Protecting Yourself as a Renter

By: Tasha Howard, Extension Assistant Professor

April 27, 2021

a sign that say for rent

With the way that house prices are rising in Utah, you may have found yourself in a similar situation to me – wanting to have your own place but needing to save just a little while longer so you can confidently buy a home, without wrecking your monthly budget. If that is your case, here are some things you can and should do to protect yourself as a renter.

  1. Get renter's insurance. 

    This is usually anywhere between $15-30 a month that can save you big time in the long run. What renter’s insurance does is ensure that the belongings you house within the rental property are covered should there be any damage. For example: the water heater breaks, and your rental is flooded. Everything on the floor is ruined, including that backpack where you keep your work papers and laptop. Depending on your policy, that can be covered. Renter’s insurance is a great way to protect yourself and your belongings in the event of something out of the norm happening while you are leasing.

  2. Know your rights and where to file complaints.
    Many times, in renting things happen that are cause for concern. For example, if your landlord gives you notice they are selling the property, and you need to find a new place to live, do you know how much time they must give you, so you aren’t left on the streets? What about if your AC or heater breaks, did you know it is within your rights to withhold rent or pay for repairs yourself and have that go towards future rent, if “reasonable measures” are not taken to repair the issue? Laws are put into place to protect you as well as to protect your landlord, so making sure you are aware of what those laws can be to your benefit. You can find renter’s laws here: Ironically, this is also the same place you can report your landlord if there are complaints you have of them breaking the laws or not holding up their end of the bargain.
  3. Read through your lease.

    In the technology world where we agree to terms and conditions all the time without a second thought, it can be hard to remember to actually read through a contract before signing it. However, before you sign a lease, you need to read through the entire agreement as it is a legal agreement, and you are responsible to hold up your end of the bargain. Oftentimes reading through the lease agreement can save you in the long run. It is also recommended to keep copies of leases at your home, and for a 3-month period after you are no longer living on the property. This is to protect you in case there is any dispute of your actions while renting, even after you no longer live on the premises. 

  4. Communicate with your landlord. 

    There have been multiple times in my renting experience where communication with my landlord has kept me (and them) out of trouble. Although it can feel embarrassing to explain life changes or tell your landlord you may be a bit late on rent, it is worth it. Some landlords and property management companies will not accept that, but some will work with you. It is also important to let them know of emergencies in your home as soon as you can so that they can be worked on and there can be no question as to whether you did your part as a tenant. Just like many things in life, communication is key to protecting yourself as a renter. 

Now that I have given all my tips, it is time for a confession: my first job was working at an eviction company. We sent notices and filed evictions on behalf of landlords. It opened my eyes to the world of renting. The thing that surprised me most was how few tenants fought their landlords on issues that came up. Now, I am not saying landlords were always in the wrong and the tenants were always in the right, there are plenty of cases of both. However, what I am saying is if you are in a situation where you rent the place you reside in, it is important to know how to protect yourself and make sure that you can have the best renting experience possible.