By Angela Colley
Renters tend to focus their energy on their tenant rights, and rightly so. But while that’s important (you certainly don’t want to be mistreated as a tenant), renters should also think about cultivating a great relationship with their landlords and neighbors. Why? Because great tenants have an upper hand when it comes to the rental process.
Happy neighbors means less awkward confrontations in the laundry room, and a happy landlord means peaceful living without surprise visits. When it comes time to renew the lease, a great tenant knows the landlord won’t drop them suddenly and may even be able to re-negotiate the terms. Also, a favorable rental history could get you lower rent rates without moving and more perks on your lease renewal.
Here are some useful tips for ways you can be that great tenant.
1. Read Your Lease
Read your lease cover to cover before you sign it. It will help you catch potential problems before they actually happen. Most good landlords will work with you on the terms of the lease. If you know you have a special circumstance, such as a family member or friend who visits regularly, tell the landlord about it ahead of time. If the landlord makes any verbal agreement with you, like providing lawn care, make sure he puts it in writing in the lease. Then ask for a copy of the lease for yourself as soon as you sign. Having a well-rounded lease will help you avoid any tenant’s rights issues later on.
2. Don’t Break the Lease
Most renters think of breaking a lease in terms of the big things like not paying the rent, cutting out early or subletting without permission. However, smaller lease points count too. While a landlord can technically evict a tenant for breaking any term of a lease, most won’t. But the better you stick to your lease, the better chance you have of existing peacefully with your landlord.
3. Pay Your Rent on Time
Nothing makes a landlord happier than a renter who pays rent on time every month. Make sure you have the check in the mailbox a few days before it’s due to avoid any mail or bank holdups. You might even score a few brownie points if you pay a few days early. And since no one is immune from financial hardship, if you know you might have to pay late one month, let your landlord know as soon as possible. The landlord may not mind the late payment as much, if you’re upfront about it.
4. Treat Your Rental Like You Own It
Taking good care of your rental will ensure that you get your deposit back when you move out, and it will also put you in good favor with your landlord. While normal wear and tear is typical in rental units, do not cause any major damage to the rental. Damages will eat away at your security deposit and annoy your landlord. Many states require that you pay for any unnecessary repairs out of pocket.
On that same note, keep your rental property clean. This goes double if you have pets. Pet owners typically become de-sensitized to the odor their pets give off, but your landlord will notice it. If your landlord comes in and sees your unit in a good, clean, scent-free condition, he’ll trust you more. And more trust equals more negotiation power when the lease renewal rolls around.
5. Get to Know Your Neighbors
Meeting my potential neighbors is always part of my game plan for finding a new apartment to rent. Part of this is because I like to meet new people and another part is because I have a dog. I think the odds of having the neighbors call me to complain about the dog – and not the landlord – improve if I meet them in person.
Knowing your neighbors has several additional benefits. You can watch out for each other. If you have to go out of town some time, your neighbors might keep a better eye on your unit if they know you. You can also do small favors for each other (e.g. I routinely sign for my neighbor’s UPS packages because I know and trust her). Most importantly, establishing a line of communication between tenants reduces the chance of your neighbor escalating a problem to the landlord.
Despite your best efforts to keep quiet, you may upset your neighbors from time to time. Small problems like this can seem like a much bigger deal by the time they get escalated to the landlord. Avoid it altogether and give your neighbors your cell phone number to contact you instead.
What are your best tips for being a courteous and conscientious tenant? Are there any additional tips that you’d add in?