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5 Things I Learned the Hard Way When It Came to Renting a House
  • My husband and I along with our two kids couldn’t wait to move in to our rented house. It was charming, spacious, and had a beautiful view of the city. It was relatively close to the schools where our kids go. For our needs, it was perfect! 

    There was just one problem--we couldn’t move in. The homeowner and our landlord still had his furniture and appliances in the house until moving day. You’d think we could just use it since we already paid for two months’ worth of rent. But I didn’t want to because, first, it didn’t come with the contract. If any of my kids broke something, we would be held liable. Second, I had a truck already filled with our furniture and appliances—I needed the space.   

    Even before moving day, I was already asking the landlord when he planned to remove his belongings in the house. Calls, texts, and emails were either ignored or filled with excuses. Finally, I had it. 

    Yes, we decided not to push through with the lease. Our thinking was if our landlord couldn’t take care of a simple problem, what more if we encounter bigger ones. And I was proven right. We’re still waiting for him to return our deposit, which gets my blood boiling each time I think about it. But my husband said we should simply let it go or be forever embroiled in a miserable situation. 

    It has been a long, drawn out process that I do not wish on anyone. But it did teach me a few things that I hope will help you if you’re planning to move homes.  

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    Read the fine print.  
    We always say that—we know it to be true. But I was obviously enamored by this house that I threw caution to the wind and affixed my signature on the lease without really understanding its content. 

    Meticulously go through the contract, and if you know a lawyer, send it to him for review. It’s your money, so do not hesitate to clarify or challenge terms and conditions you’re not comfortable with. Once both parties have agreed on ALL amendments, then a final draft can be made for both parties to sign. 

    Be clear on how you want to “receive” your rented house. 
    A landlord, who is a professional and aboveboard in his dealings, shouldn’t be told what to do when you advance him the deposit, and he hands you the key. He knows that his primary responsibility is to prep your new home. But look what happened to me. So I suggest you be clear on your requests before you make any payment or sign a leasing agreement.  

    Make an inventory of improvements you want him to make. Take photos of broken windows, cracked mirrors or defective locks so the landlord can make the necessary repairs. Put everything on print, and furnish the owner with the list.  

    Some sellers may find it hard to move appliances and furniture, which I learned the hard way. So be clear on what is and what’s not included IN WRITING.

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    Do a utility check.
    Water Run the taps and showers to check the property’s water pressure. And while you’re at it, check if the sinks drain properly and the water closet flushes well. Do check the water heating system, if it comes with the place. 

    Electricity There is confusion among landlords and tenants as to who has the responsibility for electrical safety in rented properties. By law, the landlord should ensure that wiring and all electrical installations are well maintained by a professional electrical engineer. Check if all switches, outlets and lighting fixtures are functioning.  

    Connection Check if there are ports to accommodate to phone, cable, and internet. 

    Review the location—again. 
    Explore the area and check for: 

    Flooding There are some web sites that provide you with simulated information on flood. I saw and found this site called Flood Maps helpful. You can it to play around with the “Sea Level Rise” at the upper left corner of your computer screen, and find out what happens.  

    Noise You may find it convenient to be near restaurants and a commercial area, but consider the traffic and noise it brings during peak hours.

    Security Find out about security policies. Or you can observe how the perimeter fences of the neighborhood are built. If you see a lot of electric wired fences, barbed wires and CCTV installed, then it’s largely up to you to secure your premises. 

    Finally, have a bank facilitate payment proceedings.
    This is crucial especially if you're eyeing to acquire a property. There are number of ways to protect yourself from shady deals, and I learned that I could rely on my bank to help--and work for--me especially when it comes to their expertise in credit investigation. They have the resources to check your financial capability--and the seller's.

    Perhaps the most eye-opening is how I can make use of an escrow account. "Escrow" sounds intimidating, but, from how our bank explained it to me, it is actually a safety net. It makes sure that the money you have entrusted to the bank will only be released if the set conditions in place are satisfied. Visit your bank to know more and how you can best utilize it.

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