How to rent a house in the US: the most complete instructions and useful tips
Anastasia Babenko, blog author adb_companion, collected all the necessary information about rental housing in America. In the article, she spoke about the types of housing that is being rented, search methods, tenant requirements, additional payments, and also gave useful tips on this matter. ForumDaily publishes an article with the permission of the author.
1. Types of housing
1.1. Apartments. The most common type of rental housing in the United States. They are located in apartment complexes owned by the management company with which you will enter into a lease agreement (in case of a positive decision). In such apartment complexes there is a leasing office - a place where potential tenants come in search of housing, they are met by a friendly employee, shows, tells what is free now, what is the cost, etc. Often in the apartment complexes there are a number of additional amenities (amenities): a rooftop (a relaxation area with sofas and a grill on the roof), a gym, a work room, a small cinema, a lounge where you can invite friends, and more. We even saw a bowling alley and a bouldering wall once. Renting a house in such complexes is more expensive. But you can find apartment complexes without additional amenities, where the cost of housing, respectively, will decrease proportionally.
How convenient are such apartment-complexes, besides the pleasant additional buns listed above? If you break, for example, a washing machine, the socket does not work, or there are any other domestic problems, you calmly report this to the management, and the issue is solved simply and quickly. We, for example, broke the microwave. So to us on the same day they put a new one. I stuck the key - in a couple of hours a complex worker came and corrected everything. But, again, the complexes are different and the management in them, too.
1.2. Condo This is essentially the same apartment, only each condo has a private owner, and the entire complex is owned jointly by the condo owners. Therefore, most often, removing a condo, you enter into a contract with its owner. Less commonly, condos are leased by managers of management companies. The price of housing is usually lower here. In the condo, there are also amenities. However, if something breaks in you, then you will most likely have to wait longer (depending on the owner’s good faith).
1.3. Houses. Also rented, but only private owners.
1.4. Rooms (in the house / apartment). The most budget option, which is great for students, for example. They are also private owners.
Now about the types of apartments. Here, it is not the number of rooms that counts, but the number of bedrooms. Those. allocate a studio, 1 (2, 3) bedroom apartment. Thus, 1 bedroom apartment is, in fact, a Russian two-room apartment: there is a bedroom, a living room, usually connected to the kitchen, and a combined bathroom. Accordingly, in 2 and 3 bedrooms apartment bedrooms and possibly a bathroom are added.
Traditional (classic) one bedroom apartment assumes that all rooms will have at least one window (yes, there are often windows without windows!), And the walls between these rooms will be, firstly, to the ceiling, and, secondly , it will be real walls.
The fact is that this kind of apartment is often found, such as, for example, open (urban) 1 bedroom. This means that the wall between the bedroom and the living room will not reach the ceiling, there is often no window in the bedroom itself, and it is very small in size.
You may also encounter an apartment, where one wall will be replaced with a door-slide. The bedroom in such an apartment is also, as a rule, smaller and can be without a window.
Why is that? Some of the apartments were transformed from a studio into one BD, where they tried their best to create the feeling of a second room. Whole complexes with such a layout are being built now. For example, in Seattle, where we live, a law has been passed according to which a bedroom cannot be called a bedroom if it does not have a window and a wardrobe (walk-in closet), so they came up with the concept of urban (open) 1 bedroom. This is a more budget-friendly housing option that can be great for a solo person. And more apartments can be crammed into the building.
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A little more about the strangeness of local housing: we, for example, have no light in the bedroom, no light at all. There is no room in the ceiling for a light bulb. At first I did not notice, because it did not occur to me that this could happen. But then they explained to me that this is not uncommon in old-style houses. I had to buy lamps.
Of course, very beautiful and wonderful look photos from the sites of apartment-complexes. In life, everything is a little easier, without photoshop.
2. Where to look for housing
There are two options: online and offline.
