Better Renter Guide

Click through the sections below to find the information contained in the Better Renter Certification Course.

As a renter in an apartment or home, you typically have several obligations outlined in your rental agreement and governed by landlord-tenant laws in your state. Common obligations outlined in your rental agreement are:

  • Payment of Rent: You are obligated to pay rent on time as per the terms specified in your lease agreement. Failure to pay rent can result in eviction.
  • Maintenance and Care: You are generally responsible for keeping the rental unit clean and well-maintained. This may include tasks such as minor repairs, lawn care (if applicable), and maintaining cleanliness indoors.
  • Respect for Property: You must use the property in a reasonable and respectful manner. This includes not causing damage to the property, fixtures, or appliances beyond normal wear and tear.
  • Compliance with Lease Terms: You are expected to abide by the terms of the lease agreement, including any rules and regulations set by the landlord or property management company. This might include restrictions on pets, noise levels, or alterations to the property.
  • Notifying Landlord of Repairs: If something in the rental unit requires repair, you should promptly notify the landlord or property manager to address the issue.
  • Utilities and Services: Unless otherwise specified in your lease agreement, you may be responsible for paying utilities such as electricity, water, gas, internet, and cable.
  • Insurance: While the landlord typically holds insurance on the property itself, you are responsible for insuring your personal belongings with renters insurance. This protects your belongings in case of theft, damage, or liability claims.
  • Giving Proper Notice: If you plan to move out, you typically need to give the landlord proper notice as outlined in your lease agreement. This allows the landlord time to find a new tenant.
  • Security Deposits: You may be required to pay a security deposit upon moving in. This deposit is often refundable, provided you adhere to the terms of the lease and leave the property in good condition upon moving out.
  • Respecting the Rights of Other Tenants: You must respect the rights of other tenants in the building or complex. This includes refraining from activities that disturb their peaceful enjoyment of the property.

It’s essential to review your lease agreement carefully to understand your specific obligations as a renter, as they can vary depending on the terms set forth by your landlord or property management company and the laws in your jurisdiction. If you have any questions or concerns about your obligations, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your area.

Being a responsible pet owner requires a number of considerations:

  • Check Lease Agreement: Review your lease to see if pets are allowed and if there are any specific rules or restrictions regarding pets.
  • Accept Full Responsibility: Your pet is your responsibility and any harm, damage or injury caused by your pet will be your responsibility. 
  • Pet Deposit or Fee: Be prepared to pay a pet deposit or monthly fee to cover potential damages caused by your pet, if required by your landlord.
  • Vaccinations and Licensing: Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations as required by law, and ensure they are properly licensed if necessary.
  • Proper Identification: Ensure your pet wears a collar with identification tags containing your contact information, and consider microchipping for additional identification.
  • Always leash dogs in shared and common areas. 
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: Clean up after your pet both indoors and outdoors, and regularly groom them to minimize shedding and odors.
  • Noise Control: Take steps to minimize excessive barking or other disruptive noises that may disturb neighbors.
  • Respect for Property: Prevent your pet from causing damage to the rental property, including scratching, chewing, or soiling.
  • Consideration for Neighbors: Be considerate of neighbors who may not be comfortable around pets, and ensure your pet does not bother them in common areas.

As a renter, being considerate to your neighbors is essential for maintaining a harmonious living environment. Here are several things you can do to be a considerate neighbor:

  • Respect Noise Levels: Avoid making excessive noise, especially during late hours or early mornings. Be mindful of loud music, TV, or parties that may disturb your neighbors.
  • Keep Common Areas Clean: Take responsibility for keeping shared spaces, such as hallways, staircases, or communal areas, clean and tidy.
  • Follow Parking Rules: Park your vehicles in designated areas and avoid blocking driveways or parking spaces designated for other tenants.
  • Communicate Effectively: Be open and respectful in your interactions with neighbors. If you anticipate any activities that may disrupt them, such as hosting a gathering, inform them in advance.
  • Mindful Pet Ownership: If you have pets, ensure they do not create disturbances for your neighbors. Keep them on a leash in common areas, clean up after them, and address any excessive barking or other disruptive behaviors promptly.
  • Respect Property Boundaries: Be mindful of property lines and avoid encroaching on your neighbors’ space. This includes not storing personal items or trash in shared areas outside your rental unit.
  • Be Considerate with Shared Resources: If your rental property shares resources such as laundry facilities or outdoor spaces, be considerate of other tenants’ needs and avoid monopolizing these resources for extended periods.
  • Follow Community Rules: Adhere to any rules or regulations set by your landlord, homeowners association (HOA), or property management regarding noise, parking, trash disposal, and other community standards.
  • Handle Disputes Diplomatically: If conflicts arise with neighbors, try to resolve them calmly and respectfully through open communication. Avoid escalating disagreements and consider involving the landlord or property management if necessary.

