1. Location matters
Visit potential neighborhoods a few times, at different times of the day, before deciding on whether to rent.
2. The landlord is not your buddy
The landlord might be perfectly nice, but your relationship is about business, not friendship. Check into your potential landlord’s reputation before you sign a lease. Get everything in writing, even something as simple as assurance of when a problem will be fixed. Keep copies of all documentation and correspondence between the landlord and you.
3. Skimming your lease is not enough
All agreements between the landlord and you should be in the lease before you sign it. Be sure you completely understand and agree to all of the provisions in the lease. Never let anyone pressure you into signing with just a cursory once-over.
4. You are in charge of your own safety
New renters also need to know where smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are, how to maintain them and what to do in an emergency.
5. Roommate caution
Remember that when you sign a lease together, you could be responsible for the whole bill if roommates do not pay their share.
6. You need to go shopping
Remember to factor household costs into your budget. Some of the basics you will need to buy: cleaning supplies, small appliances; pots and pans; light bulbs; shower curtains and plunger.
7. Insurance is cheap, and necessary
Costing as little as $12 a month, renters’ insurance could save you, if your belongings are stolen or destroyed in a fire. Your landlord usually is not responsible for replacing or repairing your property. Insurance can cover against those situations, as well as theft from other places, such as the trunk of your car.
8. Be Nosey, be pushy
Spend time examining utility closets and appliances during your tour. If something breaks, keep calling until it’s fixed. Some landlords may not respond unless you call them frequently.
9. Rent is not the only thing you will need to pay for
Utilities are another cost that renters often forget to work into their budgets. You can expect to spend about 31 to 35 percent of your income on the combined cost of rent and utilities. Before you sign a lease, contact the utility companies to find out how much the bills were last year and how much you’ll pay in setup fees and deposit. If utilities are included in your rent, find out how much control you have over their use. What sounds like a good deal might not be so hot if you hit a cold snap before the landlord turns on your radiator.
10. You Have Rights
Remember, while paying rent, the apartment is your private home first and the landlord’s property second.
This brochure is general information and is not everything you need to know before you rent. You should talk to an attorney if you have more questions or if you want advice on your specific situation.
- Access to Quality Housing
- Heirs Property
- Landlord/Tenant Issues
- Public Housing
- Security Deposit Returns
- Utility Cutoffs
- Consumer & Bankruptcy
- Federal Income Tax
- Migrant Farm Workers
Additional information may be found at:
South Carolina’s guide to free legal resources
This brochure was prepared by South Carolina Legal Services and is provided as a public service.
Copyright retained by South Carolina Legal Services
Printed June 2014
South Carolina Legal Services is a statewide law firm that provides civil legal services to protect the rights and represent the interests of low-income South Carolinians.
All low-income South Carolinians will have full and fair access to justice.