Things You Can and Cannot Do as a First-Time Renter

As first time renters, there are things you simply may not be aware of (but are important). Can you paint a room? Have long-term guests? Here's what to know.

You've probably heard or read a story or two about horrible landlords.

But it's not just rental property owners who can be terrible. There are tenants who are absolutely the worst - destroying property, refusing to pay rent, putting dead fish in the walls...

The truth is it doesn't take a lot to be a good renter. There are just certain things - small but important ones that tend to be overlooked, especially by first time renters.

To help you out, here's a list of what you can and can't do as a tenant.

You Can Pay Rent with a Credit Card

There are rent payment services that make it possible to pay rent via plastic. Just make sure you've crunched the numbers so you don't hold too much debt on your card.

Remember, renting a property is a huge financial obligation. Even before moving in, you should have worked out what you can afford to avoid nasty surprises.

Ideally, your rent should be around 30 percent of your income. That leaves you with enough money for living expenses and some savings.

You should also consider up front costs as many places will require a deposit in addition to first and last month's rent payments. Add to that additional fees when you pay with a credit card. If that doesn't sound sustainable to you in the long-term, either switch to debit card payments or pay via cash or check.

You Can't Just Leave When You Want To

First time renters, take note. When you sign the lease, it's not just a piece of paper, but a legally binding contract. That means you can't just move out when you feel like it. The required length of stay are outlined within that contract.

Even if it's for a valid reason such as a new job at another location or disagreement with a roommate, neighbor, or your landlord, you're required to pay a penalty if you want to get out of a lease.

There are cases though, where you can get out of a lease without paying a penalty. If you could prove that your landlord has violated the implied warranty of habitability, the law will side with you if you want to break the lease.

Of course, you should understand that this warranty applies to serious problems only. You can't cite breach of the warranty if it's something like not being happy with the color of the walls or finding the overall decor tacky.

You Can Bring Your Pet If Your Lease Allows It

If you've gotten the okay from your landlord before signing the lease, then you can move in with your pet. The only drawback to pet-friendly properties is that owners usually charge tenants more because of the possible risks.

Pets that aren't house trained, for example, can cause damage to the property. They might also injure neighbors or be a noise nuisance. Furry animals are also a source of allergens and dander, which could get in the carpet or the air ducts.

Some contracts also specify that only neutered or spayed animals be allowed in the property. As a pet owner, it's your responsibility to make sure your companion animal sticks to the rules stated in the lease.

You Can't Just Decorate As You Please

Some first time renters get so excited that they set about redecorating their new place without realizing that they may be violating some terms of the lease. Most contracts have restrictions about decorating so you should mind those before you proceed with big or permanent changes.

An example would be adhesive picture hangers. If your lease prohibits them and you still used them, you'll have to shoulder the cost of repairs (i.e. paint job).

But don't get discouraged. There are still ways to personalize your space without running afoul of decorating restrictions. You can decorate with plants, add rugs, rearrange the furniture (unless they're nailed to the floor), and so on.

You Can Buy Renter's Insurance

In fact, it should be something every tenant and not just first time renters should purchase. A renter's insurance will help cover your expenses in case of theft or a disaster such as a fire.

Don't rely on your landlord's insurance. Its coverage is probably limited to the building itself and the infrastructure. Think of your stuff - your appliances, clothes, gadgets, and so on.

Once you tally the value of your belongings, you may be surprised at how much you actually own. So don't leave things to chance and make sure you get a policy before you move in.

You Can't Let Guests Stay for a Long Time

It actually depends on the terms of your lease, but most contracts include a clause about long-term guests. Some require written permission from the landlord for guests staying for more than a week, while others limit the number of consecutive nights a guest can stay.

The reason why landlords implement this rule is simple. Potential tenants go through a screening process while long-term guests don't. It's quite risky for property owners since they don't know your guest's criminal or work background.

Plus, if there are damages, your landlord cannot collect on your guests. If they wreck the place, it's you who'll be responsible. If you want to add a roommate or live with a boyfriend or girlfriend, talk it out with your landlord and go through the application the right way.

You Can Add a Roommate

As long as you check with your landlord first. Landlords have every right to enforce occupancy limits on his or her property. If the maximum number of persons allowed is two, you can't have three or more friends as co-tenants just so you can make the rent payment.

Also, just because you think someone would be a good roommate doesn't mean your landlord will agree. If your desired roommate fails the screening process, it could mean he or she doesn't have a good credit score or rental history. Consider these things before you ask someone to be your co-tenant.

Bonus Tip for First Time Renters

Before you sign that lease, make sure you read and understand all the terms. If you're not sure about something, don't hesitate to question the landlord about it.

Keep an eye out for the clauses that could affect your budget. Think penalties, how the utilities will be paid, the procedure for moving out, and so on.

If you have any questions regarding property rentals, feel free to contact us.