Why It Pays to Be a Good Renter

You'll benefit more than your landlord from being a responsible tenant.

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If you're looking for an apartment for rent, you might be getting a nasty shock soon, if you haven't already. Rents are going up, and they're going up fast. According to MarketWatch, the average list price of rental homes went up 7 percent in June 2011, and studio rents jumped a whopping 14 percent. What's more is that rents are expected to continue to rise at a rate of 5 percent to 7 percent per year through 2013.

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Why are rents going up when there are so many cheap houses for sale? Well, the answer is somewhat redundant. It's because there are so many cheap houses for sale. People are still unsure about the economy and don't want to buy a house when they're not certain they'll be employed this time next year.

Plus, many people are being forced to sell or are being foreclosed upon and have no choice but to rent instead. Another factor is that during the height of the recession, many people looked for roommates or doubled up with family and friends. Now that things are more stable, however, people can better afford to move out and rent their own place. Because of these factors, demand has increased and rental availability is down, which means the cost to rent is on the rise.

Why You Should Be a Good Renter

Good tenants can be hard to find. Too many people trash their rentals, make late payments or skip paying their rent entirely, or call their landlord over after every little faucet drip. In short, bad renters can make life for property owners miserable. Good renters, on the other hand, make life easy for their landlords. These are the people landlords want to keep around.

 In fact, being a good renter is a good way to pay less rent. Why? Because if your landlord loves you, they won't want you to move and might think twice about raising your rent. Or they might only raise it fractionally compared to their more annoying tenants. If you're a good renter, you also will have more leverage for negotiating a lower rent. Essentially, the nicer you are, the more money you're likely to save.

How to Be a Good Renter

Want to keep your landlord happy so they're less likely to raise the rent? Follow the steps below:

1. Pay On Time

Don't be late on your rent. Ever. This puts a pinch on the landlord who has a mortgage to pay each month. If you want to get on his good side, pay early by a week or even more if you can. The last thing a landlord wants is to receive the rent late. It is stressful, and he may depend on your payment. Don't put your landlord in this awkward bind.

2. Don't Call Your Landlord for Minor Annoyances

Although it's important to communicate with your landlord whenever something breaks, try to handle minor repairs and updates on your own. Also, be open to the possibility of splitting the cost of certain fixes. By being reasonable, you can ensure that your landlord will value you as a tenant, especially when it comes time to renew the lease.

3. Keep the Place Clean

Your landlord could probably tell you horror stories about the living conditions of past tenants. If you want to stand out and impress your landlord, keep your rental clean, especially if your he's coming over for an inspection. This will also ensure that you get your security deposit back in full once you're ready to move out.

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4. Don't Feud With Your Neighbors

Landlords often get caught in the middle of neighbor feuds. For instance, imagine the tenant next door is a night owl and likes to party. But you work mornings and have to be up at 5. So both of you complain endlessly to the landlord since you can't see eye-to-eye. Although it can seem impossible to get along peacefully with your neighbors, try to solve any disputes on your own, without dragging your landlord into the fray. You don't want to create a situation where one or both of you must go.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, it pays to be a good tenant. It's not a "renter's market" these days, so anything you can do to keep your rent low and your landlord happy will be well worth it. In other words, the nicer you are to your landlord, the worse they're going to feel about raising your rent or asking you to move out. Acting reasonably and fairly will make your living situation more amicable, possibly more affordable, and less stressful for both you and your landlord over the long term.

Are you currently renting an apartment or house? How have rent prices been in your area, and what are some of the ways you're keeping costs down?

Heather Levin contributes stories related to real estate, personal finance, and going green to Money Crashers, a site dedicated to helping you better manage your money and build wealth.