I’ve had a blast here in college, but it’s all coming to an end now: It’s my senior year! And now that graduation is on the horizon, I’m starting to think about my plans for when I get out of this place. I’m working on lining up a job, and I’m drawing up a budget and thinking about how to save money.
Of course, I won’t have much money right away. Because of that, I won’t be able to buy a house (especially in a big city, which is probably where I’ll work). So I’ll have to rent.
I’m a little nervous about this because I’ve never rented before. I lived on campus all four years here, and I grew up in a house my parents owned. I’m particularly nervous about my future landlord, because some of my friends here have had real issues with bad landlords in off-campus housing. Experts, can you ease my mind? Do you have any tips for avoiding rotten landlords?
First of all, congratulations on reaching your senior year! Don’t take your foot off of the gas just yet — you’re almost to the finish line. When you graduate and move on to your first job, you’ll be kicking off an exciting period in your adult life. You’ll be doing a lot of things for the first time, and for you that apparently includes renting a home!
Renting a home isn’t at all unusual, of course. In fact, America now has more renters (as a percentage of all households) than at any time since 1965. For the most part, the landlord-tenant relationship is straightforward. But you’ll find bad eggs on both sides.
Lousy landlords out there seek to maximize profits by skimping on their responsibilities. So-called “slumlords” are especially common in areas where renters have relatively little power — such as low-income neighborhoods and, yes, college areas where young (and broke) adults may not have the will or means to fight back (or, for that matter, the same expectations about their living conditions).
On the flip side, bad tenants are also out there. While you will no doubt be a good one, landlords have to be very careful about the people they let move into their space. A bad tenant can cause serious damage to an apartment or home, both intentionally and through neglect. And bad tenants in multifamily buildings can drive away better tenants and even transform the long-term reputation (and value) or a property.
The good news is that good tenants and good landlords have the tools that they need to find one another. Like most tenants, you’ll probably start your search for your apartment online; great landlords are there, too, using modern landlord software to create attractive listings and set up a Free online rental application for the property.
Look for photos that show that the property is in good repair, and check listings for details that cause you suspicion. Whenever possible, you should visit the property in person to see it. And you should ask to meet the landlord or the building management company’s representative; while not always possible with huge properties, it can be a nice way to meet your future landlord.
Your future landlord will perform a background and credit check on you before approving your application and letting you sign the lease. Be sure to do your own due diligence, too. Before you apply to live at a properly, do a quick Google search for your landlord’s name and for the building’s address or name. There may also be watchlists and community-maintained resources that will help you avoid slumlords and bad buildings. And if you see any neighbors in your apartment building while you’re seeing the place, ask them about the landlord. Are repair and maintenance requests handled quickly? Is tenant privacy respected?
Finally, familiarize yourself with state and city laws regarding your relationship with your landlord. Some states have strong protections for renters, while others heavily favor landlords. You should be especially careful about who you rent from in a state where your landlord has power to be unfair to you, just as a landlord should be especially careful about who they rent to in states where eviction is particularly pricey and difficult.
If you do your homework and use your common sense, you won’t have much to worry about. Renting doesn’t always go smoothly, but it’s overwhelmingly likely that you’ll have a great experience. Good luck!