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Besides rent, consider total cost of occupancy and access to amenities

Choosing your rental home can be like dating
...you want to have fun and fall in love with the place where you will make your home.  Friends and family urge caution, but sometimes it's hard to listen...
You don't notice there's no phone jack or that the lease includes rules that you can't accept because you love the view from the bedroom window.  You can just imagine waking up to the chirping birds.

WAKE UP NOW before you sign a lease that puts you in the place for a year.

For starters  Don't panic
  • Know your rental rights
  • Prepare your rental image
  • Articulate Your Needs:
  • Budget:
  • Know Your Roommates:
  • Know Your Landlord:
  • Read the Lease:
  • Be Prepared for Deposits:
  • Communicate:
Renting from an apartment management group vs. an individual owner
Nice article about the pros and cons of renting from a company vs. an individual.  Read the article here 

Hot Tips for Homeseekers
  • Get everything in writing. No promise is enforceable unless it is in writing. If they tell you they will have something fixed before you move in...get it in writing. Better yet, don't sign a lease til the unit is ready for occupancy.
  • If you don't understand, don't sign.  Ask them to give you a copy to look over. If they won't give you a copy of the agreement to review, they are hiding something.
  • Look at the actual rental unit (not just a model suite) before you sign an agreement. Don't sign a lease based on a model unit or some excuse.
  • Don't give money without a getting a receipt.  Make sure the receipt says what the money will be used for and whether the money is refundable. Don't assume.
  • You do NOT have a grace period to change your mind. Once you sign you have made an enforceable agreement.
There are no consumer protections for homeseekers in Ohio!
In 1999, the Ohio Supreme Court decided that landlords were not covered by the Consumer Sales Practices Act.  Therefore you as a homeseeker must get everything in writing.  RENTER BEWARE! 

How to find a place?
Everyone practically knows how to use the newspaper or printed apartment guides, but today there are on line resources like non profit listing services and mobile apps.  BEWARE of scams. 

What are the potential barriers to renting?
  • Can you afford this apartment?
  • Credit and Rental History
  • Criminal background Using Expungement
  • Discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, children or disabillity
  • Need a disability modification or accommodation? Using Reasonable Modification to create more accessible housing in your community.


 Hot Tips from RHINO members 
1. Owners and managers are most concerned with the ability to pay the rent and utilities and usually do applicant screenings based on financial information and existing court records under the names on the application plus Social Security numbers from the application. Have total amount of monthly income understood; rent should be less than half of that. These days, housing costs can be close to half total income. You will have to be aware of the range of what you can afford so any search is not a waste of time. If you also have to pay utilities separately plus your rent, call your local utility companies for the average monthly or quarterly amount for the rental you are interested in and by address. That may affect your rental budget immediately.  Have your FICO report in hand and make sure the information is accurate. Free reports for the consumer are found here. Check for accuracy. If there are court records under your name and/or DOB and or former address which are not accurate, contact the courts for more information.  (MaryC)
2. Contact local real estate brokerages and ask if their agents help find rentals. If there is a property manager at any brokerage, that agent may know of or find a rental in the area. Agents get paid by commissions and those come from a successful rental/signed lease contract.  (MaryC) 
3. Avoid using Craigslist for any rental search. Among many agents, Craigslist has a bad reputation for rental frauds. This has gone on for years with real estate and Craigslist. (MaryC)
4.  Be aware of what is listed under your name(s) on public court records online. If you have had an eviction, it will show up. Check under your name(s) and see what is listed, if anything.  Most courts in Ohio have an online presence. These sites should not charge. For ex, in Cincinnati, you would check under court clerk.org for cases under Comprehensive Name Search and then do various spellings etc to find linked information.
(MaryC)
5. Use Google (or your favorite search engine) to find  “pet friendly” rentals and your ZIP code and see what is listed. You can also check sites like Zillow. Call the contact number for the rental and confirm any information listed on any online real estate site. Some are not that accurate.  (MaryC)
6.  A general figure that most landlords use is 30% of your monthly income is the most that you should be paying for rent (total monthly income x .30= rent). If you are in the situation of having inconsistent income it may be beneficial to go by a yearly equation (total yearly income x .30= total rent for the year) possibly giving your potential landlord reason to believe that you can afford more during the good times if need be. In either case; it comes down to money. As I stated previously, to the landlord this is a business and nothing personal. If you want to improve your chances of getting the home you are applying for try the following.  (RonaldP)
7.  Treat the process of applying for a home just like you would if you were applying for a job. When you submit an application, also try adding some additional rental history. Letters of reference, proof of payments, contact information for more than just your current landlord (Landlords rarely trust the word of a landlord you are currently living with). Look at the process of gathering this info like you are creating a "Rental Resume".  (RonaldP)
8.  I
f you are applying in person; try to look nice. Landlords will consider your personal appearance as a reflection of how well you will maintain the home (not saying this is right,but it does happen).
9.  Understand that with the economy these days the rental market can be very competitive. In many cases you are not just trying to convince a landlord to rent to you; but rather why he should rent to you over the other applicants.  (RonaldP).



Notes & Links

Thanks to EVB and other RHINO members for their contributions to this webpage

How to Get an Apartment With Bad Credit in 9 Steps


More on Credit Scores

More on Databrokers


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