Renter’s Cheat Sheets: Tips for the Prospective Renter
• Ask around. If a friend lives in a place they like or deals with a landlord they like, there may be units available even if they aren’t advertised.
• What is the neighborhood like? Look at nearby amenities and bike/walkability. Check the 2009 Rental Living guide at VolumeOne.org for a full breakdown.
• Call the Health Department and check if there are any uncorrected complaints against the property (Eau Claire: 839-4718; Chippewa Falls: 723-5542; Menomonie: 232-2388)
• Get the name of a possible landlord and run it through WI Circuit Court Access (http://wcca.wicourts.gov/) to see if he/she has a clean record.
• The Eau Claire Police Department has developed a voluntary Certified Landlord Program. See if your landlord is certified, as it shows a dedication to what they do. (www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us/landlords)
• Never sign a lease without seeing the apartment – especially in complexes where “all the apartments are the same” and they keep a clean one on hand to show people like you.
• Read and understand all lease paperwork. Make sure all your questions and concerns are answered before you sign. It is a contract, and means you have legal responsibilities as well as the landlord.
• A one-page lease could be a red flag. The more paperwork, the better. Tenant and landlord responsibilities should be clearly defined.
• Good landlords enjoy answering questions. They want tenants who care about their living space.
• If you’re deciding between two places, consider the Paper Layout Experiment. Take the rough measurements of the crucial spaces, and note where there’s vents, doorways, windows, etc. Then measure your furniture, bookshelves, and the like. Divide the measurements down so the room can fit on paper. Then do cutouts of the furniture and organize them in the paper room. Whichever layout excites you more is the winner.