How to Be a Smart Renter
If you are looking for a place to live in Berks County, the following tips might assist you in your search.
Know Your Rights as a Tenant
Take Your Time Choosing a Place; You Are the Customer
This is a financial commitment that is legally binding. Where you live and who you live with over the next 12 months can have a profound effect on you positively or negatively. In this type of situation, haste does make waste.
Do not sign anything or fill out any applications until you are certain you have identified the place you want to rent. Some applications will automatically legally bind you to the lease. Don't sign anything unless you can afford to pay for it.
Talk is Cheap
This is a business arrangement between you and the landlord. Get everything in writing and document conversations so there are no misunderstandings by you or the landlord later on during the lease.
Know What You Are Signing
There are two types of leases commonly used in this area. Joint and Several and Individual. With a Joint and Several lease, you are responsible for your portion of the rent and your roommates if they do not pay their portion. If your roommates are unable to pay their portion of the rent, you will be expected to make up the difference. If you don't pay their portion of the rent, the co-signer (parental guarantee) will get a bill requesting them to pay the difference. Essentially, you are your brothers'/sisters/ keeper with a Joint and Several Lease. With an Individual Lease you are responsible for paying only your portion of the rent. If your roommate does not pay their portion of the rent, the property owner/manager goes after them and not you. It is ultimately your decision to choose the right lease for you.
Before You Move in, Document the Condition of the Apartment
Do a damage checklist, take pictures (give the landlord a copy and keep a copy for yourself). The damage checklist lets the landlord know what needs to be repaired in the unit and it provides you with a record of the condition upon the move-in. Most landlords want to know what is wrong with the unit so they can repair it.
Help the landlord and yourself by reporting all repairs to management immediately. Get the name of the person you report the repair/problem to and the date. Document the request for maintenance in writing for your own records.
When you are ready to move out, get the damage checklist and the photos. Review your comments regarding the unit. Clean like you have never cleaned before. If at all possible, get the landlord to walk through the unit before you turn over the keys. Take pictures again upon move out. Give the keys to the landlord and wait for a response within thirty days after you turn over your keys.
If, after all these precautions, you have questions or you need a copy of a damage checklist, contact the Office of Off-Campus Living, or call (610) 396-6069.