Renting a living space from an individual will be different experience than working with a company, but it can open doors for you to rent in a more personable, flexible, and friendly way! You may not have the convenience of 24/7 maintenance, a workout room, or the community gathering spaces of many apartment complexes, but you may be able to negotiate even better amenities!
It can be a very diverse and customizable experience to rent from a person – the main benefit is the flexibility! Every situation will differ, but you will have a greater diversity of neighborhoods and types of living spaces to consider. You might find a better quality pad for a cheaper price… or a situation more unique to your particular life. Working one-on-one allows you to develop a personal relationship with the landlord, and the option to negotiate the situation and policies. Do you need to bend the pet rules for your very well-behaved cat? It might fly! What if you need a few extra days to pay rent one month? They might be willing to work with you. Discuss all these options with your possible landlord and put the agreed-upon terms in writing.
A personal landlord relationship may also save you money in unexpected places. Since you can negotiate, you may be able to haggle your rent price, or work out a trade situation. Since they own the property and have vested interest in the property’s condition, your landlord may allow you to improve the living space, start a garden, or do yard work for a discount on rent. If you are a good tenant, an individual landlord will want to keep you as long as possible – you may be able to avoid rent price increases when you sign a renewal contract, or get a discount for signing a longer term contract.
You can even try looking for places with a pool, gym equipment, outdoor space, and other amenities that you can use for free. If you are renting a room or basement in the landlord’s personal home, many amenities may be available to you – see what you can find, and negotiate it into your contract terms!
Ask the Landlord
- What is the monthly rent rate? What utilities will you be paying for, and how much? Water, electricity, gas, trash?
- Is there a deposit, and how much is it?
- What is your responsibility to provide, what is the landlord’s?
- What services are available to you? Wifi, laundry facilities, maintenance?
- How will they respond to something breaking, emergencies, or emergency expenses?
- How long will the space be available for you to rent? Are they planning on selling the property?
- Does the landlord own the property?
- Do they have any personal policies? Rules on visitors or noise?
- Who has previously rented this space? Ask for references if you would like a testimonial about the specific location, or doing business with the landlord.
- Get to know your landlord before renting from them. How much will they be involved in your life? Will you see them everyday in the same house? Will they give you ample privacy?
- Under what circumstances will the landlord require access to your apartment?
- Ask for a copy of the contract to take home and read it FULLY.
- Make sure everything is laid out clearly, in writing.
- Know your move-in and move-out responsibilities, including how the deposit will be handled when you move out.
- Try out the space: spend time opening cabinets, testing faucets, flipping switches, turn on the air conditioner and heater, and make sure the little details are working. Make sure any broken things are replaced before you sign a contract or move-in.
- Document all wear and tear in the space: take pictures, write details, and have the landlord sign it.
- Research tenant rights in your area.
There is the possibility of unknown risks when renting from an individual – every experience will vary, depending on who you are renting from, and the terms agreed upon. My husband and I love renting from individuals – we have met so many friends and found some of our favorite living situations this way. But not every landlord is a dream. Thankfully you have your contract and tenant rights to protect you if you happen to find yourself in a sketchy situation!
There is great risk associated with not having a contract/lease present in your renting transaction. If the landlord does not insist on a contract – be wary! I have to admit to having rented a few places without a contract, but only in very personal situations. It is advised to always have a contract for YOUR protection!
It is not a common risk, but be sure to check that the owner actually owns the property, or if he is renting it, does he have the right to sublet.
And, as always, only sign a contract when you can follow through – you cannot back out of a contract with an individual any more than you can with a company.
Good luck – and be a good tenant! ;)
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