By being mindful of these considerations, you can contribute to a positive and respectful community atmosphere in your rental property.

Renter’s Insurance is an insurance policy that covers your personal belongings in the event of something like a fire or flood, it provides liability coverage in case someone is hurt in your home, and it might cover the cost of replacement housing if you’re unable to stay in your home for some reason – say there’s a burst pipe that floods your home and you need to move out so the Property Manager can make the repairs. 

Your Property Manager may or may not require renter’s insurance, but it’s a smart idea to get a policy regardless. It’s usually inexpensive, only costing a few dollars per month.

Your rental agreement should specify the utilities that are your responsibility. Ask your Property Manager who the utility carriers are in your area and contact them either by phone or online and arrange to have the service for each put into your name as of your move-in date.

If you’re moving into a condo or an apartment, find out if there are any rules around when you can move in. Many apartments and condos only allow move-ins during certain hours or days of the week. Also, make sure you know where to park your moving vehicles, and if they need any special parking permits. If you’re moving into an apartment or condo where you’ll be sharing walls with your neighbors, be considerate and don’t move furniture or be noisy early in the morning or late at night.

Step 1. Do a Video Walk-Through:

The first thing you should do before moving into your new home is make a walk-through video. You want to do this for two reasons: The first is to have a visual record of the condition of your home when you moved in, and second is to be able to refer back to it when you move out. The best way to get your refundable security deposit back is to leave your home in the same shape as when you moved in. 

While shooting a video with your phone, walk slowly through each room and point out and describe any pre-existing damage or significant wear. After you’ve completed the walk-through video, take some close-up photos of anything you find that might need additional documentation. Then, email the video and photos to your Property Manager and save a copy of the video somewhere you’ll be able to find it easily later on.

Step 2: Check Appliances & Systems:

Next, go through your home and make sure that all the appliances and systems work properly, and by “systems” we’re referring to your home’s heating and air conditioning, the electrical, and the plumbing systems.

  • Test all the electrical outlets and switches;
  • Turn on the furnace and air conditioning;
  • Turn on the oven and cooktop burners;
  • Turn on the dishwasher;
  • Turn on the disposal;
  • Test the smoke and CO detectors;
  • Check the windows and doors to make sure they all open, close and lock properly;
  • Turn on each faucet in the home and make sure sinks, tubs and showers drain well, and that they don’t leak or drip when turned off;

If anything doesn’t seem to be working properly, now is the time to let your Property Manager know.


It should be spelled out in your rental agreement, but if it’s not, make sure you know where you’re supposed to park, if you need a parking permit, and where guests are allowed to park. If you have a secured parking garage, make sure you have the necessary key fob or pass. 

Trash & Recyclables:

Be sure you know where to dispose of your trash and if you have recycling service. If you’re responsible for putting trash cans out, find out what day of the week the trash is picked up.

Emergency Preparedness:

Lastly, find or ask your Property Manager to show you where your electrical breaker panel is located, and if applicable, where your water and gas shutoffs are located. It’s important to know where these are in case of an emergency, and sometimes for basic troubleshooting of minor issues in your home.

Regular cleaning and upkeep of your home is kind of like the scheduled maintenance on your car – it’s the basic stuff you need to be doing on a regular basis to make sure everything stays in good condition. There’s a full checklist included in the Better Renter Guide that you’ll receive after the course, but let’s cover the highlights here:

  • Clean regularly, including appliances, walls, and flooring. Aside from keeping your home looking nice, this is a good time to look for any maintenance issues that need to be addressed, like water leaks under the sink, dripping faucets or running toilets, outlets or switches that don’t work, and so on. Always report maintenance issues right away so your Property Manager can address them before they become bigger issues that cause more expensive damage.
  • Dispose of trash properly. Letting trash pile up in your home will attract unwanted pests, and getting rid of these pests will likely be your responsibility and expense. Pests typically go where there’s food, so empty your trash regularly and don’t leave food or other garbage lying around.
  • Use exhaust and vent fans. If your home has exhaust fans for cooking or in the bathrooms, be sure to use them. These help keep odors under control when cooking, and they keep moisture from building up in bathrooms, which can lead to mold and mildew buildup.
  • Be Gentle: Treat everything in the home with care and respect. Don’t slam doors or cupboards, clean up spills and stains right away before they become permanent, and go easy on window coverings and blinds, shower curtains, towel racks and anything else that’s attached to walls and easily damaged with rough use.

