First Time Renter Checklist

Just left home?  Avoid the expensive mistakes a new, inexperienced renter can make!  Although most property owners are honest and helpful, some aren’t.  Some rental management companies have no interest in you once you’ve signed a lease, while others are there to answer your questions, solve maintenance problems and appreciate your business.  How do you know what to do?

One of the best resources online is this one on the Western Washington University off campus housing website.

It covers such important things as what to look for during your “walk through”, what to remember about setting up utility accounts, what to ask about parking, how to change your address with the post office and much more.

But, here are a few tips from Windermere Property Management, the oldest and most respected rental management company in Whatcom County:

  • Note the landscaping. Is it clear of litter and weeds? Is the sidewalk swept? Are trees healthy?  You may be so busy looking at the rental, you don’t think of those things, but they are indicators of how much maintenance you might expect in the future.
  • How is the building itself? Does it need paint?  Is the entryway well-lit and safe looking? Do the doors close easily? Are the stairs in good repair?  Security is extremely important.  Again, if things don’t look good while they’re trying to rent it, it’s unlikely to improve, even if you complain about it!
  • Do you feel pushed? Does the rental agent showing the property rush you through, or let you take the time to look around, take photographs and ask questions? It’s true that Bellingham area properties rent really fast, but that’s no excuse for an agent being too rude, pushy or saying that “it doesn’t matter” or “it will be OK” when you ask questions.
  • Smell the air. Any mildew or mold smell is a warning sign. Dirty bathrooms, cooking smells, pet pee and more, won’t go away just because you moved in with your cleaning spray. The walls or carpets might be saturated.  The fans may not work. Do you want to live with that?
  • Did the previous renter take care of the place? If not, the landlord may not pay much attention to what goes on. You might inherit problems you didn’t expect. This is why the “Normal wear and tear” statement is so important, along with a wear checklist from the beginning of the lease.  You may be accused later of causing damage someone else did.
  • Ask roommate questions at the beginning. If you change roommates, is there a fee? What if they can’t pass a screening? What if they don’t pay their share?  A quick way to lose a friend is by becoming a roommate with them!
  • Talk to the neighbors. Knock on door next door and ask them about the building? Is it noisy or quiet? Can you hear through the walls? How many people live next door to you? Are there barking dogs? Is the landlord or rental manager responsive or apathetic? Ask before you sign.
  • Carefully read your lease. Is parking included? How many spaces? If you smoke, what will they do?  If the rent is late, what will happen and how soon? Don’t do things you said you won’t do. If you’re evicted, it may be your own fault, so be aware of the promises you made and keep them!