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Five things every renter should know

Andy Ouriel • Apr 1, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Donald Eager, who supervises the city of Sandusky’s fair housing program, provided some tips every renter should know about:

1. Every human being is protected through fair housing rights

State and federal laws include safeguards preventing landlords from discriminating against any and all citizens.

This would include a particular person’s race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability or military status.

“What fair housing does is it guarantees any citizen of the U.S. the right to live where they want to and where they can afford to,” Eager said.

“A landlord, a real estate agent, a lender, an insurance company or anybody else who has anything to do with the provision in the housing market can not set up artificial roadblocks that would deny someone the right to where they want to live.”

Landlords, real estate agents, lenders and insurance companies must also show people each house or financial option available.

They also can’t hide available units or funding opportunities from them, a process called steering.

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2. Landlords can’t ban children from living in certain spaces.

Seven children and their two parents can’t live in a one-bedroom home.

But if a mother wants to move her entire family, consisting of three children, into a fourbedroom unit, the landlord must comply and rent them this unit if all her finances check out.

“They can’t say, ‘I don’t rent to children,’” Eager said.

3. Check your entire unit before renting

Inspect your potential living quarters before moving in to ensure everything looks good and works well.

This would include opening up all the cupboards and closets, checking for water and window damage, looking for varmint, turning on all faucets, activating the unit’s cooling and heating systems and flushing the toilet.

“It’s like buying a used car. You have a tendency of being dazzled of what the car looks like, but you don’t look under the hood to see if it has an engine or in the trunk to see if it has a spare tire,” Eager said. “Tenants don’t pay enough attention to what they’re renting. If would be really good if tenants would look at the car, so to speak, before they rent.”

Eager said pinpointing unit deficiencies and getting them fixed, or signing an agreement to remedy these shortcomings, before moving in eliminates a lot of problems between tenants and landlords later on.

4. Find the dotted line and sign it

Eager argues it’s essential for every tenant to sign a lease prior to moving in, no matter how trustworthy a landlord seems.

“If the landlord does not give you a rental agreement or lease, which would clearly state what your responsibilities are and what their responsibilities are, as a prospective tenant, you might want to look somewhere else,” Eager said.

5. Go with the escrow

Renters can put their rent in escrow, effectively placing their monthly fee in a neutral account and not in a landlord’s pocket, whenever they raise a valid dispute.

Call the toll-free complaint hotline at 1-800-850-0467 for more information on escrow.

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