Steven Kellman has made a living helping renters, and he's seen it all. As the founder of the Tenants Legal Center in San Diego, Kellman says the most important thing for new renters is to take their time when choosing a home, apartment or condominium. Here are three tips from Kellman for college students looking for a place to live:
1) Check out the landlord while the landlord checks you out. Steven Kellman says with our current economy, it is a temptation for people to rent out their house when it is in the midst of foreclosure. Kellman says you should check government records before handing over your money to make sure the house does not have a notice of default.
"Maybe it is already sold and they are taking money they are not entitled to," said Kellman, "The next thing you know there is a knock on the door and it's the bank saying, `Hey, who are you?'"
2) Get everything in writing. Unfortunately you can't rent on a promise and a handshake. Today you need to get your agreement in writing, especially if it involves improvement to the property. If you want to get your deposit back when you move out, make sure you document the condition of the property when you move in.
"Take photos. If there is a pre-existing damage or wear, document it. Have a check-in sheet with the landlord," said Kellman. "Just hang onto the paperwork and photos so you won't be responsible for the damage that was there when you moved in."
3) Create a written agreement with your roommates. Steven Kellman says it is important when everyone gets along to create a set of rules that will govern use of the house or apartment during the school year. It doesn't have to be a form, simply take a sheet of paper and write what you expect from each other. What are the rules? What do you agree on? How will you resolve problems when they happen?
"Who is using this room? What are the refrigerator rules? What are the privileges with the rec room or what about bringing in overnight guests," said Kellman.