What makes a good tenant? Keeping your rental property in tip-top shape
Taking care of your rental might allow for rent negotiations and more favorable terms of the lease.
You may not think you should care for a rental as you would your own home, but there are many reasons to be a great tenant. In addition to keeping your landlord happy, taking care of your rental gives you the upper hand in rent negotiations and might even allow you to get better lease terms. Additional reasons include:
- It's nice to live in a clean, well kept place and your guests and landlord will appreciate it too.
- If you apply for a new rental, the new landlord often asks your previous one how you were as a tenant and this could end up the biggest deciding factor on whether they'll rent to you.
- Contracts generally allow for both you or the landlord to provide a notice to move out at some point. They are less likely to do this if you're taking care of the place and paying your rent on time.
- The biggest reason for many renters is that if you've taken good care of the place, you can get more of your security deposit back when you move out.
Tips about how to be a good tenant
- Follow and respect the terms of your lease. Before moving in, brush up on what's in the lease so you don't inadvertently violate its terms. Are pets allowed in your building? Can you hang pictures on the walls? If you want to do something that's not allowed, speak to your landlord. They may let you — especially if you have proven to be a good tenant.
- Prepare for move-in day. Make sure you know all the necessary details around moving into your new apartment. Most importantly, make sure everything you discuss with your landlord is outlined in your rental agreement.
- Keep it clean. Tenants who keep their living spaces neat are sending an important message to their landlords: 'I respect your property.' And you'll most likely get your security deposit back when you move out. If you have pets, make sure to vacuum at least once a week, pick up any accidents right away and keep your home odor free.
- Consider additional security. With the help of your landlord, you might be able to increase the security of your apartment with security cameras, reinforced hinges and door locks.
- Use a storage unit. If you don't have access to a storage area in your home or apartment, you can store your extra possessions in a storage unit.
- Redecorate to make it your own. Renting an apartment doesn't have to mean drab walls and dreary finishes. Apply some cost-effective apartment redecorating tricks to make your rental your home. If you plan to live there long term and are making valuable improvements, your landlord may be willing to contribute towards the upgrades since it will also improve the value for them.
- Block the winter drafts. While you might not be in a position to replace your windows, there are steps you can take to help keep your home or apartment free from drafts and your utility costs in check.
- Be aware of the rules when it comes to house parties. Whether you're hosting a crowd for the big game or a small family BBQ, let your neighbors and landlord know about your house party so that any concerns can be addressed up front.
- Know when to call in the experts. Don't bother your landlord with small things like broken lightbulbs or batteries. However, notify your landlord right away about anything that's broken or damaged to prevent small problems from becoming big ones. Most people shouldn't attempt to make major repairs themselves, as this could cause further damage and an awkward situation with complex legal consequences. If you're really good at the type of repair though, for instance, if it's plumbing and you're a plumber, it can endear you to your landlord if you can save them a trip and some money. If you go this route, be sure to notify them of the damage first, get permission to fix it yourself and work out any terms. Sometimes you can negotiate to have money taken off of your rent price that month in return for making the fix.
- Get insured. Even if your agreement makes it your landlord's responsibility to take care of the building and grounds, he or she isn't required to protect the contents in your living space. That's where renters insurance comes in. For a fairly affordable premium, renters insurance can help pay to replace items damaged or stolen inside your rental property.
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Other tips for renters
- Pay your rent on time. Landlords have expenses too, such as property taxes and building maintenance. Additional expenses can include garbage collection, lawn maintenance, utilities, mortgage payments and insurance to name a few. It can be stressful in those few days if you're late as they have to make decisions on paying those expenses without having income. They can be concerned that they won't get any rent at all and may have to go through a stressful eviction process. Paying on time or early can give them peace of mind and is an important element in maintaining good rapport with them.
- No smoking in your rental, unless agreed. If you or visitors to your rental smoke, unless you have a contractual agreement that you can smoke inside, don't allow it. Many landlords have ways of finding out, such as smelling it, looking for yellowed marks, checking filters, etc. Renting or selling a property that smells like smoke or has smoke damage is often not easy and remediating this can be costly, so it may cause them to want you out of the property and you could lose much or all of your deposit.
- Communicate changes to your landlord regarding pet or roommate changes.
- Pet changes:
- Adding a pet: Many contracts don't allow pets. If your contract doesn't allow pets, you may still be able to work this out with the landlord. For example, a tenant wanted to have a large older dog in a rental house that didn't allow pets. They invited the landlord to the house the dog had lived in for years to meet the dog and see and smell the home. They also agreed to pay an additional monthly pet fee. The landlord was willing to make an exception for the dog and after the tenants moved out, the landlord was satisfied that their pet had caused no damage to the property.
- Removing a pet: Pets often require additional fees, so if you no longer have your pet and were paying additional fees for them, notify your landlord so you can have that money reduced and any pet deposit returned (minus any damage your pet caused). An agreement for your past pet doesn't guarantee you can get a new one, so you'd need to work this out with your landlord.
- Roommate changes: Contracts often list out all tenants in a property. If you'd like changes to this, you'd need to have your landlord's approval.
- Adding a roommate: You will need to notify your landlord and if they approve of the new roommate, this may result in a new lease or an addendum to your existing lease. It's also possible that the landlord may not approve of the additional roommate.
- Removing a roommate: You will need to notify your landlord of this as well, especially if you're the one moving out. If a roommate is on the lease, they as well as you can potentially be liable for damages and rent due. It also could allow the former roommate continued access to the property. For these reasons and more, a new lease or an addendum should be written up. If one tenant had an excellent background and another was bad, the landlord may not agree to take the one with the good background off the lease.
- Pet changes:
- Be honest and respectful to neighbors. Being on good terms with your neighbors can help you (and them) feel a lot better about where you live. Additionally, there may be cases where they can help you out, such as keeping an eye on your place or letting you know about the area or other neighbors. They also are more likely to share good things about you to other neighbors, authorities or your landlord.
Put these tips into practice and you could find your living situation is more secure and produces greater enjoyment.