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7 Things every renter needs to know

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Do these things before you sign the lease

Renting is a great option for those who move regularly or are simply not in the market for a mortgage. Before you settle into that perfect apartment, make sure you've ticked all of these important boxes.

1. Research the neighborhood

Check out the surrounding area and the rental complex itself. Find out what safety measures your landlord is required to provide, and make sure they're included in the lease.

2. Budget wisely

Can you afford your rental? As a general rule, renters spend no more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. Know how much cash you'll need up front to secure the unit. Security deposit? First and last months' rent? How will the rental impact other expenses, such as daily commuting and lifestyle amenities?

3. Read the fine print

Read your lease carefully before signing. The lease should include the terms of your security deposit, how much rent you're paying and when it's due (is there a grace period?). Know when your landlord or maintenance may enter your rental in a manner that does not violate your privacy. Make it a point to get all "promises" in writing; oral agreements are difficult to enforce.

4. Discuss the rules of repair

Which repairs will the landlord handle and which fall under your responsibility? Your landlord is required to provide a safe structure with adequate electricity, heat and water. Expect that he/she will also repair or replace items that are damaged as a result of normal wear and tear. But if you put a hole in the wall or bust a window, be prepared to pay for it.

5. Document changes to the rental

Take photos of the rental before you move in. Discuss with the landlord all existing damage so that you're not held responsible for it when you eventually move out. Keep track of any and all changes you make to the unit. And don't start any improvement projects (even painting) without first obtaining the landlord's written consent.

6. Get to know your landlord

Keep the lines of communication open so that you can let your landlord know about any concerns you have. It also helps should you find yourself in a position in which you need more time to pay your rent.

7. Invest in renters insurance

Some leases require that tenants pick up renters insurance. Policies are affordable and protect you in the event that your apartment is robbed or someone is injured in your apartment (things your landlord's insurance policy will not cover).

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