How do students studying in the United States avoid the rent trap?

According to the China Consular Service Network, housing is one of the main priorities to be researched when they come to the United States to find a safe, convenient and reasonably priced residence. The Chinese Consulate General in New York breaks down the foreign student renting strategies as follows:

What kinds of rental housing?

Commonly available in the United States, there are three types: House, Condo and Apartment.

Houses are equipped with independent garages or a parking space, front and back yards, generally 2 to 3 floors, more room in the house, complete amenities such as furniture and electrical appliances, and tenants are responsible for the daily maintenance of the indoor and outdoor environment.

Condos are similar to a domestic hotel apartment. The property is owned by a landlord. However, the maintenance and management of the facility is handled by a specialized company, and the owner of the apartment pays the management fee on a monthly basis. The room is equipped with furniture and electrical appliances to meet the basic needs of the living. The building usually has gymnasiums, business centers, mail collection, front desk services and other supporting public facilities.

Apartments are similar to Condos, except that property rights are owned by the apartment and are managed and leased by a unified management company.

Where to find listings?

Look for classified ads from local newspapers. Larger newspapers also classify listing information, such as decoration and no decoration.

There are free rental guides in local supermarkets, post offices, libraries, and bus stations, which contain information about the local community.

If you are looking for a local real estate agent in the newspaper or you know, you will be charged a certain agency fee.

It is more convenient to find rental information online.

The common rental process

First find the property that meets the individual requirements through the appropriate channels, and then contact the landlord or apartment management to visit the house.

The landlord or apartment management will generally ask you to pay an application fee to fill out the application. The form also provides relevant supporting documents such as driver’s license, passport, social security number, school admission notice, and I-20.

After your application form is approved by the landlord or the apartment management, you will be given a formal lease contract signature.

After signing the contract, the landlord or the apartment will give you a checklist to check all the facilities and housing conditions in the room. If there is any problem, please write it out and ask the landlord to replace. The lessor ensures that all facilities are normal before check-in.

If some problems remain unresolved when the house is rented, it is best to ask the landlord to provide a “Confirmation of Housing Problems” before signing the contract, so as to avoid disputes in future maintenance. It is advisable to take pictures of the pre-stay condition or problematic facilities as evidence.

Many landlords require the tenant to pay a one-month rent as a security deposit when signing the contract. The deposit will be used to cover the cost of repairs and cleaning up due to the fault of the tenant, and also to avoid the loss caused by the tenant.

In addition, some landlords or apartment management parties also require tenants to purchase home insurance when signing contracts to avoid fire, theft, water immersion, personal injury and other losses.

The landlord will notify the tenant of the rent increase and rent for the next rental period 2 months or 1 month before the lease expires. If you agree, you can renew the contract. If you do not agree, you must inform the landlord or the apartment management party a certain number of days in advance according to the contract requirements, so as to avoid losses to the individual.

The Consulate General also frequently receives consultation calls from international students, because the renter land lord have such disputes or do not know how to deal with them.

When signing a rental contract, there are also some precautions that should not be ignored during the stay, in order to avoid renting traps and avoid future disputes.

First, thoroughly read the lease.

Be sure to read the terms of the contract carefully before signing the contract. Don’t look over details because of the complexity of the content and the number of legal terms.

Before renting a house, be sure to find out what is included in the rent. Does the rent include water, electricity, gas and winter heating? Are there any other fees at your own expense? Are there any terms that you cannot accept? For example, restrictions on the number of tenants or pets, restrictions on housing layout, etc.

Second, the word is proof

In order to avoid disputes and misunderstandings with the landlord, it is best to put all the agreements in writing. The landlord may be required to include their contract signature in writing on a separate clause. Pay attention to the communication record with the landlord as well. If there is a verbal agreement, you must confirm it in writing.

For example, if you have facilities to ask the landlord to repair, it is best to submit it in writing, write down the request to the landlord, sign the written request, date it, and save a note. If the landlord verbally promises to help you repair, you can write a text message to the landlord to confirm.

Third, security

Be clear that you can ask the landlord to do something for you. Some state laws or local laws require certain security features in the house. It is necessary to check the reliability of the house to prevent crime, and to know whether there have been crimes in the houses in or near the past. Don’t rent a house in a poorly secured area.

Fourth, maintain communication, legal rights

After the check-in, the landlord must provide the tenant with the basic conditions for proper accommodation, including whether the house should be able to pass wind and rain, heating, water, electricity, sanitation and safety conditions.

If there is a problem, the landlord should be reminded to solve it. If the landlord is dragging on repairing things, take the initiative to find a landlord to talk together to find a solution, try to avoid pursuing a lawsuit.

If you feel that the landlord has not fulfilled his responsibilities, you can inform the building inspector. The inspectors can usually order the landlord to repair the house. They can also complain to the municipal authorities, such as the health and safety departments. Every city has a department that specializes in renting a house to coordinate the relationship between the landlord and the tenant.

If you seek legal protection, you can sue in a local civil special court. There is usually a free legal counsel for consultation.

Fifth, protect privacy

The most common dispute between a tenant and a landlord, in addition to the rent or deposit, is about the right of the landlord to enter the rental house and the privacy of the tenant.

Under normal circumstances, the landlord is not allowed to enter the rented house. If the landlord needs to enter the house due to repairs, etc., the tenant must be notified in advance (usually 24 hours in advance), otherwise the tenant can sue. A better understanding of the terms of privacy in the lease can help you effectively protect your rights.

If you are living with a landlord, it means that you have to “sacrifice” some freedom, such as sharing the bathroom and kitchen with the landlord, and obeying some of the landlord’s regulations, such as not being too inviting friends or being too noisy.

Songzi Li/ Editing Manager

Translation by Philip Park




How do students studying in the United States avoid the rent trap?
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How do students studying in the United States avoid the rent trap?
According to the China Consular Service Network, housing is one of the main priorities to be researched when they come to the United States to find a safe, convenient and reasonably priced residence.
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