Our first weekly blog! What you need to know about renting an apartment.
Ever got stuck in the lobby of a West Village residence hall on a Friday night waiting to swipe in while everyone else signs three people in each? Ever thought, ‘man, I really need to get off campus’? Sounds easy enough. No RAs, no swiping and no signing your girlfriend in every day even though she basically lives with you.
But if you’re looking to move off campus, there are a few important things you should know. Realtors, landlords and leases are all daunting but necessary issues to deal with when searching for an apartment in the city. Understanding your rights and responsibilities as a renter is the first step.
The City of Boston’s Good Neighbor Handbook lays all your rights out in a simple way. Take a look at the Top 10 things students should know before renting.
Here are some highlights:
·You are entitled to have your apartment checked for sanitary and building code compliance. Your landlord is responsible for setting this up, and paying any fees or fixing any problems that may arise during the inspection.
· Look into renters insurance. It will cover anything in your apartment in case of fire, flood or any other damage to the apartment and things in it. You’d be surprised how much your personal belongings are worth and you’ll be even more surprised at the affordability of renters insurance.
· Choose your roommates wisely. If a roommate moves out and you can’t find a sublet, you may still be responsible for paying his or her portion of the rent.
· Read and understand your lease agreement BEFORE you sign it. It’s a binding legal contract, so it’s important that you understand what you are signing before putting pen to paper. Read it thoroughly. Still don’t understand? Have a parent or professor help you out by reading it and explaining the important details to you.
· Finally: understand what fees your landlord can and can’t charge you. A landlord can’t charge you the same fees as a realtor can.
When searching for an apartment in the city, many students turn directly to a realtor, but some decide to move to a landlord directly, avoiding realtor’s fees. There are benefits to both, but make sure you are aware of your rights when dealing directly with a landlord.
KeeWee Listings founders Andrew Rodriguez and Brandon Beneduce were looking to move into a house on Mission Hill and decided to circumvent the realtor’s fees by contacting the landlord directly. On Tuesday, the landlord agreed to rent the house to Andrew and Brandon. They then paid a $900 fee to hold the place for the day. This is where the first red flag comes up. It’s illegal for a landlord to charge you a holding fee, if he/she agrees to hold the apartment for you, it’s a spoken agreed upon arrangement that they CAN NOT charge you for. After handing over the $900, Andrew and Brandon went home to fill out the paperwork, planning on turning that in with the first months rent later that night. But before they could secure the apartment, the person they were working with, who worked directly under the landlord, call them and said he had decided to give the house to someone else. He then didn’t answer Andrew and Brandon’s calls. They were fortunate to get their $900 back, because it was a check.
Yes, realtors will have a fee, but they are often a more secure form of searching for and securing an apartment. Especially in the searching process, a realtor can be a valuable resource. They know the area, they know the prices, they know the landlords and they tend to know what college students are looking for.
One final law of note: In the City of Boston, it is ILLEGAL for five or more full-time undergraduate college students to live in the same dwelling. It’s a violation of the Boston Zoning Code. Many landlords will ignore this law and rent a house to six, seven or even more college students. Just know that should the authorities catch you, you will likely have to find a new place to live or vote a few people out of the house. The landlord, however, will take the brunt of the legal consequences.
Here’s another link to help you with understanding you rights and responsibilities as a renter.
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