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Homes | Renting

What to know before you rent a house or apartment

More Americans than ever are renting homes due to factors ranging from a tough housing market to people moving for new job opportunities. Whether you are considering renting a house or apartment, there are many things to consider before signing on the dotted line. It's most important to understand your lease and protect your property against damage and theft. StatePoint

Read the fine print

You need to understand all details of your lease, including your responsibilities. Be sure to check beginning and ending dates. How much will rent increase next year? Are utilities included? Is renters insurance required? How are maintenance requests handled?

And if you're short on cash for your security deposit, consider asking your landlord about an alternative security deposit program, such as one called SureDeposit. The service enables you to avoid more expensive traditional security deposits by paying a one-time bond premium at a fraction of the cost. In the event of damage at the end of the lease, SureDeposit reimburses the apartment owner or manager, and the renter reimburses the bond company.

Renters insurance is key

One of the most essential things you can do is purchase renters insurance, required by many property managers. Your personal belongings won't be covered by your landlord's insurance in the event of theft or disaster. Could you afford to replace your TV, computer, furniture and clothing if they were damaged by fire or smoke? What if you left the water running and damaged your furniture and rug?

A good renters insurance policy will cover more than just your personal belongings — it can even pay part of your rent should you lose your job. Renters insurance also provides personal liability coverage. If someone is hurt in your apartment you could be liable for medical expenses. And if you accidentally start a kitchen fire and don't have insurance, you would be liable for damage to your unit and your neighbor's property.

For information on choosing the right policy, visit www.rentersecurity.com.

"A residential fire occurs every 80 seconds, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. You should ask yourself how expensive it would be to get your life back after such an event or a burglary, if you weren't insured," says Kathy McDonald, senior vice president of Assurant Specialty Property. "In these types of situations, renters quickly realize the value of their renters insurance. For a minimal financial investment, renters insurance provides peace of mind for the unexpected."

Trust but verify

Before committing to your new home, inspect it and make sure any problems are noted so you aren't charged for them.

Check everything, including walls, floors, windows, electricity and plumbing. You should even inspect closets and the interiors of appliances.

What to know before you rent a house or apartment 08/23/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 5:30am]

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