The off-campus housing search can be challenging in the San Francisco rental market. Here are some helpful resources to look for your new home.
Beware of Scams
The internet is full of scams for housing. Here are some tips to help avoid some of those scams.
How to Detect a Rental Scam
•Rental amount is unusually low in comparison to the average rates for the area
•Landlord is unable to show you the rental
•Landlord claims to be out of town, state, or country
•There is a sense of urgency
•There are requests made of advanced payments through wiring, cashier’s check, money order, escrow service, Western Union, or MoneyGram
•Landlord does not ask for rental application or reference check
•A third party is involved
•Ad and/or correspondence has misspellings
•Excessive use of capitalization
How to Avoid a Rental Scam
•Never wire money, nor pay money in advance of seeing the rental
•Always meet the landlord or property manager in person before signing rental documents or sending money
•Never give out bank account information
•Contact the county assessor’s office to look up property ownership: http://www.sfassessor.org/
•Do a web search of the landlord’s name
How to Report a Rental Scam
•Call the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center toll- free hotline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
•FTC online complaint form: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov
•Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov
For more information about rental scams, please visit: http://rentalscams.org/
Know Your Rights
This is the California guide to residential tenants’ rights and responsibilities.
Create a Resume
Present yourself in a way that makes a landlord want to choose you to rent their property. Show them that you have a strong history of responsibility by creating your resume. Here is a sample resume to use to create your own.
Questions to ask about a rental property
Rental ads can be brief and may not provide enough information about the rental. Below you will find examples of questions that you can ask a landlord over the phone or at an open house. This list is by no means exhaustive and questions should be tailored to your specific concerns. Read the rental advertisement thoroughly before calling a landlord to avoid wasting both the landlord’s and your time. Focus on any holes in the information. For example, if the rental is listed as being in a neighborhood you are unfamiliar with, ask for the cross-streets or local landmarks. If the ad already tells you there is a washer and dryer, don’t ask.
•How much is the deposit?
•Can it be paid over two or three months?
•Is the deposit negotiable?
•Are any utilities included?
•Has there been a recent rent increase?
•Do you accept multiple rent checks or do you want the entire amount in one check?
•How much do the utilities for this property usually run?
•How are the utilities split? This is especially relevant in shared housing or if there is only one meter for more than one rental.
•How many tenants are allowed in the unit?
•Is subletting permissible as long as you, the landlord, are notified?
•How long do tenants usually rent here?
•What appliances are included? Are there washer/dryer hookups(if washer/dryer is not included)?
•Does the unit have off-street parking? How many parking spaces? Are parking permits required for street parking? Is there a garage?
•Is the unit furnished?
•What type of heating does the unit have (forced air, wall furnace or other)? Gas or electric? This can impact your utility bill.
•Is the stove gas or electric?
•Is there a back yard?
•Where is the rental located? What is the address?
•Is there a bus stop nearby? How far?
•Are the tenants responsible for the upkeep of landscaping? (They usually are.)
•How long will the rental be available? Some landlords may only plan on renting during the school year while you may want to keep the rental over the summer. It is best to know this up front.
Have a pet you want to live with?
Finding a place that is pet-friendly in San Francisco is difficult, but not impossible. To enhance your chances with a potential landlord, consider creating a pet resume.
Try to address the following areas in your pet resume:
•Mention anything about your pet’s age, activity level, and/or breed traits that help make your dog or cat a “good tenant.” Tell the landlord something positive about your animal’s personality and how much you care about your pet.
•Give examples of your pet’s good behavior and your responsibility. Has your dog been to obedience school or had special training? If your dog has lived in apartments before and is accustomed to it, say so. If you have more than one pet, let the landlord know how well they get along and keep each other company while you are away. If your cat uses a scratching post, say so and also note that your cat is litter box trained.
•There can be a big difference between a 10-year-old dog and a frisky puppy. If your pet is quiet, calm and/or less active, responds well to visitors and does not bark often, point that out. If you have an active dog, explain how you fulfill their exercise requirements.
•Explain how you keep your pet clean and free of fleas. Mention that you always clean up after your dog, and/or dispose of cat litter properly.
•Let the landlord know your dog or cat is spayed or neutered. Also note that your animal is up-to-date on their vaccinations, and mention the name of your pet’s veterinarian.
•Describe the arrangements for your pet when you go to school, work, or on vacation.
•Offer to sign a pet agreement and pay a pet deposit.
•You can certify your dog through the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen program which will test and verify that your dog has good manners at home and in the community.
In addition to your pet’s resume, you should also attach reference letters from current and previous landlords and/or neighbors, certificates of completion of obedience/training classes, references from your pet’s trainer or groomer, a health certificate from your vet, and a picture for identification purposes.
Inspecting a Rental Property
Here’s a simple checklist to guide you in checking out a space you’re interested in renting.
Always be prepared for any disasters
When living in San Francisco, or anywhere in California, we must always be prepared for earthquakes. Here is a list of items you need to be prepared for any major disaster or earthquake.