Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

When you’re a renter, you have more flexibility in moving and deciding where to live. There are other pros — and cons — of renting, though, so here are our top 10 tips to make life as a renter easier.

Illustration by Tina Mailhot-Roberge.

10. Don’t Let Poor Credit Limit Your Ability to Rent

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

Poor or no credit can make renting an apartment more difficult, but it’s not impossible if you come armed with things like a letter of recommendation from former landlords or agreeing to pay more rent in advance. Then you can work on improving your credit.

9. Choose Between a Managed Property or Renting from a Landlord

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

Managed communities and individual landlords both have their pros and cons. With a management company, it’s easy to contact someone if there’s a problem and there’s a maintenance staff to help you out. With an individual landlord, however, you have more neighbourhood options and more room to negotiate rent. Either way, pay close attention to who you’re renting from so you don’t end up in a difficult relationship.

8. Start Your Apartment Search with the Right Tools

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

These days we have tons of tools to help you find the perfect next place to live, from searching on Domain and, to hitting up Gumtree. When you’ve found a potential place, ask the right questions to make sure it’s a good fit (talk to neighbours, ask the landlord about maintenance requests and so on). Bring along some essential documents if you find a place you want to grab right away, or even have the rental forms filled out so you can apply immediately.

7. Upgrade Your Rental Without Pissing Off the Landlord

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

When you rent, you’re usually prohibited from making major changes to the place, but you can still customise just about every room without upsetting your landlord. Add more storage organisation in the kitchen, for example, or replace ceiling light covers and light switch covers. Bathroom fixtures, such as towel bars and mirrors, can also be easily replaced (and taken with you when you move), quickly changing the look of your bathroom.

6. Know Your Rights as a Tenant

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

As one landlord advised us, your state likely has a tenants’ rights handbook available online. This will tell you what your rights are and services that might be available to you if your renting situation gets bad. This is especially important if you’re a first-time renter and don’t know the ins and outs of renting yet and how to hold your landlord accountable if something goes wrong.

5. Pretend That You’re Buying a Home When Hunting for an Apartment

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

If you plan on renting for even a few years, the condition of the building will matter to you, so you might want to think as if you’re buying the place to make sure you really want to live there. For example, you could ask questions like if there’s lead paint on the walls and how old the appliances are. Thinking like a homeowner can also help you save more money: If your mortgage payment would be greater than your rent, take the difference and invest it.

4. Know How to Deal with Noisy Neighbours and Difficult Roommates

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

Unfortunately, you can’t choose your neighbours. If yours make too much noise, send them a subtle message or contact management if need be. If you’re sharing a pad with roommates, you’ll want to make sure early on that you’re compatible and set some ground rules to make living together easier. Let’s assume that your roommates (or future roommates) aren’t terrible, though, and you do want to live with them. Split the rent and divvy up the rooms fairly with this calculator.

3. Save Space (Even in a Tiny Apartment)

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

Many apartments, especially in big cities, don’t offer a ton of living or storage space. Simple storage hacks, like raising your bed to get more storage space or using over-the-door shoe hangers to store just about everything, can go a long way in even a small place. Also, command hooks can do wonders in a home.

2. Save Money on Rent by Moving at the Right Time

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

Spring and summer offer more rental space options, but there’s also more competition for renters. Winter, while offering less choice, is a slower season for apartment hunting, so landlords might be more open to negotiating the monthly rent. There might not be one absolute “best” time to shop for an apartment, but if you know the neighbourhood and how scarce apartments for rent are, you can plan when to look for a new place accordingly.

1. Avoid a Rent Increase and Negotiate Your Rent

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

One last thing you can’t control as a renter: The rent. Or can you? Rent prices are all over the map and rising across the country, but landlords still want to retain good renters like yourself. Exchange something you don’t care a lot about for a decrease in rent or to prevent a rent increase, things like: a longer lease or prepaying the rent months in advance. You might also convince a landlord not to raise your rent by reminding him or her how good of a tenant you are, both in terms of paying on time and being low maintenance.


  • 11. Get and keep everything in writing.

    No matter how much the landlord or agent insists that your/their word is good enough and that things can be arranged verbally, insist on following up in writing.

    That way, your rights under the Tenancy Act (or state equivalent) can be protected. Especially if the landlord/agent is not meeting their obligations (e.g. over repairs, etc). Legally, if it’s written down it’s happened. If not, then it’s just hearsay. Which becomes useful if any issues need to go to tribunal as a paper-trail will be crucial to defend your position.

    • In a similar vein, document the fuck out of your entry condition report.

      I mean if you aren’t a totally anal-retentive stickler for detail, get a friend or relative who is, and get them to help you spot the flaws in your apartment that need to be added to the condition report. Every scratch, dent, stain, smear, tricky handle or switch. EVERYTHING. In detail. With photographs.

      If you don’t, 9/10 bet that the landlord/property manager will attempt to take your bond as the perfect opportunity to fix those things without having to pay for them themselves.

      Even at the most charitable, it’s truly amazing how much closer attention a rental property manager or landlord will pay to the condition of the place after you move out than they do when you’re moving into it.

      (And if there are dents and bumps and scrapes that YOU cause, ‘fair wear and tear’ is not allowed to be charged to you. But do make sure you lodge maintenance requests to get them fixed. It’s fine to designate them as low priority, just make sure they aren’t charging YOU scuff marks on the skirting boards.)

  • Not really adding to the article, but just a ‘thank you’ for making a US article more localised for the AUS audience.
    Probably took a bit of effort to update the links and make sure it was relevant.

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