1. Always keep everything in writing and make copies.
At the heart of any agreement is its Terms and Conditions. If you want to reduce stress around renting, make sure you keep all agreements, requests, or complaints in writing. Thorough documentation is important if conflict ever arises. Many tenants keep all of their important rental documents in one file, including proof of rent payments.
2. Read your lease and check it twice.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, yet many people sign contracts (leases) without reading the terms. By signing, you are essentially agreeing to the contract in its entirety, meaning you must comply with the terms. Of course, there are exceptions, so it’s wise to get legal advice regarding clauses you think might be suspicious. Read the lease.
3. Pictures or it didn’t happen (or pictures, pictures, and more pictures).
A picture is worth a thousand words; it might also be worth your thousand dollar security deposit. Remember to take pictures of the place you’re renting when you move-in and when you move-out. This way, you have a record of the condition of the place and can properly argue any claims of damage you find to be incorrect. It’s especially important to take photos on the day you move in, proving that there was pre-existing damage.
4. It's always about the Benjamins.
At the end of the day, all most landlords want is to receive consistent and timely payment. As harsh as it sounds, It doesn’t matter that you’ve lost your job, a loved one passed on, you're having a mental health crises, or you’ve been hospitalized. You made an agreement to pay $X amount on day Y. Avoid being evicted for non-payment; pay your rent on time.
5. BYOA (Be Your Own Accountant).
You don’t have to pass the CPA exam to keep records of your finances. A savvy renter keeps copies of all rent payment receipts, pays rent via certified funds to keep track of where the money goes, and screenshots or saves emails of payment confirmations.
6. Breakups don't break leases.
Breakups are tragic, but just because you break up with someone or fight with a roommate doesn’t mean your landlord will let you break the lease. Barring instances of abuse, being uncomfortable with living with someone is not a legal reason to break a lease, and everyone who signs the lease is responsible for making sure the full amount of rent gets paid. Think carefully before you sign that dotted line. Remember, “We’re in this together, ‘til contract expiration do us part.”
7. Vet the landlord.
In this digital age of ours, renters have more opportunities than ever before to vet their landlords. Start with a simple Google search, followed by a business license search on the MN Secretary of State’s website. You can call the city building inspections division to inquire about recent housing condition complaints and code violations and whether or not your city requires landlords to be licensed. You may also consider using the MN Courts Information System to look up your landlord’s record of filing for evictions and small claims, and how often they’ve been sued by former tenants. Finally, you can find many property management companies on Facebook or Yelp, where tenants leave reviews.
8. We like our privacy respected and our notices reasonable.
Minnesota law gives tenants the right to privacy. This means that a landlord can only enter the premises for a reasonable business purpose (things like maintenance, inspections, and showing the unit to a prospective renter/buyer), and only after making a good faith effort to notify the tenant with reasonable notice. Reasonable notice is not necessarily 24 hours, although this is best practice. This statute does not apply to emergency situations, like a burst pipe or smoke coming out of your window.
9. Know your role.
In the state of Minnesota, the landlord is solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a rental property; this includes making repairs and keeping critters at bay. Many tenants have clauses in their lease mandating lawn maintenance or snow shoveling; in order for a clause like this to be enforceable, a landlord would have to provide the tenant with adequate payment.
10. No lease left behind.
So you’ve accomplished the American Dream and bought a home. You can break your lease, right? Not so fast. Unless you have a mutual lease termination agreement, it doesn’t matter when you closed on the house, as you are obligated to finish out your lease term. This doesn’t mean you have to live there, but you must make consistent rent payments and give proper notice to move out.
Get more information about renting in MN and access resources through HOME Line
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