Housing Advice, Landlords, Student Life

Tips for Improving Landlord-Tenant Relationships

The landlord-tenant relationship is often one of the most strained.  For landlords, according to one of our previous posts, our expert, Diane St. Laurent, explained that this incompatibility often extends from the expectations and rules of the rental.  For tenants (especially student tenants), this incompatibility may extend from poor communication and misunderstandings with landlords.  This is why we’ve put together some tips to help both landlords and student tenants improve the renting process and improve this typically strained relationship.

For Landlords

Take a mentor role with your student tenants.  According to St. Laurent, one of the most important things landlords can do is to take on a mentor role with students by “treating them as adults and [holding] them accountable for their decisions.”  She explains that this is one of responsibilities landlords assume with renting to students, as this is the time that they will be assimilating to their independence and adjusting to all new responsibilities.  By helping students through this process, it will not only help the landlord to feel that their tenants are making good decisions, but student tenants will feel more comfortable in maintaining their responsibilities.

Keep open and honest communication with tenants.  According to St. Laurent, landlords are also accountable for building lines of communication with their tenants.  In this way, student tenants will feel like their ideas, questions, and concerns are being heard, and landlords will feel that problems are more easily and swiftly resolved.

Be professional.  According to St. Laurent, rentals should be managed like a business.  This means that landlords should feel a sense of a responsibility of responding to problems and concerns of tenants to not only to keep tenants happy, but also to ensure that the property is well taken care of.

For Student Tenants

Pay your rent on time.  One of the biggest problems landlords and tenants can have is late rent payments.  This is not only a problem that will most likely create others, but it can also further exacerbate any existing issues within the relationship.  Therefore, it is important for tenants to budget for and send their rent payments so that they arrive on time.

Follow the terms of your lease.  As St. Laurent mentioned, one of the greatest problems can be incompatibility with landlords and tenants over the expectations and rules for the house.  It is best to read your lease in full before signing, and address any concerns you may have with the terms at that time.  Going forward, you should also keep a copy of your lease handy so that you can refer to it later, if needed.  This will not only enhance the clarity of your lease, but it may also allow you to negotiate the terms of your lease.

Take care of your rental.  This is not only your home, but it is also someone else’s property.  Be sure to take good care of the property and to be mindful of the “wear and tear” that you inflict on a property.  This will not only keep the property nice for you, but it will also help you keep your landlord happy and ensure that you get your entire damage deposit back.

Get to know your neighbors.  Surprisingly enough, grouchy neighbors can be one of the biggest sore points between you and your landlord.  This is because your neighbors will often report your “bad behavior” to your landlord.  As we mentioned in our previous post on this topic, it is important to get to know your neighbors to avoid unnecessary conflicts and frustration with both them and your landlord.  

Keep open and honest communication with your landlord.  We advise this for both landlords and tenants.  It is important that tenants let their landlords know when they have problems, when they need repairs, and especially when there has been damage to the property.  While telling your landlord you’ve damaged something on the property may be difficult, it will be better to tell them right away.  This will help to ensure that you maintain trust and honesty with your landlord.

However, you should also be mindful to be reasonable in your requests when you need something done.  Avoid calling your landlord over when a light bulb needs to be changed.  The things that you can do yourself are most likely the things you shouldn’t bother your landlord for.  It’s the things you can’t do and don’t feel comfortable doing; these are the things you should be contacting your landlord for.

Overall, while landlord-tenant relationships are often strained, there are certainly things that both parties can do to improve their relationship.  All it really takes is honesty, professionalism, open communication, and a sense of responsibility to ensure that the rental process goes smoothly.

References

How to Be a Good Landlord – 7 Tips, Advice & Responsibilities by Angela Colley

5 Tips for Being a Great Tenant that Landlords Love by Angela Colley

10 tips for a healthy landlord-tenant relationship; Perspective: Renters must read the lease, know landlord’s expectations by Ben Holubecki

A Guide to Good Landlord-Tenant Relations by DoItYourself.com

Advertisements
Standard
Housing Advice, Landlords, Renting

Why Landlords Should Encourage Renters to Get Renters’ Insurance

For some landlords, it is purely the decision of the tenant on whether to get renters’ insurance or not; for renters, renters’ insurance often seems like an “unneeded expense.” However, by renters not having renters’ insurance coverage, it cannot only hurt them, but it can also hurt their landlords. This is why it is important for landlords to not only educate their tenants on the benefits of renters’ insurance, but to encourage them to get this type of coverage.

First, by ensuring tenants have renters’ insurance, landlords can prevent any unwanted insurance claims being made against them. In fact, according to survey by Joshua Tree Consulting, rental property owners deal with about eight insurance claims like this a year. By helping to educate and encourage their tenants to get renters’ insurance, it can limit the number of these claims and the associated legal expenses that may come with it.