2.1. Online search. The most popular online resource for finding housing is Zillow. Com, apartments.com, hotpads.com, craigslist.com. Here you need to take into account that the information will not always be up-to-date, therefore, if you liked something, call, clarify and be prepared for the fact that housing may already be rented out. Most relevant information is on craigslist. There is also the widest selection of private housing.
The standard rental period is usually 12 months (sometimes 9-24 months); if you need to rent a house for a shorter period, then it is better to immediately go on craigslist and negotiate with private owners.
You can also look at the apartments directly on the websites of the apartment complexes, the names of which will appear on Google maps if you enter “apartments” in the search. Often on the site you can already see which apartments are available at the moment, with information about the layout (Floorplan), footage and cost.
2.2. Offline search. Strangely enough, not always all current housing can be viewed online, so we go to the fields. Often, beautiful photos of apartments on the site may not be true, so you need to re-check everything and watch for yourself. Decide on the area, google apartment-complexes and forward to the leasing offices. Often, apartment complexes themselves advertise on the streets about the availability of affordable housing for rent.
3. Requirements for the tenant
3.1. Proof of income (income proof). Landlords, they are also landlords, want to be sure of your ability to pay. Therefore, they will require proof that you are employed, indicating your income level. This can be a letter from a manager, a copy of an offer, or a certificate from work (they also do this here). Even if you work remotely, it's still better than nothing.
If you don't work, the process of finding a place to live can get complicated. In this case, landlords ask for a statement about the state of your bank account, so it is better to put as much money there as possible. The money on the account should be enough for several months of paying for housing (how much depends on the appetites of the landlords).
In such a situation, another possible solution would be to rent a home from a private owner, with whom you can negotiate. You should not write emails to apartment managers with information that you don’t have work, but you are looking for it, most likely, they will immediately refuse you. You need to come in person, watch the accommodation and explain the situation, so you increase your chances.
As reinsurance, landlords may request a larger deposit upon arrival than usual. For example, it may be the amount of a rental payment for 1 or several months. By the way, the deposit is returnable. It is charged so that, for example, if you break something in an apartment, you can simply deduct the amount of the repair from the deposit.
3.2. Credit history (credit history). Landlords are checking your credit history. If you have just arrived, then of course you do not have it yet. In large cities with a high level of immigrant inflow, this is treated calmly, and the same deposit acts as a guarantee of your solvency.
3.3. Rent history. It's like a credit history, but only a rental history. The bottom line is that your potential landlord has information about you, namely whether there were delays in payments at previous places of residence, whether you were evicted, whether there were any other problems with you, whether landlords sued you, etc. It is clear that if you have just arrived, then you have no rental history. But we are already used to it.
I know cases when the guys who came to work at Microsoft or Amazon went to look for housing, saw the landlord where they work, and asked only to pay a standard deposit of a few hundred dollars. But this applies to large well-known companies, and then not always and not everywhere.
Checking your credit and rental history is called a background check, which the manager / owner performs when you have already made a positive decision to rent a particular property and apply for a rental. You pay for the processing of the application, including the background check, usually 35-45 USD per person (price for apartments in apartment complexes). Even if you crossed the US border for the first time just a week ago, and you have no credit and rental history and cannot have, anyway, a background check is done, this is a standard practice.
It should also be understood that the size of the housing depends on the number of people living. For example, a family of three in the 1-bedroom apartment will be populated, and from 4-s it is unlikely.
4. Additional payments
Be prepared that you will need to make additional payments every month along with the rent.
4.1. Parking if you need it. In Seattle, prices range from $ 100 to $ 300 per month for one parking space.
4.2. The Internet. From 35 to 80-90 dollars per month depending on the provider. Ask the employees of the complex, which provider is better. Not always it will be the most expensive.
4.3. Utilities. We pay about $ 110 a month for water for two (Seattle).
For light bills come every three months on the order of 120 dollars. In the winter period, the bill increases, because you need to heat the apartment, the concept of central heating is not here (on the West Coast, at least). Dry hot air enters the room from a ventilation grate located in the wall.
