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Planning to rent a home in Coastal Virginia? Eight tips for tenants

Everyone talks about the benefits of buying a home, but have you considered the benefits of renting a home? Depending on your financial situation, job mobility and lifestyle, renting might be right for you.

Some advantages of renting:

  • It’s a great temporary option.
  • You have more flexibility if you want to change careers or cities.
  • You’re able to try out a neighborhood before you commit to it.
  • If you encounter a financial hardship, it’s easier to move and find cheaper rent than it is to reduce your mortgage.
  • Utilities might be included in your rent.
  • You won’t have to pay property taxes.
  • You won’t have to pay for structural home repairs or maintenance work.
  • You don’t have to deal with the possibility of the value of your home going down.
  • You’ll have fewer home responsibilities to take care of (e.g., lawn maintenance).
  • When it’s time to move out, you won’t have to worry about finding a tenant or buyer.

If you’ve decided that renting is a good option for you, consider these tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

Planning to rent a home? Eight tips for tenants.

1. Research the neighborhood.

Although your rental home is temporary, you should still put thought into finding the right neighborhood. Safety, school systems and commute times are just a few factors to consider. Renting is also a good time to try out a neighborhood that you may be considering buying in.

2. Review every line of your lease.

Before you sign your lease, make sure you look at every clause. Getting your Realtor or real estate professional to look over it is a good idea, too. Hold on to your copy of the lease and keep it handy for future reference. Common lease sections that are worth examining:

  • The pet policy — Are pets allowed? Is there a fee?
  • What are the acceptable forms of rent payment? What is the late fee?
  • Is the landlord or tenant responsible for paying utilities?
  • How much is the security deposit and how can you get it back in full?

3. Know your tenant rights.

Rights vary by state, but every tenant has certain legal protection. In Virginia, for example, you have the right to privacy, to be informed of any change in ownership, to be notified of any rent increase, to have a safe place to live and much more.* It’s worth looking into specific privacy rights that affect your day-to-day living, like how much notice your landlord needs to give before entering the home.

4. Understand which repairs are your landlord’s responsibility.

As a tenant, you’re also entitled to safety. At the root of it, your landlord is required to offer you a safe, sanitary home that follows housing codes. Beyond basic requirements, like clean water and working heat, any structural issues or weatherproofing is considered a safety issue. If the home you’re interested in renting is not in good condition, you have the right to speak up. If something structurally breaks while you’re living there, such as the HVAC system, a landlord is responsible for making and funding these repairs — but repairs to appliances are a little trickier. Items like a dishwasher are typically covered, but specifics will be mentioned in the lease.

When in doubt, give your landlord a call and let them know when something’s broken. They might be willing to fix it for free, even if it’s not stated in the lease. Having an open line of communication with your landlord is always the best approach.

5. Be careful about personalizing your rental home.

Even though it might feel like your home, being a tenant does not mean you can remodel. If you’re thinking about a home project, it’s always a good idea to get your landlord’s approval before painting walls, sprucing up the lawn or doing small home repairs. If certain customization issues are a make or break for you, ask about them before you sign the lease.

6. Do a walk-through of your home before you move in.

Take note or take pictures of any existing damage so your landlord can’t deduct it from your security deposit. This includes the condition of the walls, carpet stains, appliances and more. Virginia is one of the states where landlords are required to provide a move-in statement that details the condition of the home. While you’re at it, make sure you’re familiar with the regulations of your security deposit and when you can expect it to be returned.

7. Buy renters insurance.

This is different from your landlord’s homeowners insurance, and it may even be required in your lease. In the case of theft or damage to your personal items, like if a fire occurs, you as a tenant are responsible for covering the costs of your personal property. It’s affordable, cheaper than homeowners insurance and very worth it.

8. Be the best tenant you can be.

Renting a home can be an excellent decision and an exciting next step in your life. Remember to pay your rent on time, let your landlord know as soon as possible if anything breaks, don’t make any drastic changes to the house and follow the guidelines of your lease. Not only will this make for a positive relationship between you and your landlord, but it also puts you on a guaranteed path to get your security deposit back.

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