Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988: The Fair Housing Amendments Act was signed on September 13, 1988. The major provisions include:
Protection against discrimination for persons with disabilities and families with children under the age of 18.
Extension of the time line for filing a complaint from 180 days to two years.
Provides stronger administrative remedies for individuals.
HUD was given greater authority and discretion for administering and resolving complaints.
Removal of restrictions on monetary and punitive damages in civil actions.
Handicapped access must be provided in all new buildings with four or more units.
The right to modify dwellings was guaranteed to disabled tenants.
Housing for the elderly was re-defined to be a facility constituting 80% residency by those 55 years of age or older.
The Americans with Disabilities Act: The ADA was signed into federal law on July 26, 1990, extending civil rights protection to people who are considered disabled. ADA is modeled after the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which mandates that accessibility may be extended to any program, service, activity or facility receiving federal money.
Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA): HOPA was enacted in December 1995 and basically amended the elderly exception to the familial status protections under the Fair Housing Act. HOPA made it easier for housing developments to qualify as housing for older persons and exclude children.
Know Your Budget! Don’t forget that some apartments require you to cover gas, electric, water, trash or some combination of these utilities. Be sure to know what you can really afford. There are several online budget calculator tools that can help. If unsure about the utilities- ask the property manager/landlord what the average is for these, they should know.
Come Prepared! Just like with a job come with a resume of sorts. The key information to have is (a) Rental/ housing history* (b) job history (c) references- at least 3. This is typically the information needed on an application. Also be sure that you have enough money for the deposit and first month’s rent ready to go (usually equals 2 months rent). Use a check**.
*Pro Tip- If you have never rented before- ask a parent or responsible adult to co-sign; this will give the property manager/ landlord some security since there is no credit history to look at.
**Pro-Tip- Using a check to pay the deposit and first month’s rent allows you to ask them to hold the check until the paperwork has been signed. If there is an issue that comes up before moving in, you can stop payment on a check and there is documentation that the transaction occurred. Getting cash back is almost impossible.
Scope out the Area! It is important to walk and drive around an area you are considering renting in- both during the day and at night! This is someplace that you will be spending a lot of time during the evening hours and sometimes the look and feel of an area can change after business hours end. Be sure to get the lay of the land before it is too late.
Walk-Through and Document! Never, ever, ever rent something sight unseen unless there is a clear way to get out of the rental without financial impact. Before signing that contract be sure that you document the condition of the apartment. Take pictures, videos, and notes as you walk through- save them (this is documentation you can use to get your deposit back when you move on)! This is also a good time to take measurements to see if all your stuff is going to fit. Be sure that any repairs, issues, or agreements you discuss with the property manager/landlord is in writing before you sign the lease.
Leases should spell everything out- make sure you get a copy! A good lease will have very clear detail about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. If renting a house, you are sometimes in charge of lawn care and maintenance. If there is a plumbing, heating, or other major problem- it should tell you who to contact and how the process will work. For more information on your rights- see the fair housing links.
Get Renters Insurance! We never want to think about the worst-case scenarios playing out when it comes to our homes, but life happens. If you are renting it is important to understand that a landlord's insurance policy does not apply to a renter's contents. Be sure that you protect yourself and the possessions you move into a rental apartment or home by investing in renter's insurance. Fire, flood/water damage, and tornadoes may be the threats to home that come to mind, but theft is most common. Talk to several insurance agents or even go online to get comparison rates. Be sure that you read carefully what is covered, what will not be covered, as well as your monthly rate.