Welcome back to Curbed University! We guarantee it to be the most non-boring expert advice you have ever gotten about buying and renting a home in the Hub (not a guarantee). Additional questions as well as topic suggestions welcomed through the ever-trusty tipline.
On Monday, we answered six questions you might ask in starting your Hub apartment search; today, we'll answer seven more you might have after you find that perfect place.
O.K. I've got the apartment. I want the apartment. Now what?
Reach out/show up with the necessary documents and checks. The key in the Hub, where the rents are high and the vacancy rates low, is pouncing once you've found a place. Waiting a day—a couple of hours even!—can mean the difference between you getting it and the next guy getting it. So, you'll likely need:
· Checks for first and last month's rent and the security deposit.
· An ID like a driver's license or a passport.
· Some sort of letterhead letter showing gainful employment. Talk to your boss. If you're in school, your acceptance letter or some proof of enrollment should do.
· Three or four copies of recent pay stubs for good measure.
· A reference letter from your last landlord (they know how to do these) showing you'd be a dream tenant.
· You might even need other reference letters, depending how competitive the building is. Approach your boss, your best friend, your best friend's best friend, an old coach or professor, someone who can attest to your sobriety and responsibility.
· If you're self-employed, bring your most recent tax returns to show that you make/made money.
· Bank statements showing income and savings (noticing a trend here: you have to be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt your ability to pay the rent).
· Finally, be prepared for the landlord to run a credit check.
And if I don't have any of these documents? Or my credit's shot/nonexistent?
Congratulations, you're a college student! No, seriously, you may not have the proofs of income necessary and your credit may be undeveloped. In that case, you need a guarantor. A guarantor is someone (probably a parent and/or a guardian) who will pay your rent if you mess up. A guarantor needs to have the steady income and the good credit, and it helps your case if he or she also lives in the area.
I've got the apartment! What else should I know?
Wonderful! Just be aware that under Massachusetts law the landlord has to give you at least 30 days notice for eviction if you've signed a lease for at least three months (it's much less warning if the lease is for under three months). Yes, you can be evicted, but only in extreme cases, like consistently damaging the apartment; disturbing the neighbors after you've been warned; or simply not paying the rent.
What should I do if I get an eviction notice?
Pay the back rent, if that's the cause. Otherwise, your recourse is the courts. Here's a link to the FAQ section of Massachusetts Housing Court. Keep in mind the legal fees, which will come on top of whatever you owe your landlord and will not necessarily guarantee you can keep your apartment anyway.
Can I sublet my apartment?
Ask the landlord. Better yet, establish whether you can or not before you sign the lease. It's legal to sublet in Massachusetts, but it's also alright for landlords to refuse. If you do it without being able to and without telling the landlord, and something happens to the place, you're likely going to be responsible for it even if you had a deal worked out with your sub-tenant ahead of time.
And if I'm the sub-leaser?
You can sublease in the Hub. The key thing is to get a proof of tenancy from the tenant—which means they've gone through all or most of the above. Otherwise, you may find yourself living in someone else's apartment, and when they find out they will not be too pleased.
So that's it?
Mostly. You've probably noticed that the two main points are to get things in writing after negotiations and before you sign anything; and to have proof of income and/or employment/decent credit when you find an apartment you want so that you can act fast in securing it. Beyond that, the Hub is a tumultuous, dog-eat-dog rental universe. You will likely encounter all sorts of odd situations, including condo owners renting their spaces and wanting you to meet their neighbors; landlords who insist on cash (avoid those); roommates who hold the lease to an apartment and treat it like their own property; walk-in closets for rent as cozy bedrooms; and so on. Be vigilant.
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