02/17/2017 07:48 EST | Updated 02/17/2017 07:48 EST

All Renters Should Do These 10 Things

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Woman holding a set of keys.

Written by Elisa Krovblit

You're a renter and you appreciate the lifestyle. Ask any homeowner who has received an unexpected roof repair bill, or had to call a plumber -- or had to move to accept a job offer -- and you'll appreciate it even more -- especially all of you "all inclusive" renters. Have you heard the news about hydro prices these days? Or do you enjoy your luxury of not having to pay attention to that issue.

But rental living has a few demands that can be easily met by every resident, ensuring that their rental experience should be nothing but maintenance-free and smooth sailing.

1. Understand Your Lease

You signed it and you're bound by it. Whenever you're about to sign a contract - and yes, your lease is a legally binding contract - read it and make sure you understand it. If there is anything you don't agree with, ask.If there is any wrong info, have it corrected. Leases can be negotiated, changed and rewritten. Once it's signed, those are the rules.

2. Know Your Rights

Each province and territory has its own set of rental rules and there will be a landlord and tenant board or government office that enforces them. Know how to access them and understand the basics. If anything in your lease contradicts the rental law, the rental law overrules. If you have issues during your tenancy, these are a great place to start to find out what your rights are and how to resolve them. You'll also need to know how your deposits work and how to give proper notice. If you do that wrong you might find yourself on the hook for a lot of money you weren't expecting to spend.

3. Renter's Insurance

A lot of renters are under the misinformed impression that the landlord has you covered. The landlord has insurance, but it's coverage for the building - literally the structure, mechanicals and the common areas. You need tenant's insurance to cover your personal belongings. Imagine if you had to replace everything you own at once. Clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchenware etc. Imagine a pipe bursts and destroys much of what's in its path. And it's not just property loss or damage, if there is a fire and you're displaced, your insurance will help cover that. If a visitor has an accident in your premises, insurance foots the lawsuit bill. Rental insurance is quite inexpensive. Many leases stipulate you must have it, but even if it's not mandatory, it's not a good idea to skip it.

4. Spare Key

While you don't want to give anyone who doesn't live there access to your building, there's only a certain number of times you can go to the super and ask to be let into your apartment. In fact, many buildings have rules prohibiting that. Have a spare key and either leave it with trusted friends and family, or find a secure spot for it - like your office desk.

5. Check Your Credit

If you're thinking about moving - now or in the future - keep an eye on your credit. You're going to have a bit of trouble moving with bad credit since most landlords now do a credit check as part of the application process. If you pay bills late, try to break the habit. See what's on your credit report and try working to repair it. Plus, sometimes mistakes get made. You don't want a mistake to cost you a rental opportunity - or any opportunity for that matter!

6. Laundry

In-suite laundry is becoming much more common, especially in upscale, newly renovated or new buildings. But if you don't have it in your suite, make sure you're laundry-room ready. Get a bundle buggy or laundry cart to store your soap and make transporting loads to and from the laundry room much easier. (Bundle buggies are great for taking stuff to and from the car too). Keep a stock of supplies and get into the habit of reloading your card or replenishing your stash of quarters after each laundry day. That way you're not scrounging and scrambling if you need to do an emergency load or want a last-minute outfit.

7. Super Building Super

You've asked for your door to be unlocked, your toilet to be plunged, your sticky door lock to be fixed. Your superintendent is the key to a smooth experience. You may never need them or you may run on a string of bad luck and need then plenty. Get to know your super. They're part of the community. Don't treat them like an on-call service, treat them like neighbours.

8. Balcony Furniture

If you're lucky enough to have a balcony, make sure you enjoy it. It's not for bike storage and boxes, it's for a couple of chairs, maybe even a little table. If you have a terrace you may even want a bistro set and some gardening pots. Don't overlook the enjoyment of having somewhere to sit and enjoy a coffee outside. It is what you make of it, and there are many ways to maximize.

9. Storage

Rental living is knows for lack of storage. Older buildings seem to have more of it, while newer buildings tend to have smaller suite sizes and less storage space. There are plenty of ways to maximize on storage - proper shelving, multi-functional furniture with storage in it, organizers for drawers and cupboards. It's best to survey your storage and maximize it when you first move in. Real storage solutions for small space living do exist and will benefit your lifestyle and comfort.

10. Take Pictures Or Video

Hopefully you'll never need it, but if you do and tragedy strikes, a video of your home or a good set of pictures will make it easier to create that itemized list of possessions for the insurance company. Open your cupboards, your closets and your drawers. A bunch of quick pictures on your smartphone or a video walk-through of your suite will help you tally everything if anything ever goes wrong.

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