While not every renter’s experience is terrible, there is a rise in unhappy renters in the Grand Junction Area. At the moment, the market is not in favor of the Renter, but rather the landlord and the rental companies. The price of rentals in Grand Junction right now is astronomical, and a lot of landlords and rental companies are not cutting any slack. I have recently dealt with some really unfair circumstances concerning a landlord and a rental company, and I want to help you avoid the issues that I, and several other Grand Junction renters have faced lately. I’m not saying all landlords and rental companies are bad, and some are very helpful. However, with the odds stacked against you as a renter, here are some tips to better protect yourself from an unpleasant rental experience.

Document Everything

When I say everything, I mean everything. Bring your camera, and use it. Create a dropbox folder for the rental property, and create folders for each room. Go through each room wall by wall, floor to ceiling. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. It doesn’t matter how nice they may seem, you need to photograph every single flaw, anything you could possibly be blamed for. Write down every single issue, from scratches or nail holes in the wall, to scuffs on the floor. Poorly growing grass, rust marks on a metal shed, everything. Put it all into a word document and save that in the dropbox folder for the property. This is so that when you move out, you have documented everything that isn’t your fault.

Know Your Rights

It’s important to know your rights as an American, and as a renter in your own state. In Colorado, renters have specific rights to protect them from being taken advantage of by landlords and rental companies. Unfortunately, many renters don’t know their rights and are taken advantage of, rather often. Thankfully, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided a list of State Housing Agencies (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/colorado) that provide details on landlord-tenant laws in each state. If you have additional fears you can also schedule an appointment with a local real estate lawyer, and you can pay them to go over your rights as a renter in Colorado.

Get A Lawyer Involved From The Start

Speaking of lawyers, get one involved from the start. Most lawyers will look through your lease for you for $100 or so, and it’s always worth it. I can’t stress that enough, it is always worth that investment. Pay them to look through the lease in its entirety and point out anything that is stacked against you, and stacked in your favor. Take notes, so you know what the lease is stating is your responsibility, and anywhere the lease seems unfair. Make it known to the landlords, and Rental company that you’ve had a lawyer look through the lease, from the start.

Keep Receipts

Keep receipts for anything, and everything that you have to spend on the property. Weed eater, bug spray, grass seed, soil, etc. If you have to make any small repairs, note why you had to make the repair yourself, and keep the receipt. Scan copies of the receipts, and save them to the dropbox folder for the property (remember, we discussed creating a dropbox folder earlier in the article, use it!). Create a word document listing all of the repairs you had to make yourself, and the date. Make sure you keep every receipt involved with anything you spent on the house, scan them, and save them to that dropbox folder. If you don’t have a scanner, the Mesa County Library can help you out.

Renter’s Insurance Is A Must

Renter’s Insurance can protect you from most of the nightmares involved with renting. There are several great insurance brokers in Grand Junction, and one of them would be more than happy to help you find the Renter's Insurance Policy that is right for you.

Don’t Be Afraid To Complain

Don’t be afraid to complain if you feel you’re being treated unfairly, and always document such incidents. If your complaints go unheard, HUD provides a channel for you to submit your renting complaints (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_discrimination) with them. In addition, you can submit an email with The US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division with your complaints at fairhousing@usdoj.gov. This is the best place to complain about neglected maintenance, disputes around deposits and payments and unfair evictions.

Read The Reviews

This is extremely important! Read the online reviews of people who have dealt with the landlord and rental company in the past. The reviews will speak volumes, and you need to know who you’re dealing with from the start because anyone can paint on a smile and act like they are on your side. I’m not saying some bad reviews should steer you away from renting from someone, but it can at least create the proper perspective, and you’ll know what to expect and what you're getting yourself into.

To clarify, I’m not saying all landlords and rental companies are going to screw you over, I’m simply stating that we can no longer be irresponsible consumers, rushing from one situation to the next and holding on for dear life. We have to take responsibility and take the necessary steps to protect ourselves, as renters. As a close friend of mine likes to say “good fences make good neighbors”. If you protect yourself to the utmost from the start, I think you’ll find your renting experience can be pleasant. Fail to protect yourself, and it could be a nightmare. I’ve been dealing with the latter recently, and I refuse to allow myself to get into that situation ever again. I hope this list helps!