landlord and how pragmatic he or she happens to be. First thing the landlord can do is keep the deposit and sue for the remaining balance of the lease. Or, the landlord can find another renter to take over and sue for the amount of time the property was vacant during the transition. This will most likely have a negative impact on the renter’s credit history. I would recommend you seek counsel before attempting to break a lease. In many cases landlords are very understanding, and a transition can be done amicably (but with the cost of process being paid for by the tenant). This will probably include rental payments while the home is vacant, utility costs and yard maintenance during that period of time, as well as any Realtor® leasing fees incurred by the homeowner.

Key point: Communicate with your landlord if you must break your lease–and be prepared to bear the costs of vacancy.

To learn more answers to common new tenant questions visit our Tenant FAQ page.

 

Tenants: 18 Ways to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Tenants, are you looking for 18 ways to get your security deposit back? When everything is ready and a tenant can get 100 percent of that deposit back, it’s a big win for everyone. We want to see every tenant get their full security deposit back–and it’s important to note that WJD has no financial incentive to withhold any part of tenants’ deposit money.

For us, it’s a matter of making sure the homeowner is protected against surprise out-of-pocket maintenance expenses, repairs, or cleaning costs, and it helps guard against delays in getting the property back on the rental market.

To help make sure things go smoothly, and to help you get your deposit back, here’s our ultimate advice guide for getting every cent of your deposit back.

Please note that these are only suggestions. The process of returning a deposit is individual to each tenant, and following all of the below steps will not necessarily result in a full refund.

Immediately After You Move In

1. Review Your Property Condition Report (PCR), sign it, and return it to the WJD office within 10 days of move-in. The report states that your home is in the same condition we want it to be in at the end of your lease and will be used as a point of reference when you move out. Be sure to make detailed remarks on the form should you note any problems with the home, such as malfunctioning appliances, carpet stains, paint blemishes, etc., so that you are not charged for these issues when your security deposit is refunded.

Pro Tip: Always keep a copy of your Property Condition Report on file.

Throughout Your Tenancy:

Do yourself a favor by making sure your required maintenance is up to date. That way, when you move out, you won’t be facing a massive list of “to-do’s” that have resulted from a year of neglect. See below for suggested maintenance tips. You can also check out our  maintenance guide here, which can be found in your Tenant Handbook as well.

2. Ensure all maintenance is requested online. If something breaks, you must immediately submit a Maintenance Request from our website as we cannot take this information over the phone. Be as detailed as possible about the problem so that we can determine who to send to fix it. Do not try to fix it yourself!

3. Keep up to date on your fireplace cleaning and inspection. This must be done even if you never use the fireplace. Also remember that you are responsible for cleaning the ashes that result from burning wood, as the fire inspection company does not usually do this.

Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

4. Make sure to keep your gutters clean throughout the year. The cost of a gutter cleaning usually ranges between $50 and $200 depending on the size of your home and the amount of guttering it has. Be sure to use one of our recommended gutter cleaners for best results!

Pro Tip: At the beginning of your lease, immediately add a calendar reminder to get your gutters cleaned periodically. Try to schedule a final gutter clean about a two weeks before you move out, just to make sure they’re clear and you’ve left yourself plenty of time.

5. Replace light bulbs. We recommend getting LED lights at the beginning of your lease. LEDs have plummeted in price recently (three of them cost about $10), so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth by reducing electric bills. Also they should still be going strong at lease’s end!

6. Regularly replace furnace filters. If you change filters monthly as recommended you’ll reduce your heating bills, make the home more comfortable during the cold weather, and avoid add-on charges for replacement at move-out.

Pro tip: Write down sizes, or take pictures of your filters so you can easily reference them (sizes are included in the PCR). Also, you might want to consider buying in bulk through Amazon.

7. Keep your HVAC system clean and well-maintained. Check to see that all supply and return air vents are clean and unobstructed and make sure the condensation drain is not clogged or obstructed. If the property has a radiant heat system, make sure there are no leaking valves or radiators.

8. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Battery-operated models will begin making an intermittent chirping sound when the battery runs low, and you can easily replace the battery. Hard-wired models will do the same but have no bettery–so when one of these units goes bad you must submit a maintenance request to have it replaced. In either case, test the units periodically to make sure they are in working order.

When You Move Out:

By following the steps below, you’ll make our job easier, which makes everything go much more smoothly.

9. Schedule carpet cleaning. If you have a pet, be sure to order a tick and flea treatment. Our lease requires this at move-out, even if you have no carpets in your home. Be sure to use an approved vendor to clean your carpets. Should you use an outside vendor and their work is determined to be sub-standard, we will have to have your carpets cleaned again by one of our approved vendors, at your expense. Avoid paying for this service twice!

10. Clean! And clean thoroughly. thoroughly.​Remember that when you move out, the property should be left in the same condition as it was when you moved in. This is why it is imperative that you return your PCR right after you move in noting any discrepancies, otherwise you might be charged for pre­existing problems! Common cleaning items that are missed include:

  • Under the refrigerator
  • On top of the refrigerator
  • Inside the oven, oven drawer and underneath the oven
  • Under stove burners
  • Sides of toilets
  • Range hood and exhaust fan filters (Note that you can put them in the dishwasher to make things much easier!)
  • Crumbs in cabinets/drawers
  • Washer and dryer lint.

Pro Tip: Remember to clean the gutters one last time and have the fireplaces cleaned and inspected. Make sure to provide a copy of your receipt for each service.

11. If you hire a cleaning service, make sure you ask for “detail cleaning.” To make sure your money is well spent (and to get all of your security deposit back), be sure to use a recommended WJD vendor. Also, remember to ask for detail cleaning and not surface cleaning.

12. Double-check to make sure you’ve replaced all light-bulbs and furnace filters one last time. Even if you forget to replace just one light bulb that was working when you moved in, we will have to send a contractor to replace it. So, even though the actual light bulb may just cost a couple of dollars, your cost is going to be a minimum $75 trip charge plus the cost of the bulb. The same holds true for furnace filters.

13. Take out the trash. It’s such a simple step, and it would be silly to forget and cause a minimum service fee

14. Perform all necessary lawn care. This is going to differ for each tenant, so check your lease for specifics of what to include (i.e. mowing, pruning, weeding, raking, etc.) Again, if you want to hire someone to take care of this for you, please use one of our recommended vendors for best results.

Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

15. Make the final inspection an easy process by preparing beforehand. Once inspection begins, tenants are not allowed to clean, add finishing touches, etc. Leave all keys, fobs, placards, remotes, and receipts on your kitchen counter; and have the property ready for inspection when the inspectors arrive. It will make everything go much more smoothly.

16. Stagger the work being done, beginning two weeks out from your move-out date. This will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, and will allow you to do one last cleaning spree before inspection. By getting everything done beforehand, we can come and do our job and help you check out quickly and smoothly.

17. Schedule services before the day of check-out. If you’re hiring professional cleaners, don’t have them come the same day as your check-out inspection. Remember that carpets should be dried from carpet cleaning prior to inspection. Essentially, you want to ensure the home is in the exact same condition it was when you moved in. This is most easily accomplished by getting the big stuff out of the way in advance.

Pro Tip: To keep track of everything, we suggest you print off our Move-Out Checklist and post it on your refrigerator or counter. This checklist can also be found in your Tenant Handbook.

18. Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. Communicate ahead of time if there are any issues you have questions about. For example, if you aren’t sure how to clean a fixture or appliance that you’re responsible for or if you are having difficulty accessing light fixtures in high-ceilinged homes, let us know! We can probably recommend just the right tool or cleaning tips.

Concluding:

Moving out is a time-consuming process, but there’s no need for it to be expensive as well. By following the above guidelines, you will dramatically reduce the possibility of having to lose some of your security deposit. And by making it easier for us to do our job, you’ll probably speed up the refund process. Thank you, and we hope you find these tips helpful.