Every renter wants to make their home feel like their own, and that includes adding decor to give it a more personal feel. When decorating, don’t drill into walls or create any holes larger than a thumbtack, and don’t use any sort of adhesive or tape to mount pictures or other items to walls or doors. While they might seem small and insignificant, holes and paint damage require patching and touch-up painting, which is a time-consuming repair and it can end up taking a big chunk out of your security deposit.

Sometimes renters can unintentionally damage their home’s appliances by making simple mistakes when using them, and oftentimes renters will be responsible for the cost to repair or replace an appliance damaged by improper use. Here’s a list of common dos and don’ts for using your home’s appliances properly. 



  • Run cold water whenever the disposal is in use
  • Put only small, soft food items down the disposal and put larger food scraps in the trash
  • Put ice cubes in the disposal and run it for a few seconds to clean it out


  • Put anything other than food down the disposal
  • Put food scraps larger than a penny down the disposal, including citrus fruit peels – they might smell good but they can also cause a blockage
  • Put bones or any other hard objects down the disposal



  • Scrape large food scraps into the trash and rinse the dishes thoroughly before putting them in the dishwasher
  • Use the proper type and amount of detergent
  • Remove and clean the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher regularly
  • Spray vinegar or CLR inside the dishwasher and let it sit for a few minutes to keep hard water mineral deposits from building up on the sides, racks and sprayers
  • Run the disposal with cold water for a few seconds and then run the hot water in your sink before starting a dishwashing cycle. This clears the drain line for the dishwasher and having the water already hot will make the dishwasher work better.


  • Use dishwashing soap like Dawn in your dishwasher
  • Put bleach, drain cleaner or other chemicals in your dishwasher

Washers & Dryers:


  • Use the appropriate detergent and use it sparingly. Many problems with washing machines are due to using too much detergent, which can coat the inside of the washer and can cause it to smell and perform poorly.
  • Leave the lid or door of your washing machine slightly ajar after doing a load. This allows it to dry out and helps it avoid getting smelly.
  • Clean out the dryer’s lint trap before every use.


  • Overload washers or dryers. They perform best with medium-sized loads. Your clothes will come cleaner and dry sooner if you avoid doing loads that are too large.
  • Leave an unbalanced washing machine running. This can damage the machine as well as anything close by. If possible, stop the spin cycle and spread the clothes out so they’re balanced inside the drum before restarting.

Ovens & Cooktops


  • Use oven liners or mats to help catch spills and prevent them from burning into the oven
  • Close the oven door gently to prevent damage to the door seal and hinges
  • Wipe up spills on the cooktop immediately


  • Neglect regular, thorough cleaning. Failing to clean spills and food residue inside the oven can result in burnt-on stains that are more difficult to remove. 
  • Use abrasive or harsh cleaning products which can damage the oven’s interior surface or the cooktop
  • Use the self-cleaning feature too frequently or for extended periods. This may cause excessive heat and potentially damage the oven’s components.

Electrical Outlets:


  • Check outlets regularly for any signs of damage, discoloration, or loose parts. 
  • Turn off and unplug devices when not in use to save energy and reduce the risk of electrical issues.


  • Connect high-wattage devices like space heaters or air conditioners to extension cords, which can overheat and become a fire hazard. 
  • Overload Outlets. Avoid connecting too many devices to a single outlet. Distribute the load across multiple outlets and use a power strip with built-in surge protection.

Drains & Plumbing:


  • Prevent clogs in your tub or shower drains by installing inexpensive hair catches if anyone in the home has long hair. Purchase an inexpensive plastic drain snake to easily clear small clogs yourself.
  • Check under your sinks periodically for leaks and let your Property Manager know right away if you find one
  • Let your Property Manager know right away if your toilet doesn’t stop running after flushing it
  • Let your Property Manager know right away if your drains suddenly stop draining well, or if you notice water backing up into your sink, shower or tub when they’re not being used


