Renters, Here are the Emergency Supplies That Nobody Mentions

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What would you as a renter consider to be an emergency? Natural disasters, certainly. Fires, floods and terrorist attacks are all probably on the list. Some of you may have even thought about what you would do during a zombie attack. But what about more personal emergencies such as illnesses and overdoses? What about maintenance emergencies in your apartment that you cannot repair on your own?

There’s plenty of sites that will give you guides on what to keep in assorted kits for use in case of emergency. The Department of Homeland Security has a good one at Ready.gov but it lists items for a bare minimum kit to use in a true weather or war-related disaster. Government emergency preparedness sites focus on major disasters that would affect huge swaths of the population. It doesn’t necessarily address the all of the real life needs of urban renters nor does it consider less serious personal emergencies that may still be life-threatening or at least hazardous.

Our list today will focus on the things that the government sites leave out. This is not to discount the lists that they provide – by all means keep those plastic sheets and bottles of water on hand if you want to. Rather, it provides things that renters should add to their list of emergency supplies on top of the more well-known lists.

1. Three months of rent in a separate bank account.

There are so many people who remain in dangerous housing because they can’t afford to move. You should always be ready with three months of rent on hand – enough to cover a new security deposit, first month’s rent, moving and utility setup costs. You never know when you’re going to have to move in a hurry or come up with extra cash. Your roommate might get arrested. You might break up with your partner. Your landlord might sell the building to the Trump Organization. No matter the cause, always have the cash on hand to get out in a hurry. It’s best to set this aside in a separate bank account and a separate bank from the one you normally use and limit your access to it. Get an ATM card only, or ideally no card at all. Continue reading Renters, Here are the Emergency Supplies That Nobody Mentions

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Apartment Hunting for Homeowners

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Many of you may be looking at this article’s title with some amount of doubt. The unprotected minorities series has thus far focused for the most part on renters who are at a disadvantage due to their unique traits – pet owners, overweight individuals, night owls, introverts. By contrast, former owners are actually in a great position when it comes to getting approved for apartments. After all, if a mortgage lender has already vetted someone, chances are they will pass any apartment community’s criteria for income and behavior with flying colors. However, they are still a minority that is frequently overlooked in marketing of rental housing, and they definitely have certain quirks and concerns that can make the return to renting a challenge.

The well-worn trope of the “American dream” would have us believe that home ownership is the main goal, and that those who buy a house will never go back to renting. The reality is far different. According to the most recent American Housing Survey run by the US Census Bureau in 2013, 23.4% of those who moved to renter-occupied housing within the past year in the Chicago metro area came from owner-occupied housing. However, only 10.5% of those who made the shift back to renting from owning cited “change from owner to renter” as their primary reason for making the move.

Off the top of my head I can think of a lot of reasons why a homeowner might become a renter again. Temporary job changes and divorce both come to mind. Seniors who can no longer handle maintenance of their homes might consider moving to a setting where a landlord handles such chores. In addition those who are looking for themselves, there are also homeowner parents who are assisting their children with an apartment search. No matter the reason, returning to the rental market after years of homeowner life takes some adjustment. We’re here to help you structure your search by pointing out common pitfalls faced by owners turned renters, and by providing some workarounds. Continue reading Apartment Hunting for Homeowners

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

The Lease Signing Takeaway List

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There are a few situations in adult life where you are confronted by an authority figure with a stack of legal documents in a closed-off and usually stuffy room. Most of them involve an exchange of a whole lot of cash. There’s the car purchase, the home sale closing and, most pertinent to this blog, the lease signing. Regardless of what they’re buying, consumers in these situations often find that they draw a blank on the questions they meant to ask before signing their lives away.

Here at RentConfident we believe that a lease signing should be a two-way conversation, and that neither you nor your landlord holds any greater or lesser authority until the papers are signed by both sides. To that end, we’ve got a list of questions that you can copy to your phone and bring with you. Make it a worksheet, and fill in the answers to each question in language you can understand. Do not walk out of your lease signing until you have filled in every blank.

A few notes are in order before we begin. Some of these questions might not apply to you or to the building you’re moving into. Adjust the list as needed. Questions that are likely to get a bluffed or false answer from the landlord are marked with a star. This list is specific to Chicago, so it skips over common things found elsewhere such as wells, septic systems and radon abatement equipment. Mandatory disclosures that are required by law in Chicago such as lead paint, bedbug policies and security deposit procedures are not included in this list. This list is by no means exhaustive but it’s a pretty good start!

Dates

  • When does the lease start? Date and time.
  • When does the lease end? Date and time.
  • When do you have to provide notice if you are moving out?
  • What day of the month is rent due?
  • What day of the month is rent considered past due?
  • Does this lease renew automatically or will there be a new lease when this one expires?

Continue reading The Lease Signing Takeaway List

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Planning for the Inevitable

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In response to last week’s article about lease clauses, someone said to me, “Oh, I don’t need to worry about reading all that, I just go month to month verbal with my landlord!” Now, I know that there are many areas of the US and the world where verbal agreements for rental are standard practice, but I’ve got something to share with you today that may change your mind about them.

On April 10, 2013 I published an article in my old real estate blog that I’d intended to be a puff piece. It was a quickly written, relatively superficial post intended to meet a deadline while I worked on a bigger research project in the background. It turned out to be one of my most popular posts, with 90 comments to date. It’s called “What Happens If Your Landlord Dies?”

The comment section on that post is an anthology of tragedy. Most of the stories in the comments all have a second common thread besides deceased landlords: the complete absence of a paper trail. To prove my point about written leases, I’m going to let them do the talking for me. (Note: quotes have been edited for grammar & spelling and certain sections have been bolded.)

“My landlord died but he’s also my boss! So the lawyer has taken over now and he gave me like 4 days to move out its been like 7 and I haven’t yet. I don’t have a written lease just verbal and I was paying weekly! So now I have no job no $$ to get a new place and they’re kicking me out. Is this legal? Should I just listen to him and be homeless & jobless?” – July 2014 Continue reading Planning for the Inevitable

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.