For landlords, renters’ insurance can also help cover their deductible in cases in which their tenant is responsible for damage to the property. In fact, according to a white paper published by Joshua Tree Consulting, landlords pay an average of over $2,400 per property for tenant-caused damage, as compared to just over $1,300 in properties where landlords required tenants to carry renters’ insurance. In this way, landlords can save money by encouraging tenants to get renters’ insurance.

While there are several financial benefits to encouraging renters’ insurance, responsible landlords can also value the importance of having this type of coverage. Incidences like fire and theft are not so “farfetched” in that they are impossible. By encouraging tenants to get renters’ insurance, landlords can help ease the minds of their tenants, so that should these incidences occur, they know they will be covered..

Renters’ insurance for both tenants and landlords is smart choice when renting, as it can save both parties money and stress in the case of fire, theft, or injury on a property. Landlords should remind tenants of the implications that incidences have, and the damage and loss they can inflict. It is important to stress foresight and caution when renting, as accidents can happen. For while renters’ insurance may seem like an unneeded expense now, it is something that will help both landlords and renters get through the times in which the improbable becomes probable.

Reference

“Renters’ Insurance Protects Landlords as Well as Tenants” by Jeffrey Turk

Standard
Roommates, Student Life

Tips for Living with a Roommate for the First Time

If you’re going off to college for the first time and moving into university housing, in most cases you’ll be put into a room with at least one other student. From our experience, many students go into this situation blindly or ill-informed. This is why we’ve put together a few tips for you to avoid making many of the mistakes first-time students make when moving in with their roommate.

Email your new roommate before you move in. When you first get your roommate assignment, it’s a good idea to email them before you move in. In most cases your school will provide you with their email address. Be sure to introduce yourself in the email and tell them a little bit about yourself. While you should express a little bit about who you are, this is not the time for you to tell them about your “quirks”. Save that discussion for when you both move in because sharing this will most likely scare them. There is such a thing as TMI.

Find your roommate on Facebook. Most people today have a Facebook. You may want to check out your new roomie and friend them. You may get a little more insight into who they are. However, don’t get completely freaked out if you see something there that you may not like or agree with. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

Keep an open mind when you first meet your new roommate. Like we said before, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Take some time to really get to know your roommate. It’s important that you two (or three) can at least get along.

Don’t expect to be best friends with your roommate. As we may have mentioned in some of our previous posts, it’s important to know that you may not be best friends with your new roommate(s). This is why you shouldn’t go into the situation believing that you will be “BFFs”. Your expectation instead should be able to get along with your roommate.

Establish room rules on the first day you both move in. Many schools will have their students fill these out on the first day you move in. While it may seem stupid, you may want to actually take this seriously. Remember: It is important, from the start, to establish how your room will be used and other expectations you and your roommate may have.

Be sure to communicate with one another. This is the most important part of getting along with your new roommate, but probably the most neglected. You should remember that open and honest communication is the best way to avoiding big blowups between you and your roommate.

While it seems like it will be difficult getting used to a new roommate, it actually isn’t too hard. Just remember to avoid judging a book by its cover, to keep an open mind, to set expectations for how your room will be used early on, and to communicate frequently and openly with your roommate. In these ways you can ensure that you and your roommate will have a smooth and easy transition into living with one another.

Articles we referenced . . .

http://www.collegeparents.org/members/resources/articles/how-help-your-college-student-prepare-living-roommate

http://powertochange.com/students/people/rmatedorm/

http://blog.storagechoice.com/2012/07/23/tips-for-living-with-a-roommate-for-the-first-time/

http://www.hercampus.com/dormlife/how-get-along-your-roommate-all-year

Standard
Housing Advice, Roommates

What Happens When You Get a New Roommate?

It happens all the time:  You choose to live in the same apartment for another year, your roommate moves on, and you end up with a new roommate.  While it is just a part of life, it’s always a little weird adding a new roommate to the mix, especially if you have been living there already.  This is why we’ve put together some suggestions to help you navigate your new roommate situation.

Don’t forget that it’s their place too.  This is perhaps the most important thing to remember:  If you’re adding a new roommate to the mix, you can’t forget that the apartment is just as much theirs as it is yours.  Just because you have been living there longer doesn’t give you the upper hand.

Take time to get to know them a little.  We’re not saying you have to be best friends, but it is considerate to try to get to know them a little bit.  In particular, you should consider asking them questions about their lifestyle preferences (i.e. when they go to bed, where they like to study, etc.).  That way you know what they like and what they don’t.

