After being a landlord for almost three years, I’ve learned that tenants do some crazy things. From showing up drunk at a move in inspection to leaving all kinds of valuables behind, I really am not surprised by very much anymore. Since I get to see things from a different perspective than most of my tenants, I’m going let you in on ways renters can save money.
1) Don’t Move If You Don’t Have To
Every time you move into a new rental, there are expenses that include rental and utility deposits, costs of moving, and any new household items, like blinds or bath mats, that you might have to buy. You might get deposits back at some point, but you just as easily might not if your landlord requires a cleaning fee or deems something is damaged.
Obviously if you have to change cities or live in a rental that’s in poor shape, it makes sense to leave when your lease is up, but what if you don’t mind your place? Do your best to stay put. The grass is not always greener in a different home. Even if the landlord wants to raise rent, you have some options.
2) Negotiate Your Lease
If that landlord decides to raise rent and you’ve been a good tenant, don’t roll over and take it. As a business person, it makes sense to raise rents as market conditions allow. It isn’t personal. Landlords are in the game to make money, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice.
I don’t know a landlord who wouldn’t make some exceptions to keep a good tenant. The easiest thing is to remind the landlord you’ve been a stellar renter and would like to stay but can’t manage an increase in rent. If that doesn’t work, you can also offer to sign a multi-year lease or do some of the maintenance or yard work in exchange for no rent increase.
Remember that the mortgage payment your landlord pays is likely fixed, so if your rent is adequate to cover costs, raising rent might not be necessary. Also, it’s much cheaper to keep a renter than take the risk that the property might be vacant for a few months. There is no harm in asking for a rent freeze. I’d never say no if it meant losing a renter who is clean, on time, and an asset for the property.
3)Don’t Leave Stuff Behind, Including a Mess!
I don’t mind when tenants leave their stuff behind. Much of it is junk, but there are often hidden treasures, or at least things I can use myself. Recently, I’ve gotten some new cookware, dishes, dish towels, and a sweet money jar from a tenant who left everything behind. The stuff I don’t need can be sold or used for one of our rentals we are listing as partially furnished. If you’re too lazy to move or sell your own stuff, go on and leave it behind. It makes more money for us (insert evil laugh).
The thing that is not fun is when tenants leave behind a mess. While we’ve never had a renter who trashed one of our units, my property manager has tons of stories. She actually showed me some recent pictures from a slob tenant who left trash, stains, and dog turds all over the place when he moved out. He didn’t want a bad recommendation, so he paid to replace all the carpet and paint, which cost his $1000 deposit plus and additional $2000. He will also get a bad recommendation because what landlord is going to say that’s OK?
Leaving your stuff means loss of income for you either in potential sales or in cost to replace. Leaving a mess means loss of deposit and potentially a bad reference if you ever do want to rent again. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of word of mouth referrals.
4) Make Sure to Include Utilities in Your Monthly Expenses
Renters are no different than many house shoppers who fall in love with a place and calculate monthly costs based on the housing price alone. Even though tenants don’t have to pay for maintenance, they still have to consider utilities and insurance costs.
Ask the landlord for a yearly average of utility bills. Again, rental property is a business, and property owners are generally not going high end on rental finishes. Windows, insulation, and appliances might not be set up to reduce energy costs.
Renter’s insurance is a cost tenants can’t afford to go without. Even if your stuff isn’t worth very much, could you afford to replace everything at once if there was a fire or other catastrophe? Don’t spread yourself so thin on rent that you skimp on insurance.
5) Maintain a High Credit Score
Those hoping to apply for a mortgage aren’t the only ones who need to pay attention to credit scores. Landlords almost always do a credit check as part of a rental application. Having a low credit score sends a red flag that you might be someone who pays bills late or not at all. Luckily, there are several ways to raise your score including checking for and correcting errors, paying down debt, and making sure all bills are paid on time. You can get a free credit score in a few minutes from sites like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma.
I do hope to make money as a landlord but not at the expense of silly tenant mistakes. Home ownership is not for everyone, but we all have to live somewhere. If you are going to be a renter, make sure you take advantage of ways to save money.
What ways have you saved or lost money as a renter? Have you ever negotiated against a rent increase?
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