5 Crucial Questions To Ask Before You Rent A Home

You viewed a rental home and are ready to rent it. Details about the property were told to you. But were they the right details? Before you sign that rental lease, get the answers to these 5 crucial questions.

1. Is the owner in pre-foreclosure or intending to sell in the near future?

This is not much of a problem if you don't intend on staying for very long. However, if you want to stay in a home for a few years, your plans may be thwarted if the owner switches hands anytime soon. Get a lease for a set period of time rather than month to month. If selling, the new owner should honor your lease, giving you plenty of time to move or may pay you to move sooner. You could also request first option to buy when the landlord wants to sell. If the home gets foreclosed on, Massachusetts law says you have until the lease is up to move, unless the new owner intends to live in the home. In that case, you can either work something out with the new owner or wait for the courts to decide your fate. Check local records to determine if a home is in pre-foreclosure before signing that lease.

2. How old are the appliances and who is responsible for maintenance?

There is nothing worse than moving into a great home only to have the heater or refrigerator continually go out. You may not get an answer to this question, but if you do, you'll know if you should get renter's insurance that covers the loss of refrigerated/frozen food or buy a backup electric heater. Make sure that major kitchen appliances are not your responsibility to replace. Find out how long it generally takes to deal with maintenance requests and avoid surprises later.

3. What is the pet policy?

If a landlord states they take pets, find out what kinds. Many dog breeds are no longer covered under homeowner insurance policies, posing a risk or loss of insurance entirely to the landlord if one is on their property. Depending on the insurance company, this could mean pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepards and others not expected. Get a copy of the pet policy prior to signing the lease and, if not part of this policy, a copy of uninsured breeds.

4. Are there CC and Rs available for viewing?

This is important if living in a housing community of any kind. Perhaps your family has three vehicles, but a property only has space for two, street parking is not allowed and overnight street parking incurs a large homeowner's association (HOA) fine. Usually quite long and detailed, ask if there is a copy of the Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions online for viewing or if you could study a copy to avoid hefty HOA fines.

5. What are the heating and cooling costs?

First find out the type of heating and if there is air conditioning. The home may be the perfect rental, but the heating bill may break the bank in the winter, especially if an older home with poor insulation. Ask the landlord if they have heating bill amounts for the winter (and summer if air conditioning is installed) months. Call the utility companies with the address to get an estimate if not provided by the landlord.

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