Questions to Ask When Renting a Home

Rental Housesweeks ago I wrote how people who can’t sell their home are starting to mull renting it instead.

If you’re one of those on the opposite side of the equation — you want to rent a home — here’s a quick list of things to look for in a rental home. Even though you’re just renting, you’re still investing in a community, and there are some important things to consider:

• The quality of the neighborhood and area schools as well as school bus routes, schedules and stops. If you have kids, find out if their school schedule fits your own.

• Check crimes rates in the area, as well as the sex offender registry.

• Is the new place convenient for your work, and does it have ready access to services and businesses that you frequent?

Here’s what to check on the house itself:

• Who’s responsible for general maintenance and utility bills, you or the landlord?

• Can you get the landlord easily if there is an emergency? Some homeowners who rent are doing so because they are moving out of state. Check to see if that’s the case.

• Do a background check on the homeowner just as they’d do one on you, say experts — you’ll never know what secrets may be in their financial closet. You don’t want the house to get foreclosed on, leaving you having to find a new place. Make sure whoever you’re renting from is current on their mortgage — and looks set to stay current.

• Check for environmental hazards like lead paint, asbestos and mold, particularly older homes. Don’t assume that the landlord has done those checks for you. And don’t assume any defects you see in the house will be fixed in the months ahead — make the fixes a condition of your signing the lease.

• Go over the lease carefully, particularly the section about breaking your lease. Also, be sure to check out renters insurance — your landlord’s insurance won’t cover you for most things.

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