So you are going to rent your first apartment. Living on your own for the very first time can be quite exciting. You now have a space to live life to the fullest, invite guests over, throw some wild parties, store your stuff, etc. Think about decorating with your favorite color, deep eggplant purple (the style your boring college roommate would never approve of), or playing host to a parade of lovely guests in your very own living room.
Having said that, it is important to understand that renting has its own share of challenges. You may have gotten rid of your parents and the nagging roomie, but now you have a landlord and a legal document called a lease that limit your freedom. Read that lease once again so that you’ll know what it says. Otherwise, you may make one of these costly mistakes and forfeit part, or all, of your security deposit.
Mistake 1. Making the walls hard to restore to original condition
Most of us assume that we can paint our apartment to our liking. But it’s not always so. Most landlords stipulate in the lease agreement that when the tenant moves out, the apartment should be restored to the original condition. If a tenant got inspired to paint graffiti or maroon on the walls, he could be expected to restore it to the original color- the boring contractor’s white. And applying a coat (or five!) of paint over colors like purple is not at all easy. Even more tricky a challenge to restore is removing wallpaper, if you were foolish enough to put some up. Simply hanging up a few posters can be a costly mistake, if you are unable to repair the holes made by the anchor screws. Barring the normal wear-and-tear, you are responsible for everything else, unless you received landlord’s permission in advance.
Decorating your place can get a bit tricky at times. So, do you still want to paint the walls purple?
Mistake 2. Failing to keep appliances and mechanicals in good working order
The lease agreement may not completely dispel the myths around getting some appliances fixed, hence it is good to clarify with your landlord your responsibilities. Some apartments have on-site maintenance personnel whom you can fall back on when the faucet in the kitchen leaks. Some landlords may prefer that you hire a dependable service like Goettl Air Conditioning when the AC unit malfunctions suddenly. Your lease may tell you how the landlord wants you to react to a situation like this. Just don’t attempt to fix things up on your own. You probably don’t have the skills (even if you were an engineering major!) and most certainly don’t have the right tools. Practicing plumbing without a license to fix a leaky sink may end up costing your more than you realize. Yes, it may drive you up the wall that the landlord did not get back to you quickly or the apartment manager never returned your call. But by not promptly reporting problems and not assuring that repairs are made, you may be held responsible for any damage at the end of the lease, jeopardizing your security deposit.
Mistake 3. Leaving before the lease is up
Once you put your ink on the dotted line, you are expected to stick with it until the lease term is over. Though nobody thinks about breaking the lease at the time of signing the agreement, it is good to find out the penalties of doing so. Getting out of your lease is not as easy as you think it is. There are serious consequences to it, and you may end up not only forfeiting your security deposit but also getting sued for the rent due on the remaining lease term. Your credit rating can get trashed and you will have difficulty qualifying for another lease. If you think your career path may take you elsewhere sooner, you can be up front about it with the landlord and negotiate a way to get out of lease. Know your situation and include an appropriate exit clause into the lease agreement to safeguard yourself from potential damages.
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