Anything to watch out for in renting an apt in a house?

hae0823August 4, 2006

I have always rented an apartment in an apartment complex or a condo managed by companies (rather than individual landlords), and this is the first time I am considering to rent an apartment in a private house. I am curious what I should be aware of and what kind of questions I should ask the landlord?

I've seen the place, it's nice, although I would love the bedroom to have hardwood instead of carpet. (Do you think I can ask if the landlord is willing to do that?)

The thing that scares me is that the landlord is a recent first-time home owner and this is his first time renting the place to anybody. (He has not moved into the house yet, he said he will be living in the house and doing some renovations.) He is still not sure how everything works in the house and he wants the utilities to be split (I would pay like 1/3 of all utilities). I am single and I leave the apartment at 8am and come home around 9pm. Do you think this is fair? He seemed like a real nice person but I don't want to assume anything based on first impression.

Any advice on how I should proceed with the situation? And are there anything else I should be concerned for?

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My experience as a renter in private homes has been that many owners have unrealistic expectations about the amount of work involved in renovating/maintaining a rental unit, and are very reluctant (or unable) to fix things up properly. The homeowner may seem nice and easygoing now, but at any time he could decide that he doesn't really want the hassle of renting. He could suddenly deny you "privileges" (such as use of laundry facilities), decide that you cannot have visitors, lock the doors at an earlier time (what if you have to work late?), invite relatives to visit and use your space...And whose name will be on the utility bills?

Although you should have the same legal rights as a renter in a corporate-owned building, it is often too difficult and ineffective to assert your rights in a private transaction like this. If you decide to rent in a private home, as in any rental situation, you should sign a lease (even if only month-to-month) and specify all the privileges and responsibilities of both parties.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 9:30AM
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since you will pretty much be living with him..... be prepared for him to be nosey. My landlord lives across the street from the apartment in the house that I am renting from him.
EVERY time i open the door to this guy he is always looking over my shoulder into the apartment .... i guess to see the condition of the apartment (or how I live in it... who knows).... VERY annoying.... it gives me the impression that he doesnt trust me even though I have given him no reason to (I am the perfect tenent... I am quiet,keep to myself, pay rent early & dont bother him or the other 2 tenents with petty BS). Maybe thats the problem.... I may seem too perfect.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2006 at 4:50PM
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Form your description, this sounds like an "in-law" apartment, either a renovation or addition to a house to create an apartment, usually for a relative. The owner sounds as if he has bought the house and is counting on the income from the apartment. Nothing wrong with that, but a first-home owner and landlord could cause some problems.

I would check out how he plans to handle even minor repairs, such as what happens if your toilet gets clogged. Is the landlord going to fix it or will he call the appropriate repair person? Will he call at midnight if it's a problem or make you wait until the next day?

As for the utilities, it depends on a lot of factors if 1/3 is fair. I'm assuming that you will have your own phone line and internet connections. How many people will be living in the rest of the house? Just the owner? A family? Kids? Will you be sharing their cable TV connection, even if it is more expensive or less comprehensive than you would want? Can you get your own hook-up or dish?

How big is the house? If the house is 5 times bigger than the apartment, then I don't think 1/3 is fair for the heat/air conditioning. 1/6 would be more like it. Same with electricty--if there are a lot more people living in the house, the bill should be divided proportionately. If you are very conservative with utilities and the owner and his family are not, you will end up subsidising their utility use.

I would not want someone else in control of all the utilities. This is one are where I can save money by using less. So I keep my apartment fairly cool in the winter and wear sweaters. I don't turn on a lot of lights. I would not want to be paying for someone else's use of these things.

The other thing to be concerned about with an in-law apartment is the owner's access to the apartment. Some of them have a door from the house directly into the apartment. I would want to have a bolt on my side of that door to prevent the owner from entering without my permission. I would also probably put a big, heavy piece of furniture in front of it.

Check the laws of your state carefully. Things such as when, how often and how much notice a landlord must give before entering an apartment vary from state to state. You should know your rights before you sign the lease. You may have to do some educating of your landllord on a few things.

My last landlord didn't know that Connectict has laws on how long a landlord can allow an apartment to go without heat. I had to point out to him that we had been heatless for three days, and according to state law, I could call the police and have him arrested. He wasn't happy with me, but the heat was fixed in three hours. A first time landlord may not be aware of all his responsibilites.

As for the bedroom floor, you can ask about the carpet/hardwood issue. If there is hardwood under the carpet, the landlord might be willing to remove the carpet. I'm not so sure about installing hardwood, however, as that is much more expensive.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2006 at 11:39AM
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I heard of someone who had heat problems--the landlord didn't want to turn on the heat as early as she wanted him to, bcs it was expensive. And it wasn't as easy to get him to deal w/ it as it might have been in a larger complex--he had only 1 person to ignore.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 1:10PM
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Tally Sue,

The first apartment my husband and I had together had baseboard radiators for heat. They turned off the boilers in the spring, and then we had a cold snap. They flat out refused to turn the boilers back on, and suggested we buy a space heater.

This was in a large complex owned by a national management company. So it doesn't always matter how big the property is.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 1:25PM
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if he wants you to pay for part of the utilities, then the REST of his rent needs to be lower than it would be at a place where the rent covers the heat.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 7:14PM
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