Renting a place can be exciting, specially if it’s your first time living alone. Its your borrowed castle. You are the benevolent dictator and the land is yours to govern. Yet your reign might be short lived if you don’t follow these useful tips. Below are the Top Ten Tips to rent in Miami-Dade County.
1. “Though shalt make a budget”
“Hello, I would like to rent your unit for $1,200”
“Sure! What is your monthly income?”
See the problem here?
I get calls like this all the time. People often underestimate how much the cost of living is, specially first time renters. They tend to overlook electricity, food, car and health insurance, gas, furniture, credit cards and countless monthly subscriptions; not to mention the miscellaneous items that pop up every two days.
That is why it’s essential budgeting before renting to avoid late payments, unnecessary stress or an eviction.
A good rule is to have a NET income of no less than 1.8 times your rent.
This can be calculated as follows:
Net Monthly Income/1.8= Max Monthly Rent Amount
$2,160/1.8= $1,200 Max Monthly Rent
No doubt you could be super thrifty and squeeze in with less, but its a gamble the landlord won’t take, its best to have wiggle room and ensure a competitive application.
2. “Thou shalt plan ahead”
“Hello, is the condo on 8th street available?”
“Yes! When would you like to move in?”
“I need it for tomorrow”
Yea, and I need a Ferrari for tonight…
Budget yourself about from 4-6 weeks to find a place. Not only to give your current landlord (or parents) appropriate notice, but to look for options, view the units, apply to the owner, and then apply to the association (which can take from 2-4 weeks). Almost all units in Miami have associations, which is undoubtedly the longest part of the process. So it’s important to have ample time to follow all the steps account for surprises.
3. “Thou shalt study the area”
Narrow your search by area. What is most convenient to you? Specially with Miami traffic, proximity to your common stops is key.
You should consider:
-Extracurricular activities (i.e. gym)
While sticking to your budget and preferences, try to be as central as possible from the places you most frequent.
Note: When looking at properties it’s a good idea to bring a tape measure to get a feel for the dimensions and see if your furniture will fit!
4. “Thou shalt have coin”
In Miami-Dade it’s common for landlords to ask 3 months to move in. This could be either two months deposit plus the first month, or first, last and security, not to mention the application fee to the landlord and association.
Here is a real-world example:
Yolanda Villas Condominium, a 1 bedroom for $1,200, will require:
$3,600 for the first month and both securities
$80 for the application fee with Landlord
$225 for the association fee including parking decals and entry key.
That is an upfront cost $3,905 for a $1,200 rental.
The security deposit of $2,400 is refundable as long as you leave the unit intact, but you must have the cash on hand before you start looking.
5. “Thou shalt work with an honorable Realtor”
Realtors get paid on commission from the first month’s rent; the landlord pays the agents, not the tenant. That means that it’s free for you! You have a licensed professional to look for units, make appointments, prepare an offer, review contracts and walk you through the process for free!
A good agent will:
-Find updated and verified properties (Just because they are online doesn’t mean they are current).
-Ensure the unit belongs to who they say it does, and research if its in foreclosure (imagine getting kicked out because the person you rented from was not the owner!)
-Prepare the offer (They know what landlords look for; a well prepared offer will get you ahead of the pack)
-Ensure you are protected in the lease contract (More on that later)
-Prepare the offer for the association (They can be incredibly picky…)
-Pressure the association on your behalf for a quick approval.
-Answer any questions you might have.
It’s not uncommon for an agent to ask for a month deposit upfront before touring properties with you; for a reputable and established company, this is fine, done because some tenants only want a city tour or end up renting with someone else. If they do ask for it, know they won’t stop until they find you a unit, or refund your deposit.
6. “Thou shalt not lie”
If you have a record, disclose.
If you have outstanding debts or any other relevant information, disclose.
Don’t lie because they might say no, they will find out anyways. The property management background screenings tell them all about you. Many Landlords will let small mishaps pass if the tenant is truthful from the start, but if they lie, that implies bad faith from the beginning. Not to mention that if you gave half the deposit to secure the unit, and then the association denies you because they caught your lie, you will not see that money again.
When renting and in life, don’t lie!
7. “Thou shalt have a contract”
“My friend Juanito has a condo with a space available, he told me I can rent it for $900 a month and pay him cash.”
Tell Juanito “no gracias!”
-How do you know that is Juanito’s property?
-How do you prove you are renting there?
-How do you prove you where paying rent?
Remember that a contract protects the landlord and the tenant. Tenants have many rights in the state of Florida and a contract is the best way to ensure those rights are followed. In Miami Dade, Lease Contracts are typically done yearly with an option for renewal. Additionally, a contract will:
-Give you legal right to rent the unit
-Legally bind the owner to pay for specific maintenance and utilities
-Ensure the landlord does not increase your rent within the lease
-Ensure the landlord gives the unit in livable and acceptable conditions
-Ensure the landlord can’t kick you out until your contract is over
Renting without a contract is like driving without a seat-belt. Check out the post on understanding the Florida Residential Lease Contract to understand the lease contract.
8. “Thou shalt pay on time!”
This is huge! The law prevents the owner from increasing the rent during the contract, it also compels you to pay on time.
Most contracts have late fees preventing you to pay the next month unless those are paid first. Additionally, remember that if the payment is not received on schedule, you will get a 3-day notice on your door, and if you still don’t pay, the landlord might start the eviction process. The last thing anybody wants is for the police to show up and force you out of the property. Not to mention that the eviction will stay on your record for years and will make it virtually impossible to ever rent again.
9.”Thou shalt take pictures at the Walk Through”
The walk through is the final step when renting a unit. This is after you’ve received the association approval and are now going to get the keys. Ensure the listing agent/owner perform a walk through with you present. This means they should have a list to jot down the unit’s condition and functionality. Ensure you get a copy of this walk through in case of a claim on your deposit. Even better, take pictures of every corner of the house, write an email explaining all the damages and send it to the owner while keeping a copy. This will serve as a more detailed walk through on which you protect yourself.
10. “Thou shalt care for the property”
Treat the unit as if it was yours. Keep it clean, well maintained and minimize wear and tear. Remember the security deposit is to ensure tenants leave the unit in the same conditions they received it. Unfortunately that’s many times not the case. Be the exception to the rule! When its your time to go, ensure all the walls are painted, all the holes patched up, all the corners cleaned and leave the house better than you found it. This will not only ensure you get your full deposit back, but it will also be the right thing to do.
These 10 Commandments will keep you safe when renting a unit in Miami-Dade. Even though it’s not an all inclusive list, it cover the main aspects of the lease process to ensure you and the landlord have a smooth ride.
Now that you are armed, make sure to check out the Rental Process, Miami-Dade to know the step by step protocol for renting a unit.
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