Tips for being a smart renter |

Tips for being a smart renter

Shelley Polansky
Better Business Bureau

With rents topping $800 for a one-bedroom apartment and more than $1,000 for a two-bedroom, it behooves potential renters to research the property — and property-management company — before plopping down a deposit along with the first and last month’s rent and signing a yearlong lease.

Why? In 2012, more than 6,400 complaints against apartment complexes and landlords were filed with the Better Business Bureau for issues including incorrect billing, trouble getting security deposits back or getting repairs handled in a timely manner.

If you’re looking to rent, your Better Business Bureau offers these tips:

Go to to check out apartment complexes and property managers you are considering. Better Business Bureau Business Reviews show a company’s rating and whether there’s a history of complaints.

Before signing the lease, make sure you read and understand the rental terms and your responsibilities as a tenant. When is rent due? Who pays for utilities? Are pets allowed? Keep a copy for your records.

Before moving in, look over the condition of the apartment in person, and document all flaws and defects in both writing and with photos. Have all agreements, such as what improvements will be made and when, put into writing.

Find out how maintenance and repair concerns are handled and within what time frame. What is your responsibility when it comes to minor repairs or replacing light bulbs? Remember that you have certain rights when it comes to a livable space, such as heat, water, electricity and clean, safe surroundings. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at for information on landlord-tenant rights.

For more consumer tips and information, visit

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