Money Matters: 10 Tips for Becoming a Knowledgeable Renter

renting-2-300x300By Nathaniel Sillin

On the hunt for a new apartment? A move can be an exciting opportunity to explore a new area or meet new people. However, competitive rental markets can make it difficult to find a desirable place on a budget.

Keep these 10 tips in mind to manage the process like a pro. They’ll help you stand out from the crowd, get a good deal, enjoy the neighborhood and manage your rights and responsibilities as a renter.

  1. Talk to Other Tenants. Speak with current or past renters to get a sense for the building and landlord. Ask about the neighborhood, noise, timeliness with repairs and any other pressing questions. Consider looking for online reviews of the landlord as well, and research the neighborhood.
  2. Upgrade Your Application. Go beyond the basic application requirements and include pictures, references, credit reports and a short bio about yourself and whoever else may be moving in. Try to catch the landlord’s eye and show that you’ll take care of the property. You can order a free credit report from each bureau (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  3. Understand Your Lease. The lease may list the rent amount, terms of the security deposit, guest polices and other crucial details. Read it carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand something. State laws regarding rent control or other regulations can impact your situation as well. If you can afford one, you could hire a lawyer to review and explain the lease.
  4. Negotiate the Terms. You can’t always negotiate lower rent (it’s worth trying), but there may be flexibility when it comes to the security deposit, parking spaces, administrative fees, or the lease’s length.
  5. Learn Your Rights. Protect yourself by learning about your rights as a renter. They can vary by state, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a directory with links to tenants’ rights websites for each state.
  6. Do a Walkthrough. Walk through the apartment with the landlord, look for damages and document anything you find. You’ll thank yourself later when you move out and ask for your full security deposit back.
  7. Consider Renters Insurance. Renters insurance costs about $15 to $30 a month for a policy that covers $50,000 worth of losses. It reimburses you if your belongings are stolen, damaged or destroyed by a covered cause, such as a fire. The insurance also helps pay for legal fees if, for instance, someone sues after getting injured at your home.
  8. Make Your Own Repairs. Prior to signing the lease, ask if you can take on some of the maintenance responsibilities in exchange for reduced rent. You could offer to handle and pay for basic upkeep, such as replacing lights or smoke detectors, and making minor repairs.
  9. Pay Attention to Bills. Evaluate which bills you’ll pay in addition to the rent, such as gas, heat, water, electricity, trash, Wi-Fi or parking. A more expensive apartment that includes these can save you money overall.
  10. Talk to Your Landlord. Hiding financial trouble helps no one. Talk to your landlord and ask for an extension if you can’t make rent. Good tenants can be hard to come by, and your landlord will likely prefer open communication and a late check to being left in the dark.

Bottom Line: Being an informed renter is especially important in a competitive rental market. Take simple steps to improve your rental and money management skills and you’ll benefit for years to come.

 

ALERT: Scam Targeting Elderly

alertLackawanna County Area Agency on Aging is warning the elderly residents of our communities to be on alert for people posing as our Agency’s employees and asking for personal and/or financial records.

Please request the proper identification before allowing anyone into your home or giving any personal information. If you have questions, please call the Aging office at 570-963-6740.”

Athlete of the Month: Abby Sempa

athlete-of-the-month-abby-sempaBy Steve Svetovich

Abby Sempa is only a sophomore on the Holy Cross Lady Crusaders basketball team, but she fit in right away with her teammates.

And that is because she cares more about being a teammate than anything else.

Daughter of Fran and Mary Sempa, the sophomore starting shooting guard averages 8.3 points per game and adds an additional offensive threat to the team and the league’s leading scorer, teammate senior Abby Anderson. She was 50-61 from the free-throw line (82%) and made 27 three-point goals and a total of 58 field goals.

Abby, a two-year member of the Lady Crusaders, helped her team to a 15-5 record despite a 45-44 loss to Mid Valley in the first round of district playoffs.

The sophomore stalwart scored 10 points in the tough loss.

Abby, 16, is also a member of the cross country team at Holy Cross. She was a second-team all-star as a freshman cross country runner.

sempaA scholar-athlete, Abby has an impressive 3.8 academic average. Her best subject is math. She will be joining the environmental club this month.

Abby talked about what it takes to be a successful shooting guard. “You need a lot of focus and situational awareness. And be ready for the ball all the time.”

She talked about the success of the team during the regular season. “It’s all about teamwork and being close to each other as a team,” she said. “No one is selfish. We work as a team. We work hard. We cheer each other on. We are always there for each other on and off the court.”

Abby said she learned a lot from Holy Cross girls’ basketball coach Barry Fitzgerald. “He taught me how to play better defense and how to play in tough situations.”

And she has learned plenty from her parents. “My parents taught me how to be a better person, how to be respectful and about sportsmanship.”

Abby has a couple older sisters to look up to. Mary Grace played basketball and is a 2011 Holy Cross graduate. Eileen played basketball and is a 2007 Bishop Hannan graduate.

Abby talked about her future goals. “I want to try to excel on the basketball court and play for my teammates. I want to keep up on my grades and academic subjects. I want to go to a good college.”

The talented guard said she likes listening to music in her spare time and would like to see Maroon 5 in concert.

Abby has totally enjoyed her experience at Holy Cross thus far. “It has been a very good experience,” she said. “I like it here a lot, but sports has played a big part of it. I really enjoy keeping up on my grades too. The entire Catholic experience has been a major part of it for me.”