  • Flush personal wipes or hygiene products down the toilet. Even wipes advertised as “Plumber approved” or “Flushable” can cause sewer blockages and you might end up responsible for the cost of having the clog removed if they’re discovered to be the cause.
  • Put grease, oil, hot wax, or any other liquid that hardens when it cools down any drain, including the toilet
  • Use drain cleaners without prior approval from your Property Manager. Drain cleaners rarely work well, and plumbers sometimes charge more if you’ve used drain cleaners because they create a splash risk and the chemicals can damage their tools
  • Ignore plumbing issues – sometimes they can indicate a bigger issue that if left unresolved can result in flooding or significant damage to the property and your possessions

Heating and Air Conditioning


  • Set your thermostat at the temperature you want your home to be. Turning it up higher or lower does not make it heat up or cool down faster.
  • Check and replace your furnace filter frequently – monthly if you have pets or live in a dry, dusty environment, or quarterly if you don’t have pets or live in a more humid area.


  • Close off or obstruct heating and cooling vents. This restricts air flow and reduces the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. In the summer this can even cause the air conditioner to freeze up and stop working!
  • Ignore strange sounds. If your furnace or boiler begins making an unusual sound, let your Property Manager know right away.

It’s important to periodically do a thorough inspection of your home to look for new maintenance issues and report them right away. Your Property Manager might do their own periodic inspections as well. 

Things you want to pay special attention to are:

  • Water leaks: Check for new water leaks under sinks, under appliances like your refrigerator or dishwasher, behind or under your washing machine, and around your shower, tub and toilet.
  • Water intrusion: Check around window frames and doors for signs of water coming into your home. This could appear as bubbling in the paint or walls, discoloration, or mold growth. Also, look for any spots appearing on the ceiling which could indicate a leak in the roof, or spots on the walls which could be caused by leaking pipes.
  • Leaking faucets and fixtures: Leaking faucets and running toilets can waste a tremendous amount of water, which is both expensive and wasteful. Check your tub, shower and sink faucets for dripping, and make sure your toilet doesn’t keep running after you flush it.
  • Furnace filter condition: Checking and replacing your furnace filter every 1-3 months is a simple and quick way to keep your heating and cooling system running efficiently. This can help keep your home more comfortable while also saving money on utility bills.
  • Smoke detector and carbon-monoxide alarm batteries: Never, ever unplug or remove smoke detectors or carbon-monoxide alarms if they start chirping due to low batteries. These are devices that will literally save your life in an emergency. Have a few extra batteries on-hand and replace them every six months to ensure you don’t get woken up in the middle of the night by that dreaded low-battery chirp.

A lot of renters are afraid to report what seem like minor maintenance issues. You shouldn’t be afraid of that. In fact, your Property Manager has an obligation to the property’s owner to maintain the property in order to protect its value. The earlier you catch a problem the cheaper it is to fix, and it’s better to err on the side of caution and report issues – even if you’re not sure they’re even issues at all – and let your Property Manager investigate.

Always report maintenance issues right away. Your Property Manager would rather fix a problem now rather than discover it after you move out and it’s been causing damage for months or years. This might also save you money, since failing to report an issue that causes additional damage may be your financial responsibility and be deducted from your security deposit. 

Your lease should explain how to report maintenance issues, or you should have received instructions from your Property Manager about how to do so. Always follow the correct process since this allows the office and maintenance staff to coordinate and communicate efficiently.

  • Give your property manager notice: Check your lease to find out how much notice you’re required to give if you don’t plan to renew – typically at least 30 days – and put a reminder in your phone now so you don’t forget when the time comes. Follow the instructions in your lease on providing notice to move out since it may need to be in writing. 
  • Deep Clean: If your Property Manager provided you a move-out cleaning checklist or instructions, follow that closely. If you hire a cleaner, ask your Property Manager who they recommend. It’s likely they use the same cleaning crew for all their properties and they will know exactly what the Property Manager expects. If you hire your own cleaner, be sure to provide them with the cleaning checklist. We provide one in the Better Renter Guide in case your Property Manager doesn’t have one. 
  • Document The Condition Of Your Home: Remember that walk-through video you took when you moved in? You’re going to do another one of those that shows the condition of your home upon moving out. The *before* video is a good reference for what your home should look like when you leave, and if you notice any damage or repairs that are needed, let your Property Manager know right away. They’ll appreciate the heads-up rather than discovering it after you’ve moved out, and it might lower the charge-back to your security deposit since they’ll be able to plan accordingly and fix issues faster.
  • Final Steps: Shut off utilities, arrange to return keys and have the move-out inspection, provide forwarding mail address, confirm timeframe for security deposit accounting and refund.