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11 Renting Lifehacks Every 20-Year-Old Should Know

A veteran renter explains the renting lifehacks that changed their life.

In the past 10 years, I have been the center of a number of renting disasters. If anyone knows renting, it's me—and it's simply because of how many problems I've faced.

I've been illegally evicted. I had an apartment with an off-lease roommate group that wouldn't leave. I lived in an illegal loft that was run by a would-be hipster slumlord. I've also lived in a roach-heavy venue that really wasn't actually habitable. 

Over the years, I learned my lessons the hard way. Nowadays, I have no problem dealing with renting. I can handle negotiations like a pro, and have no issue dealing with landlords who want to give a hard time. 

I'm the type of person who realizes renting a home can be cheaper than owning one. So, while I've had my mishaps in the past, I definitely know

Speaking as someone who didn't have the luxury of having someone help them choose a place, these renting lifehacks are a huge help for anyone looking for a new place to stay. 

Use command hooks and thumbtacks to hang up all the little doodads in your home.

Most rental agreements have a clause that bars renters from making major changes to their homes. Major changes include drilling holes in the wall for shelving, not installing overhead lighting, and not taking down walls. 

It's a reasonable request, but man, can it put a damper on your decorating! I learned rather quickly that command hook lifehacks and a very avid use of thumbtacks can overcome this issue perfectly. 

Since they are temporary measures that can act permanently, they are also a godsend once it's time to move. This little DIY decorating hack is one of the best renting lifehacks out there for artsy folks that love a good-looking home. 

Know what to ask to give your landlord the right impression before you rent.

Living in an area where the demand for cheap rentals is sky-high isn't easy. If you want to snag a cheap apartment, you will have a lot of competition around you. 

Your best bet is to make a good impression on the landlord. Assuming that you have good income and a clear background check, the easiest way to add icing to the cake is to dress well during your screening and ask the right questions. 

These questions include:

  • "Is this a quiet neighborhood?" You want to give the impression that you are not going to be a noisy neighbor. 
  • "Tell me about the cleanliness. I'm hoping that there are some good guidelines we all should follow, right? There aren't many pests here, right?" Landlords love clean renters, and unfortunately, they are rarer than you'd think. These questions signal that you are a clean renter who will keep their property in peak condition. 
  • "Are the schools here good?" Another sign of a responsible renter!

Fix your credit score before you go apartment hunting.

You already should know that your credit score can affect your investments, loans, and even your job. Your credit score is important—and that's why there are so many apps that monitor your credit score online. 

It's no secret that landlords often will check your credit score before they decide who to rent to. Another one of my favorite renting lifehacks is to correct your credit score in order to get a better deal on your renting journey. 

All you need to do is pull up your credit score, dispute bad marks, and watch as your numbers increase over the course of a month or so. It's really that simple, and it can make or break your ability to find an apartment to rent. 

Read, and re-read, your apartment rental agreement.

You would be shocked at how much information you can find in a rental agreement. In many cases, landlords that decide it's time for you to go will use minor rules found in the agreement to legally evict you.

Make a point of following the rules of your apartment rental to a T, and you will be able to hold your own against eviction court in a heartbeat. Additionally, following the rules will also give you a good reference from landlords. 

Know your rights as a tenant.

One of the biggest lessons I learned as a tenant came from my illegal eviction and a very bad breakup. Simply put, I didn't know what my rights as a tenant were and my landlords trampled all over them as a result of my ignorance. 

Most people out there, including those who rented for years, do not know their rights as a tenant. Here's the important ones that you should know:

  • You can't be asked to leave immediately. To be evicted, you need to be given an eviction notice and also would have had to do some seriously egregious contract breaching—like not paying rent. The eviction notice will give you about a month to two weeks in order to leave. You may appeal the eviction by going to court. 
  • Your landlord cannot lock you out of your property without an eviction, nor can they threaten to call the cops for sleeping in your apartment if you haven't been legally evicted. This is an illegal eviction and it's punishable by law. Should this happen to you, call the police. 
  • You have the right to a habitable apartment. Habitable, by law, means it's pest-free, safe, has running utilities, and also has working appliances. If your apartment is not habitable and it's due to landlord neglect, you have the right to withhold rent or ask to break your contract early. 
  • A landlord who doesn't hold up their end of the bargain is guilty of a "breach of contract." A breach of contract is something that you can take them to court over, and can be grounds for you to move out on your own accord if need be. 

By being willing to stand up for yourself, you're learning one of the greatest renting lifehacks I've ever taught. This can and will become useful throughout your life. 

Vet your landlord and your roommates.

You already probably know that having roommates means you should be careful about who you let in. Personally, I will never have roommates again. I've had too many bad experiences and it's not worth the money I'd allegedly "save" by having a roommate again. 

Most people don't realize that you also should check out landlords. A bad landlord, or worse, a slumlord, can make your life a living hell—or try to illegally evict you. 

Some sites, such as Review My Landlord, will allow you to read up on what other people have to say about your landlord. Trust us, it can be a lifesaver. 

Tape, cover and wrap your apartment for added flair.

Love the look of a fully-customized home, but hate the fact that landlords really can't seem to jive with your fashion statement? Tapes, wraps, and even cloth accents can help you get that custom decor vibe without actually removing the items that came with your apartment. 

Once you are done and need to move out, remove the wraps, and your apartment's fixtures will be good as new. 

Don't be afraid of empty space.

When you get your first apartment, it's totally normal to feel the pressure to have as much furniture as your home can fit. As tempting as it is, it's not necessarily a good idea. 

Too much furniture can make it hard to navigate your home, get rid of extra storage space, and may even make it difficult to actually relax in your place. Once you move in, give yourself a little extra space in your home. We're willing to bet it'll help you feel way better about the overall vibe of your place. 

Don't be afraid to negotiate on rent.

Everything in life, really, is negotiable. This includes rent. If a landlord says that a rental is $1,000, that doesn't always mean that the rent price will be firm. It's okay to ask your landlord if the price is firm. 

A good way to knock $50 off your monthly rent is to offer to put the deposit down immediately if they give you a small discount. In many cases, individual landlords will be happy to accommodate you. 

Another good phrase you can use is: "Is this the best you can do?" This phrase acknowledges that there are limits, but that the price is still flexible. Once again, it's a very useful phrase that can help you do great things. 

Use the Rule of 40 to figure out your maximum rent.

Finally, one of the best renting lifehacks I learned came from New York City. Most New Yorker landlords will not rent an apartment to someone who doesn't make 40 times the amount that they charge for rent. 

This may seem a bit like overkill, but it really isn't. This "Rule of 40" is a great budget safeguard to abide by and can help you avoid serious problems if you're let go from a job. 

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