Take time to explain to them your existing house rules.  If you and your roommate(s) had previously established house rules (i.e. guest policy, chore distribution, etc.), you want to let them know.  However, because this person is new to the situation, you shouldn’t consider these rules to be set in stone.  Talk with your new roomie about how they feel about the rules you’ve established, what they like (or dislike) about them, and how the house rules can accommodate everyone’s preferences.

Give them a tour.  Show your new roomie where things are normally kept; this includes where the cleaning supplies are, where everyone puts their food, and where they can find extra toilet paper and paper towels.

Be helpful.  Be open to answering any questions your new roomie might have about your place.  Also be sure to explain to them any weird features or problems you may have with the apartment.  This way they know the kooky characteristics of your pad just as much as you do.

While it may be strange for you when your new roomie moves in, imagine how weird it must be for them!  They are moving into a new place with people who have already been there before.  They may think you and your other roommates will be best friends already and/or you will already be into your own routine that you won’t acknowledge them.  This is why it’s important to talk to your new roomie and figure out ways you can help them make your apartment feel like their home too.

Standard
Housing Advice, Renting

The REAL Cost of Renting

If you’re renting for the first time, you should be aware of what utilities you will have to pay, along with your monthly rent payment.  While some apartments have utilities included in the cost, others only cover some of the utilities, and some don’t cover any.  If you’re looking at apartments with either of the latter options, you want to know what those utilities will be and what they will cost.

Heat:  The three most common options you will have for heating will either be gas, electric, or oil.  The major difference between these three is that gas and electric heat will be billed monthly, while oil heat, in some cases, will be billed when the oil tank needs to be filled.  This means that you will be billed only once or twice to fill the tank, however, this bill will be reasonably large as oil is expensive.

One common misconception about oil heat is that it is the most expensive option of the three (oil, gas, electric).  This is actually false; according to an article we read by the U.S. Department of Energy, electric heat will actually tend to be more expensive, despite its high efficiency.  However, natural gas comes out to be the cheapest, as it is roughly three times less than oil heat.

While you don’t get much of choice when it comes to choosing your apartment’s heating system, you should be aware that, in many cases, your landlord may request that you keep the heat at a minimum temperature.  This is generally meant to prevent the pipes from freezing, however, this should be factored into your heating budget.

Water and Sewer:  In most cases your landlord will cover the bill, and may even factor this into your rent.  However, if they don’t cover this expense, there are some things you need to know.  First off, your water and sewer bill will come together on one bill and your average monthly cost will depend on the area in which you reside.  For example, according to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, the average one family customer used about 180 gallons per day in 2012 and was charged around $73.70 per month.  While this price will not be the same for most states, in an article we read by Brett Walton at Circle of Blue, in 2010, rain-scarce regions actually had the lowest residential water rates and the highest water use.

Secondly, you also have to be aware that your water bill will depend on a lot of things, including how you pay the bill (does your landlord split the bill, do you pay per apartment, etc.) and how many people live with you.  You may want to factor in at least $100 per month if you live alone and about $50 per month if you live with roommates.  This way you can budget for those months where your water use was high.

Trash:  This is another expense that, in most cases, your landlord will cover.  However, if they don’t and you’re on your own, your monthly trash collection bill will depend where you are living and how many roommates you have.  For example, your bill may be around $50 if you are living in an apartment building.  If you’re renting an entire house, it may be a little higher.  This a very specific question, as it varies greatly from one town to the next, so this a good question to ask any potential landlord.

Electricity:  In an article we read at AverageElectricBill.org, your bill will depend on your consumption and the rate charged by your provider in kilowatts per hour.  The quality of your appliances will play into the average cost, as well as how often you use each appliance.

Like many of your other utilities, your state and your provider will determine your average rate.  For example, the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs reported recently that the average bill for its residential customers was about $112 per month.   However, according to reports distributed by U.S. Energy Information Administration, average electric bills can range from $80 to $200 per month, depending on where you live.  This is why it’s good to ask your landlord what is the average monthly cost of electricity for your apartment.

Internet/Cable:  If you’re a student, cable may be a luxury but Internet is a necessity if you hope to do your schoolwork at home.  You’ll have to see first what your apartment is wired for, as some units are only wired for one particular service provider (Cox, Verizon, Comcast, etc.).  While each provider offers different packages, the basic packages will run from about $50 to $70 per month.  In some instances you may find that one person in the building has purchased an Internet package and is willing to share the connection with others for a lesser monthly payment.

You will also need to factor in other added costs associated with Internet and/or cable.  In an article we read by Amy Hoak at Marketwatch by the Wall Street Journal, she explains that you want to be sure to factor in costs associated with set up.  Many providers will actually tack on a cost to set up an Internet and/or cable service in your place.

