Let me preface this post by saying a few things.
1)Some of these suggestions may differ-depending on who you rent from.
2)Some may be used in conjunction with ownership. (You may need to do some of these things if you own).
When looking for a new place, ask as many questions as possible. It may seem annoying to the person on the other end, but there are a number of things that we all should know about a possible home before moving in. (Again, not all of these questions apply to all rental situations).
The answers to these questions will show how knowledgeable the landlord/property manager is about the property, and the answers to these questions may encourage you to want to rent from them, or dissuade you from doing so. What you must remember is that finding a good home is like finding a good job. There are diamonds in the rough, and there are places where you will get exactly what you pay for. When in the search process, act as if you are interviewing possible job candidates. The ball is in your court, (as long as you do not need a place RIGHT NOW). At this point in the game, they need you more than you need them.
Fill out your inspection COMPLETELY!
In most cases, after an agreement has been reached on lease term and price of rent, your landlord will give you a walkthrough inspection form to complete. It may not seem so, but this step is paramount in terms of importance. They will always tell you to fill out the form completely, but usually, natural human procrastination takes over and the inspection form sits on your table for a week. You realize that it is due tomorrow, so you do a half-assed job filling it out. This is a BIG mistake. You likely just cost yourself some money when it comes time for your security deposit to be returned.
When we moved into our current place, we required a new ceiling fan in the bedroom, a new towel rack in the guest bathroom, and repairs on a small hole in the wood siding on the back side of the house. We also asked for new carpeting downstairs (which was not granted). The benefit of asking for new carpet, but not getting it is this: When we plan to move, if our property manager tries to charge us for damages to the carpet, we will be able to point out our request for a new carpet. This will show them that the carpet was not satisfactory (according to us) and will make them less likely to charge us for carpet damages during our tenancy. We also had a water spot above the shower that has grown exponentially since we have moved in. Luckily, I did report this on the inspection sheet, and we have called about the spot on two separate occasions, so we will not incur any liability for damages that may result from this spot. (I do need to call them about this again, though).
Keep in frequent contact with your landlord/property manager/leasing office.
The better you know these people, the faster they will be to help you when you need it. I’m not telling you to befriend them or hang out with them, just that it helps to know them and have regular contact with them that is not emergency related. It is not necessary to nag them about every situation that arises. When you drop off your rent or see them around the property, strike up a conversation. It will only make things smoother when issues do rear their ugly heads.
Take care of small issues yourself.
If you live in an apartment complex this may not apply to you, but small repairs or changes to your home can be done yourself. For example, I am currently in the process of re-caulking my tub. Sure, I could call our property manager’s office and have them send a maintenance person to come and do this job, but it is not difficult. I do not want it to seem like I call them for every scratch and ding, so I am more than happy to take care of small issues myself.
When your lease is up and it is time to move.
Give clear and concise notification of intention to vacate in writing, and ask management their expectations for the condition of the property. If you have painted, they may ask you to paint it white (they may also let you leave it as-is). Ask what kind of cleaning crew they are going to send in and what they sometimes miss. This will give you the opportunity to concentrate on specific areas that previous renters may have missed.
Do your best to keep both parties satisfied.
Your lessors want to be able to turn around the property as quickly as possible after you leave. You want your security deposit back (and maybe a good referral for the next place). Why not please yourself and your landlord by doing everything in your power to leave your place in the best possible condition. Clean meticulously. Fix small wear and tear damages. Make everything look great and you will get your money back, and your landlord will be happy. This last step is often the hardest of all, but if done right, all parties will exit the lease agreement satisfied. No headaches? Sounds good to me.