Determining Your Needs
As a prospective tenant, you have the right to ask the landlord questions. Before signing a lease, be sure that you are satisfied with the apartment, services provided by the landlord, and the security of the unit.
Before you begin your housing search it is important to determine your needs and what you can afford. You should consider the following:
- Where do you want to live? How far do you want to be from campus, the nearest bus stop, and other conveniences?
- What size unit are you looking for?
- How much can you afford for rent and utilities?
- How much can you afford for a security deposit?
- Do you need a place to park your vehicle?
- Do you want a unit that is furnished or unfurnished?
- What length of a lease do you need?
- How many roommates do you want to have?
- Are you able to take care of snow removal and/or lawn care?
- Do you want to have a pet?
- What type of housing do you want?
Apartment- Independent rental unit within a building, separated from other units, with private cooking and living facilities.
House- Single or two-family building where the WHOLE building is for rent.
Studio- A small apartment with kitchenette, bathroom, and a living room/bedroom area
Shared Rentals- Individual room listings in houses and apartments where others already live. You will move into a situation with others you probably do not know. In most of these rentals, you and the others in the house share the kitchen, living room, and other common areas.
Doing Your Research
- Check to ensure that your prospective new home is not in violation with building codes. The New York City Buildings Department has ten tips to help determine if it is legal to dwell in the building.
- Request a summary of the past two years' heating and cooling bills for the prospective property from the landlord. The landlord must provide this information upon written request.
- Examine the amount of parking available in your new neighborhood. Be sure you are aware of the on-street parking regulations that you are expected to abide by or associated parking costs.
- Talk with the current tenants about the location, apartment condition and their relationship/experience with the landlord.
- Visit the area both during the day and at night to get a feel for the safety of the area. Pay attention to noise, activity level and appearance of nearby buildings. Check crime reports in the area on the NYPD website.
Getting to Know Your Landlord
Seek out firsthand information about the landlord. If the present tenants still occupy the apartment when you consider leasing it, they are likely to be a good source of information. It is also a good idea to check with next-door neighbors and friends in the area. Once you move into the apartment, make an effort to check in with your landlord from time to time.
Lack of knowledge regarding leases or other rental agreements can cause a variety of problems. By keeping records of rental repair requests, security deposit disputes, and other important issues relatied to rental agreements, you can alleviate many of these types of problems. The most frustrating problems occur when the tenant cannot document their greivances. To prevent this, start a rental file as soon as you sign the lease, and add to it throughout your lease term. A rental file is easy to keep, considering the money you may recover through rental modification or qualifying for a full return on your security deposit. If a rental problem arises, it is easier to negotiate a solution with the landlord when you have written records that show the extent of the problem, what you asked the landlord to do about it, and how the landlord responded.
YOUR RENTAL FILE SHOULD CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:
A Rental Log
Use a simple notebook to write all dates and times you contacted or tried to contact your landlord; make a note of any discussion. Logs are a useful permanent record of how the landlord did or did nor respond to problems.
Apartment Condition Checklist
A copy of this form is available on this website. This is proof of the condition of the apartment when you move in and out. Keep a copy and send the original to the landlord by certified mail and return receipt.
Correspondence With Your Landlord
Make any complaints or concerns in writing and keep copies on file. All verbal requests should be followed up in writing with copies in your file. Sample letters to landlords can be found in the Library on this website.
Keep copies of the appropriate certificates, building inspection reports, police reports and any other reports from other agencies.
Photos may be the evidence you need to document a repair or security deposit problem. Photos should be dated and signed by a witness. Bring a camera to take pictures of items below.
- Outside-Lawn maintenance/Snow removal issues? Lighting/Parking?
- Doors-Deadbolts/Door Viewers?
- Windows-Condition of windows? Screens/Locks? Subject to easy entry?
- Kitchen-Stove/Oven/Microwave? Refrigerator? Dishwasher/Garbage Disposal? Turn everything on—do all the burners on the stove work? Does the oven work? Does the dishwasher work?
- Laundry-Washer/Dryer/if none, are there hookups? If no laundry on site, how close is the nearest laundromat?
- Bathroom-Sink (water pressure)? Bathtub/Shower (drain/water pressure)? Turn on the faucets and check for yourself.
- Bedrooms-Bed/Mattress? Noisy surroundings?
- General Living Areas-Furniture condition (if furnished)? TV (cable, etc.)/Telephone? Condition of walls/ceilings/floors? Issues with pests/termites?
- Heating/Cooling-Type of air conditioner? Age/Condition of furnace? Who do you call if one of these systems breaks or stops working? How quickly will someone be scheduled to fix the problem?
- Fire Safety-Do the smoke detectors have batteries? Are the fire extinguishers charged? Is the home safety system tied into local fire department?
- Security System-Stand alone system or connected to local authorities?
Adapted from the following websites: Syracuse University, Notre Dame, and Santa Clara University.