In terms of paying utilities, the most important thing is to understand how they will be billed, explains Hoak.  You want to ask your landlord what utilities you will need to cover, and how the bill will be distributed.  You’ll also want to ask what the average prices will be per month so that you can get a better idea of how much money you should factor into your budget for those utilities.  You may even want to ask them what the highest price they’ve paid before so you can prepare.  The main thing is not being afraid to ask for help when you need it.  It’s better to ask a lot of questions now rather than not having trash pickup, having no water, no electricity, and getting to winter and not having heat.

Other articles we referenced:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=oil-versus-natural-gas-home-heating

Standard
Budget-Friendly Ideas, Housing Advice, Renting, Student Life

Finding Furniture For Cheap

If you’re renting for the first time and your apartment is unfurnished, you may be wondering how on earth you’re going to be able to furnish the entire place on your own.  As a student it’s especially difficult because you’re working with a smaller budget.  However, you do have options.  That’s why we’ve come up with some ideas to help you you aren’t breaking the bank when it comes to furniture shopping.

Ask the previous tenants.  If you get a chance, ask the previous tenants if they would be willing to leave some of their furniture for you.  It’s certainly worth a shot to ask them about specific pieces you would want and offer them an amount you would be willing to pay for each item.

Ask you friends and family.  It’s always worth it to ask your friends and family if they have extra furniture that they would be willing to sell to you.

Check online.  At JumpOffCampus, we offer a “Classifieds” section that will help you find furniture.  Just check your area and see what people have posted.  To check out this section of our site, go to http://www.jumpoffcampus.com/marketplace_listings .

You can also rent furniture online.  Currently we are now offering a deal on our resources page for our New York metro users to rent furniture from Cort Furniture for 10% off.  To check out this deal, just check out our website!

Check local yard sale listings and flea markets in your area.  You never know what you’ll find when you visit a yard sale or a flea market, but you may just find the piece of furniture you’re looking for at a significantly cheaper price.

THINGS TO CONSIDER:

Don’t pick things up off the street.  Although it may seem like a great deal, you may end up with more than you bargain for.  Let’s just say that you get what you pay for, and at Free.99 you’re getting just that.  In most cases, it will probably be broken, damaged, or it will be carrying some unwanted guests (i.e. roaches, mice, bed bugs, etc.).

Any pest is a definite concern when you’re picking up used furniture, especially free furniture you find on the side of the road.  Our advice is to just leave that freebie alone.  In the end, it will potentially save you more money . . . and a huge headache.  Especially with bed bugs, they are extremely difficult to get rid of once you have them, and they can come from the cleanest of environments.  If you don’t believe it can happen, just check out this article from Suncoast News.

Inspect ALL used furniture for insects and pests BEFORE you bring it into your home.  As we’ve mentioned previously here and in our post about bed bugs, you need to be especially careful that you aren’t bringing any unwanted guests into your home.  Be sure to use proper inspection procedures to make sure you’re safe.

Inspect ALL furniture for broken or damaged parts BEFORE you pay for it.  This one is pretty self-explanatory, but you don’t want to pay for something you can’t use.  You want to inspect anything before you purchase it to make sure that nothing is broken or appears poorly constructed.  In an article we read by Laura Coffey at Today.com, she explains that you should be sure to inspect all the furniture IN PERSON before you purchase it.  That way you can be sure you are getting what you are paying for.

Plan ahead for transportation.  According to Coffey, you want to be sure to prepare to transport the piece before you purchase something.  This includes moving it from where you bought it and moving it into your place.  You may also want to consider how you’ll move it out when you leave.  Measuring is a great way to do this and to ensure that you aren’t buying furniture you can’t even get into your apartment.

Standard
Cooking, Housing Advice

Starter Pantry Essentials Checklist

When you’re moving off-campus for the school year, there are a lot of things to consider.  If your living in an unfurnished pad, in particular, there are a lot of things you have to remember to pack.  While it’s important, I’m sure many of you may forget the important essentials you’ll need to stock your pantry with when you move in.  It’s not like at home where your mom always had some chicken noodle soup in stock.  You’re on your own!

Knowing from our experience, we wanted to make sure you weren’t left out in the cold if you didn’t get to go grocery shopping one week.  Thanks to a couple articles we read at MyFirstApartment.com, we’ve come up with a list of things that every college student living off-campus needs to keep themselves fed.

  • Canned beans
  • Canned soups
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Spices (you at least want garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper)
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Vegetable oil (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Dried pasta
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Cereal
  • Honey
  • Hot cocoa
  • Rice

The articles we referenced:

http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2011/10/first-apartment-pantry-essentials/2/

http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2005/11/starter-pantry-and-staples-checklist/

Standard