Landlords offer advice to renters

Egon Bassler Mortensen and Haley Mangan, Contributors

First-time renters may have many questions about the process. Should you sublease? Why do you need references? What’s a listing scam? The questions can be endless when renting for the first time – or when returning to the renter world after something like COVID-19.

One source for answers to these important questions are the people some renters may think of as a nemesis, but who can actually be very helpful – landlords.

Madison College students are all commuters, so many are renters since there is no on-campus housing option for them.

Mary Jo Mangan is a private landlord, meaning that she does her own rentals and does not work for a rental management company.  Mangan rents properties near Madison College’s Traux campus and offers advice to students on what avoid when renting.

“The most common issue is making sure everyone is getting their rent in on time,” Mangan says. “My biggest pet peeve is having to ask tenants if they have their rent when it was made clear rent is due on the first of the month. As a landlord, I’m responsible if the blinds get broken or an air conditioner breaks so I need to make sure I always have the extra money in case an unexpected expense arises.”

Other tips Mangan has for students who are renting is to make sure they have a solid job and that they can balance work with school. In addition, they should have money saved for when they move so that they have a cushion for making rent on time every month.

“Keep your place neat and don’t break anything to get a good reference,” she stresses.

Mangan also cautions about listing scams, such as a false listing of a house or apartment.

“Scammers do this to swindle you out of a big buck, or even to steal your identity,” Mangan says. “It is important to pay attention and ask yourself if it is too good to be true.”

To avoid listing scams, she recommends taking a careful look at the ad and listed amenities and price of the bedrooms.

“I came across a three-bedroom house for $500 a month,” Mangan recalls.

“I knew it was too good to be true based on that, and based on the fact the real estate agent couldn’t meet with me. They wanted me to send them the money and they’d send me a key to the house. Huge red flags, and I simply reported them.”

References are also important and can be a difficult requirement to meet for students who are renting for the first time.

“References are a must for me to rent,” Mangan says. “I need to know if you can pay rent on time, make sure you didn’t trash your last place. Stuff like that helps me to pick someone with a reference versus taking a risk on someone who doesn’t have a reference.”

A renter’s past history plays another important role in securing a new place.

“Without a renter’s history, you will need to have a cosigner, almost always,” Mangan says.  “Sometimes even if you do have renter’s history of landlords, I prefer a co-signer when renting to young adults.”

So, what if you can’t find a cosigner?

“Some subleases will be available to you, as well as you may be able to pay months of rent in advance to get someone to take a chance on you,” Mangan advises.