Finding a home
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  • 1. Learn what to look for when trying to find a home and learn how to inspect a rental that your interested in. Tenant Association of Allentown www.taofallentown.org
  • 2. The first problem which every tenant faces is finding a good and adequate home. Before beginning the search, the tenant should decide what is needed, for example: the number of rooms, location or distance from public transportation and how much the tenant can afford to pay. By making some decisions first, the renter can avoid being forced into a rental situation which he or she may later regret. Newspapers are usually the easiest place to find out where private properties are. Renters can get information about rental property from realtors or reliable rental location services. But remember that these services may often cost money. Make sure to find out what the money covers and what services will be provided before you agree to the service.
  • 3. Ask your friends about any “For Rent” signs in their neighborhood and check your own neighborhood for signs. Check the classified section of the local newspapers, which covers surrounding communities. Look for local apartment guides in grocery and convenience stores. The apartment guides will likely be near the community service bulletin at the front of the store.
  • 4. When you find apartments or homes that you can afford, start looking at them! Keep in mind that there is no perfect unit or perfect landlord. You should make notes of the surroundings (neighborhood, parks, shopping malls, access to main roads, bus line, etc.) and the quality of the rental unit. Your notes can help you compare different apartments or homes.
  • 5. Allentown Housing Authority 1339 W. Allen St., Allentown, PA 18102 610-439-8678 Subsidized public housing (location of residence would be within the existing public housing developments) and Section 8 rental assistance (eligible individual pays a portion of income for rent and HUD-Federal Program funds the balance).
  • 6. Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to high-rise apartments for elderly families. There are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 housing authorities. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers Federal aid to local housing agencies (HAs) that manage the housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance in planning, developing and managing these developments.
  • 7. Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. AHA determines your eligibility based on: 1) annual gross income; 2) whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family; and 3) U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. If you are eligible, the AHA will check your references to make sure you and your family will be good tenants. AHA will deny admission to any applicant whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project's environment. Has use income limits developed by HUD. HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. Income limits vary from area to area so you may be eligible at one housing authority but not at another. The AHA can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size, or you can also find the income limits on the internet.
  • 8. HOW SHOULD A TENANT INSPECT THE RENTAL UNIT? Once a possible home has been found, it is the tenant's duty to check it out completely. A tenant should not rely on the landlord or the landlord's agent to tell the tenant if anything is wrong with the property. The tenant must inspect the property carefully and ask questions about it.
  • 9.             Kitchen appliances in working order. Water pressure strong, plumbing without leaks. Electrical outlets and wiring working. Walls and ceiling painted or papered without cracks Ventilation or air conditioning accessible. Floors, railings and bathrooms in good repair. Fire escape easy to use. Stairs safe and well-lighted. No rodents or insects. Heating system in working order. If furnished, check and write down condition of all furniture. Windows and doors operable and weather-tight; screens provided.
  • 10. When you are looking at the rental unit inspect it thoroughly. In the kitchen check to see if all the stove top burners work. Check the kitchen faucet for leaks or low pressure.
  • 11. Be on the look out for water stains or cracks in any of the ceilings in the rental. Cracks could be a sign of a leak or a structure issue. Water stains could be a sign of a leak as well.
  • 12. Check every window in the rental. Make sure the windows open and are operable. Check to see if the windows are weather-tight. Landlord’s are not required to provide screens but if you want them it would be a good idea to mention it to the landlord.
  • 13.  Check to see if every bedroom has a working smoke detector. They are also required on each floor and area outside of the bedrooms.
  • 14. Check to see if the toilet flushes properly. Test the sink faucet and the tub faucet. Be on the look out for leaks.
  • 15. Make sure the heating system is in working order. Be on the look out for a tag showing it was serviced. Also be on the look out for signs that it needs cleaning such as black smoke or dirt. Ask the landlord to turn it on to make sure it works properly.
  • 16. Check to see if the electrical outlets are working properly. Make sure they all have covers on them. Bo on the look out for exposed wiring.
  • 17. The landlord is required to maintain a certain level of quality housing. You may want to talk with tenants in the apartment complex or the neighbors in order to get a sense of how the landlord responds to the needs of the tenants. Use a checklist as a guide to insure that you will get what you are looking for.   You can also check the assessment record to make sure the landlord actually owns the property. Lehigh County Assessment Record Search: http://www.lehighcounty.org/Departments/Assessm ent/SearchRecords/tabid/315/Default.aspx You can also check the sheriff sales listing to make sure the property isn't being foreclosed. Lehigh County Sheriff Sales: http://www.lehighcounty.org/departments/sheriffsof fice/sheriffsale/tabid/554/default.aspx
  • 18. Before agreeing to rent, the tenant should ask the following questions:           Who is the landlord? Who is the agent (if the landlord has one)? How much is the rent? When is the rent due? To whom and where should the rent be paid? Is a security deposit required? To whom should problems and repairs be referred? Will there be an oral or written lease? Will the tenant be renting for a month-to-month or a year-toyear term? Who has the responsibility to pay for the utilities (electric, water gas. oil)? What are the rules and regulations about such things as pets and children?
  • 19. Generally, the answer is no. You should try to find a place that does not need significant repairs. Even if the landlord promises to make the repairs once you move in, there is no guarantee that he will do so. If the repairs are minor ones (new light bulbs or shower curtain), then it might not make a big difference because you could fix these problems yourself. If the repairs are major (no smoke alarm, broken windows, and no heat) you should not move into the apartment. However, many people do move into places with bad conditions because the rent is cheap, the landlord promises to make the repairs, and they need a place right away. In this case, you want to make sure that you get the landlord to sign a written agreement that he will make the repairs by a certain date. If you agree to do some of the work in exchange for a reduction in rent, get that in writing or it will be difficult to prove later. You should also take pictures of the repairs that are needed. If the landlord doesn’t make repairs and you need to sue him to try to get the repairs made, you will then have the pictures and signed agreement as proof of the conditions and his promise to make the repairs. Remember to keep a copy of the agreement signed by your landlord.