Partnering with a good real estate professional
If you wish to rent an apartment or a house in Miami or in Florida, it is highly recommended to partner with a real estate professional, just like when you wish to buy (our buyer’s guide). That real estate consultant is paid by the owner, so his fees are included in rental prices. As your consultant has access to all the properties that are officially on the market, he/she can send you selections in different areas at different prices. Barnes manages a great number of investment properties and also has a portfolio of properties that are off the market. Your agent must be licensed in the State of Florida (Realtor ®), the status of all the Consultants working at Barnes. You can verify that your agent is « active » by going to www.myfloridalicence.com.
Why not deal between tenant and owner directly? Simply because you would then be depriving yourself of invaluable, unique, yet free advice. Your agent guides you through the rental procedure and moving-in process, the approval of your application with the association, and in case of problem during the lease or when you move-out.
Step 1: The offer and lease agreement
When you fall in love with a property, don’t hesitate for too long. If the price is right, there’s a good chance that it will be rented out quickly, especially at a time when the supply of rental properties is limited. Your Barnes Consultant will let you know if there is room for negotiation or it it’s too risky. It is good to know that your Consultant has access to a history of previous rentals, as well as the inventory of competing properties. Just as in buying, the Consultant prepares an offer that summarizes the terms of the rental. To put all the odds on your side, a check representing the first month of rent should be attached to the offer. That check will be cashed on the Barnes escrow account as soon as the offer is accepted, as proof of your will and motivation. This amount is refunded in full if the contract is not executed, meaning if it’s not validated and signed by all parties involved, or if you have not been accepted by the Home Owners Association (HOA). On the other hand, that amount will not be refunded if everything is approved, signed, but you change your mind and decide not to rent.
It is also recommended to join the offer with official documents: ID, pay slips, reference letters from previous owners, bank statements etc. If your file is prepared in advance, you are credible and your application gains much consideration.
The offer is presented to the owner by your Barnes Consultant, through his/her representing agent. This is the cooperation principle. If the offer if accepted, it comes back with the owner’s signature and then you wait for the final contract, prepared this time by the owner’s agent. That contract is most of the time standard, very complete and pre-approved by the Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar; some clauses are negotiable. We advise to have it reviewed by a lawyer if the document is not the official contract from the Association.
Step 2: The application
If you are renting a ‘condo’ apartment, the lease agreement must be completed with the approval of the building’s Home Owners Association (HOA). At your expenses (avg. $100 to $150), you must make a formal application, it is sometimes done online. The questionnaire is comprehensive and must be quickly returned with a check. The association will usually request your presence for a personal interview or schedules an appointment over the phone. It will finalize your approval and provide you with information on how the building/community works. That process can either be quick or otherwise extend over 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the Association. You must therefore ask about this period in order to plan in advance. In condominium buildings, you have to book the elevator the day you move, so it is nice to think about it beforehand.
In case of house rentals, the application will be done online by an independent body.
Step 3 : Property condition report
The property condition report is a vital step because it protects you against abuses on your security deposit. Withholdings on security deposits are very much regulated in Florida if you have a detailed report that lists all the flaws and problems present in the apartment. At Barnes, we are with you when you move-in and out of the apartment. We take pictures and videos which represent great evidence in case of litigation.
In case of problem
You are finally installed, and you are enjoying your new home under the sun ! If a problem arises, always produce written documentation. In the United States, written documents are vital if an out-of-court settlement is not found. An attorney’s letter, at a reasonable cost, is also a good way to prevent a simple conflict from extending over time.
The most frequent clauses
– Contracts are for a maximum of 1 year, renewable if necessary
– Payment of 3 months in advance before entering (one month security deposit, first and last month)
– Cash payments are required in advance if you do not have any history or employment in the USA. This is rare on small budgets but can happen when dealing with luxury properties.
– Pet sizes is highly regulated
– Security deposit for public areas of the building (in case this is paid by the owner).
Who is responsible for what?
– Keys (if you lose them you have to change locks and pay for it)
– Air conditioning Filter replacement (every month)
– Minor repairs that cost less than $300 (must be specified and may be negotiated)
– Electricity, gas, internet inside apartments, water for homes;
– Individual insurance
– Local taxes;
– Water in the buildings ;
– Pool and garden maintenance inside homes
Traps to avoid ?
– Renting for less than 6 months in a building that doesn’t allow it ;
– Subleasing on specialized websites or to friends when it is forbidden