10 Common Mistakes Renters Make and How to Avoid Them

by Patrick Freeze  3/30/2023

Renting is convenient and generally straightforward, especially if you know the process. However, if you’re moving into your first rental property or your first rental by yourself, there are a few mistakes to watch for and avoid. So, if you want to learn more about the common mistakes renters make, read along as we go over them and how you can avoid them while moving into your first rental home. 


Contents of This Article: 

  • Common Mistakes Renters Make
  • Avoiding Common Mistakes as a Renter
  • Have Questions About Renting? Ask BMG

10 Common Mistakes Renters Make

It’s not uncommon for new renters to make some mistakes at their first rental property. However, it’s essential to recognize them and avoid them at all costs. After all, recognizing the processes of finding, touring, and renting an apartment or rental home can make it easier for you in the future. 

Also, knowing what to look for and which questions to ask your property manager in Northern Virginia can help you avoid costly mistakes like high utility bills or significant maintenance issues. As such, here are some common mistakes renters make; later, we’ll discuss how to avoid them. 

  1. Renting Sight Unseen 
  2. Improper Planning and Budgeting
  3. Failing to Ask Questions
  4. Skimming Over the Lease Agreement
  5. Not Getting Renters Insurance
  6. Failing to Inspect the Unit
  7. Not Communicating Properly
  8. Forgetting to Study the Neighborhood
  9. Paying Rent Late
  10. Failing to Report Maintenance Issues

Renting Sight Unseen

Renting an apartment or rental home without touring it first is a recipe for disaster. While there are virtual tours and walk-through videos for many rental listings, you don’t truly know what you’re getting until you see it in person. For instance, you could get to the property and learn that the photos you saw were old and the property is worn down more than you thought. So, if you don’t want surprises, you’ll want to visit the property before moving in. 

Improper Planning and Budgeting


Overlooking how much you’ll spend on rental housing can be a significant mistake. If it’s your first time renting, you may not be familiar with all the associated costs. For instance, you’ll need to pay an application fee, save for a security deposit and pay the first month’s rent. Then, if utilities aren’t included in the rent amount, you’ll need to pay them separately. Additionally, you may have a pet deposit or pet fees if you’re living with a pet. 

Failing to Ask Questions

If you have any questions about the property, lease, neighborhood, etc., ask them. You don’t want to move into a new rental with questions about how to pay rent, who’s responsible for maintenance, who pays utilities, etc. For instance, you want to avoid assuming you can paint the walls or change the flooring in your rental unit. So, if you have questions about anything at all, make sure you review them before signing the lease. 

Skimming Over the Lease Agreement

It’s crucial to thoroughly read your lease agreement before signing it. After all, it’s a legal contract containing detailed information about your landlord’s expectations and responsibilities. Therefore, pay attention to the wording and know what you’re responsible for. Specifically, you’ll want to identify the late fee policy, early termination, guest policies, maintenance procedures, notice requirements, renewals, and more. 

Not Getting Renters Insurance


While landlords generally have insurance to protect their properties, it doesn’t protect your personal belongings. As such, you’ll want to consider getting renters insurance to protect your property in case of a natural disaster or fire. Fortunately, renters insurance policies are fairly inexpensive and can be highly beneficial. 

Failing to Inspect the Unit

When you move into a new rental unit, you’ll want to inspect the unit and take photos of the property’s condition. Additionally, you’ll want to take note of pre-existing damage and list it on the landlord’s move-in checklist. If the landlord doesn’t have an inspection checklist, make your own and send it to your landlord, signed and dated. If there are any major issues within the property, make sure your landlord puts in writing when they’ll be fixed. 

Not Communicating Properly

If you run into any issues with the property or have questions about your lease, you’ll need to be able to contact your landlord. So, before signing a lease, know how to reach your landlord, whether by phone call, text, or email. Once you’ve established an open line of communication from the start, you’ll feel more comfortable reaching out if other issues arise. 

Forgetting to Study the Neighborhood

Before you sign a lease in an unfamiliar area, you’ll want to check out the neighborhood when you tour the property. While the property you’re living in is important, the neighborhood matters, too. For instance, you can see how far you’ll be from essential amenities, walkability, noise levels, etc. Additionally, you can map out how far you’ll be from work or school. 

Paying Rent Late


Forgetting to pay rent or paying it late can be costly. For instance, you’ll usually be hit with late fees, which could even impact your credit score. Some landlords charge late fees ranging anywhere from 5% to 10% of the rent amount. That said, if you know you’ll be late with your rent, give your landlord as much notice as possible. You may be able to work something out with them if it’s a one-off emergency. 

Failing to Report Maintenance Issues

You’ll want to contact your landlord or property manager for maintenance if anything goes wrong with your rental. Whether there’s a leak in your sink or your heat stops working, it’s crucial to let someone know immediately. It’ll usually outline how to report maintenance issues in your lease agreement. Additionally, you’ll want to know whom to contact in the case of an emergency maintenance issue. Failing to report issues can leave you liable for property damages. 

Avoiding Common Mistakes as a Renter

Many of the issues listed above can be avoided with proper communication. However, if you’re new to renting, you may not know the right questions to ask or measures to take to ensure the best experience. As such, here are a few tips for avoiding the most common mistakes renters make. 

  • Read Your Lease Agreement Thoroughly- You don’t want to sign a lease agreement without reading it carefully and thoroughly. After all, it lists all your landlord’s expectations and your responsibilities as a tenant. If there’s something you don’t agree with, or if you have questions about any of the terms, you’ll want to ask your landlord right away.
  • Communicate Regularly- Keeping a clear line of communication with your landlord is crucial. If something goes wrong with your rental or you have questions about anything, talk with your landlord or property manager.how-to-avoid-common-mistakes-renters-make
  • Pay Rent On Time- Paying rent on time is crucial for any rental property. Late payments or nonpayment of rent can lead to late fees or even eviction for violating the lease agreement.
  • Consider Renters Insurance- Whether you’re moving into your first or fifteenth rental property, becoming familiar with renters insurance is crucial. Renters insurance can help protect your belongings, reduce liability, and cover emergency expenses.
  • Give Notice Before Moving Out- If you plan on moving out of your rental property, it’s crucial to let your landlord know. Usually, you’ll want to give at least 30 days, but more notice is even better. 

Have Questions About Renting? Ask PPM

Now that we’ve gone over some common mistakes renters make, hopefully, you can make smarter choices while renting going forward. It’s important to recognize potential mistakes and avoid them if you can if you want the best renting experience possible. However, if you’re still unclear about renting and have questions for a potential landlord, contact a local property management company!

Companies like Professional Property Management of Northern Virginia are well-versed and highly experienced in all areas of property management. You can check out our blog to learn more about renting, buying real estate, managing properties, etc. Or, you can contact us today to learn more about our management processes and check out our current rental listings.

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