Garbage collection 10-15 dollars per month.
4.4. Pets. For them, too, will need to pay. First deposit 200-350 dollars per month upon entry. It is also returnable, but don’t hope much for a full return, because you will surely come to something when leaving, that your beast has spoiled, scratched, broke, etc. Also monthly will need to pay for each pet 35-50 dollars.
5. Useful tips
5.1. Carefully read the contract. Look under what conditions it can be terminated. All contracts are more or less standard, but if you have never seen it before, it is useful to study.
For example, we had a situation: we moved into an apartment, where they laid new carpets, there was a very strong smell from them. We didn't pay much attention, we thought about the walls, because in America, every time new residents move in, they paint the walls again. The smell did not pass in any way, and empirically we figured out that it was a carpet. It was completely impossible to stay in the apartment, I felt dizzy and felt sick. We, of course, went to sort it out to the manager, we wanted to check out. Nobody just wanted to let us go. The contract was already signed, and according to it, upon early termination, we were obliged to pay a fine in the amount of a 2-month rent. The alternative is to move to another apartment that they were ready to provide to us. We didn’t want to stay there anymore, we persistently said that we would fix complaints with a doctor, call the air quality measurement service, and were ready to go to court. They were not terribly afraid of our threats. In the end, everything was resolved in the best possible way, since we were given a better apartment, but at the same price and they did not take a rent for us for 2 days, when we lived in the hotel, while the issue was being resolved.
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Why am I doing this? Our contract did not include a satisfaction guarantee. This is a clause that allows you to terminate it within a certain period without penalties, if you are not satisfied with the living conditions. Large landlords often exclude this clause from the contract to protect themselves, but you should be careful when reading the contract. Some apartments, for example, have a 48 hours rule, when you can move out without fines, if for some reason you realize that the accommodation does not suit you. Unfortunately, such indulgences occur infrequently, you need to discuss this issue with the manager in advance.
5.2. Explore Landlord Tenant Law. This is the law governing the relationship of the tenant and the landlord. For each city / county (county) it has its own (google * the name of the city / county * Landlord Tenant Law).
In case of disputable situations, refer to this document and refer directly to it in your letters and conversations with the management / owner. Litigation is common, including disputes between landlords and tenants. Know your rights. Seeing that you are a visitor and do not yet understand the local cuisine, the management / owner may be tempted to take advantage of this.
5.3. Read reviews on apartmentratings.com, Yelp and Google. All, of course, you will not please, but if several people write the same thing, it is worth thinking. For example, we so refused to rent one apartment, because several tenants in a review in one voice asserted that during the eviction they were charged fines for cleaning, repairs, etc. and without any trial sent collectors to them. We refused from another apartment, because there the tenants strongly complained about the management and about the fact that they often steal packages.
Feel free to ask the management about the issues mentioned in the reviews, see how they react and if they solve the issue. For example, in reviews to one complex, they wrote en masse that elevators do not work regularly for a long time. I asked this question to the manager, he replied that, yes, such a problem existed earlier due to the fact that the complex was serviced by two companies, which for a long time could not decide who was to blame and who to fix if the elevator broke down. Now they work with the same company and, if breakdowns occur, they are quickly eliminated.
It is useful to read reviews not only about specific apartments, but also about the management company, because it will depend on her the quality of management of the complex, the practice of interacting with tenants and, which is also important, the collection of fees during eviction.
5.4. All communication with the management / owner is only in writing. If you spoke on the phone or in person and agreed on something, then write a letter based on the results of the conversation, where you list the main points of the conversation and ask to confirm the information. This is the norm for business communication in America. People try to have written confirmation, so that in case of something it would be easier to identify who is responsible and prove that the event / conversation took place.
