The Renter’s Checklist: What To Know Before You Sign

Renter's Checklist

Renting is a great way to find a space and neighborhood that fits your family’s lifestyle without taking on the commitment of purchasing a home. Regardless of whether you are new to an area, just starting out on your own or looking to downsize, there are a few things you will want to do before you sign on the dotted line.

Here’s a renter’s checklist of must-do’s to help you navigate the rental process:

1. Get recommendations.

Some of the most trustworthy information about an area comes from people that have lived there. Ask around to your friends, coworkers, family and acquaintances. They may be able to tell you about great (and not so great) places they’ve lived and help you refine your search.

2. Visit your favorites during different times of the day and week.

If you visit an apartment building or home during business hours, the atmosphere may look very different than if you visited on the weekend. And vice versa. By taking a self-guided tour of an area you can learn more about vehicle traffic, foot traffic, street lighting and more.

3. Ask if there are limitations on how you can personalize your space.

You will want to make your rental property feel like home. That can include selecting new paint colors, fixtures and other design elements that reflect your personal taste. Make sure to discuss (and get in writing) the ways you can alter the space. Also, make sure you understand how the space is required to look upon move-out. If all walls must be painted the original color before moving out, you will want to plan accordingly.

4. Find out the average cost for utilities each month.

While power, water and public works charges will vary by occupant, requesting historical information about utilities charges can help you discover patterns or problems. Make sure to ask the owner about any spikes or prolonged increases, as they may indicate a leak, insulation issue or worse. Creating an accurate budget is key to enjoying your rental property. If you want more help in utility bill planning, take a look at this guide.

5. Read your entire lease before signing.

Leases are not overly complex documents. Typically, you can understand all responsibilities, expectations and exceptions by carefully reading the entire document. Read it more than once and after you’ve reviewed each section, clarify anything you are unclear about. It is crucial that you understand what your financial and legal responsibilities will be while you live in the home. Use this glossary if you come across unfamiliar language when reviewing your lease.


Woody Creek offers the region’s best service to our rental clients. We think of our tenants as extensions of our families. If you are looking for a quality property with professional management, click here to see our listings in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

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