5.5. Ask about moving out fees before moving in. Managers do not like this topic very much and will never start it themselves. But here, too, surprises can await you. Standard: when leaving, you must leave the apartment in the same form as when checking in, i.e. it must be clean (after professional cleaning, as they like to say here). Just vacuuming the carpet and wiping the shelves will not be enough. Most likely, you will have to either hire people for professional cleaning, or unfasten the amount from the deposit, and the management will organize everything on its own.
The first way is bad in that your cleaning may not satisfy the management, and they will require additional cleaning for your money, of course. In addition, they should carry out minimal disinfection after the tenants have been evicted, for which they may also ask you to.
The second method is simple and convenient. You just pay the money and do not bother. The approximate amount should be announced in advance and not be astronomical. Separately, the cost of general cleaning and separate cleaning of carpet, if any, is determined Prices for such services ask the manager. He also must, upon request, provide you with all cleaning checks, if you suddenly doubt his honesty.
Some apartments can rent money for repainting the walls. They explain it this way: for example, it costs $ 600 to paint walls, and we will amortize this amount over 3 years. This means that if you live in an apartment for only a year, then upon eviction we will charge you 2/3 of the amount, 400 dollars (1/3 of the amount has already been depreciated), if 2 - 200 dollars, if 3 - nothing. It will be unpleasant, however, to find out about this upon eviction. Fortunately, this is not common.
Do not forget also before leaving to carefully seal the holes in the walls, if you did them. Additional charges may also be charged for this work (10-20 dollars per hole).
5.6. Take responsibility for filling out the check list. It is given on arrival. There you must bring all the faults and breakdowns in the apartment that you find. With this, you need to be very careful and thoroughly check everything, because if you haven’t brought something there, the cost of fixing this problem may be left on you during the eviction.
I photographed all the scratches, cracks, minor breakages, checked all the corners. I added everything to the check list. If there is something dirty (we had windows, for example), write too, the management should fix everything. I even noticed the smell coming from the refrigerator. In this case, more is better than less. I have all the photos saved on my phone as confirmation that all this existed at the time of entry.
You can write a letter to the manager and attach a copy of the check list and a photo there so that you have written confirmation that the management of the complex has been notified of existing problems. When you give the original check list to the manager, he must give you a copy.
5.7. Always look at the apartments you are going to rent before entering into a contract. Do not settle for similar and special beautiful furnished models for display. You have to see what you give money for, so that later there will be no unpleasant surprises.
5.8. Look for accommodation near work, kindergarten or school. The road can really take up much of the time and effort.
5.9. Look at the rating areas: how safe, clean, what contingent lives.
5.10. Look at what is happening around the building. For example, we had a very nice area, but in our building there was a supermarket, near which homeless and incomprehensible-looking people constantly gathered. Seattle is famous for the number of homeless people, so if you are settling in the city center, then this problem cannot be avoided.
5.11. Mosquito net. Mosquito nets are often hung on the windows of apartment complexes, which cannot be removed, and the windows themselves do not open completely. Because of the nets, the room is very poorly ventilated, and in summer it is terribly stuffy, the air simply does not move. Therefore, ideally, you need to have a patio or balcony so that you can open the door and ventilate. But many do not bother, maybe we are so picky?
Air conditioning, by the way, is installed only in expensive apartments, and even then not in all. But this is Seattle, and in California, on the contrary, air conditioners are installed almost everywhere.
5.12. Bargain! Busy season for landlords from May to September, here the probability that the price will be thrown off is small - there would be time to rent an apartment. People are actively coming. And in autumn, winter and early spring they have a low season, so you can rent it very profitably.
We liked one apartment very much, but we immediately said that it was a little expensive. After a couple of days, they offered us the first month for free and the price was lower for the next months, but we still refused, because it was the very same apartment with collectors.
You need to write a separate article about the cost of housing, because even within the same city, the price can vary greatly depending on the area and requests, so calling the average price is like indicating the average temperature for the room.
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