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Some Tips for Taking the Sweat Out of a Summer Move

July 18, 1999|LETA HERMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's never too hot to move, or so it seems when summertime comes around. Just finding a U-Haul at the end of the month is next to impossible this time of year. Whether it's because the kids are out of school or the weather is agreeable (gotta love that midsummer heat on moving day!), renters are on the move.

I've always considered moving an art form. Just figuring out whether you're better off moving yourself or hiring movers could take a lifetime of study, practice and mistakes.

Clyde and Shari Steiner, who've tackled many cross-country moves as well as out-of-country moves, deserve honorary Art of Moving degrees for their pain and agony.

Luckily, they've put their experiences in a book so novices can avoid the many pitfalls of moving. Look for the Steiners' "Complete How-to-Move Handbook" in local bookstores.

If you've got everything settled for your move--the moving van is reserved and the change-of-address cards are ready to mail--you may welcome a few moving tips specifically for renters:

1. Make sure you give notice in time.

This is easier said than done. First you need to read your lease or agreement to find out what kind of notice is required.

If you've planned it right, your lease is up for renewal and all you have to do is tell your landlord you're not renewing. For a rental agreement, you typically need to tell your landlord a month in advance, though some agreements stipulate two or three months' notice.

A mistake in timing can cost you money. If your rental agreement is unclear, ask your landlord to clarify the termination policy.

2. Call your utility companies.

Ask your new landlord which utilities are included in the rent. Since every rental comes with a different mix of utilities, it's important to get it all straightened out before you move in.

For the utilities your landlord doesn't cover, you'll need to set up service with the utility companies. You may even find yourself paying for garbage or water for the first time, especially if you're renting a single-family home.

And, don't forget to tell the utility companies to disconnect your services the day after you leave your old apartment.

3. Coordinate the timing of your move.

Is your new apartment going to be ready for you to move in on the day you need to be out of your old apartment? Make sure your landlord knows what day and time you'll be moving in.

Be especially cautious if the renter who is leaving your new apartment is moving out the day before you move in. You want to make sure that a professional cleans the apartment if the former tenant doesn't do a good cleaning job. If the tenant had pets, will the landlord have enough time to bomb for fleas, if necessary?

4. Where can you unload?

Check with your landlord or manager to see if you need to reserve a freight elevator or make special arrangements to use a loading dock. Some apartment buildings won't allow you to move in on the weekends.

If you're getting a large moving van, where are you going to park on the day of the move? In a city, you may not be able to get close to the front door if there are parking restrictions or the truck can't fit down a narrow street.

5. Dispose of trash appropriately.

Don't overload the dumpsters on moving day with excess trash. Your landlord may deduct the cost of hauling it from your security deposit. It's better to throw away the trash little by little during the month before the move.

Or, you can take it to the dump yourself or have a yard sale (with your landlord's permission and city permit, if needed, of course).

6. Roll up your sleeves for some serious cleaning.

When I lived in Michigan, a landlord charged me a $75 cleaning fee when I left. It was probably the best fee a landlord ever charged me. When I left the apartment, I didn't worry about cleaning at all.

Since then, I've lived in states where cleaning fees are illegal, which means I've had to leave my apartments as clean as they were the day I moved in.

Most likely your landlord won't charge you a cleaning fee, either because the fee is illegal in your state or the landlord prefers to deduct the cost of cleaning from your deposit if you don't clean.

If your landlord expects you to clean, you can do it yourself or hire professional cleaners.

7. Settle the details with your landlord.

Ask your landlord if you should patch any holes in the walls or repair any other damage you may have caused. Then walk through the apartment with your landlord and discuss any problems.

Try to get a commitment for the full return of your security deposit if you think you deserve it. If there is damage or some other problem, try to come to an agreement about how much your landlord will deduct from your security deposit.

Don't forget to give your old landlord your new address so he can mail your security deposit without delay. Also ask when your landlord will send you the refund. Most state laws require landlords to return a deposit and an itemized list of any deductions within a certain number of days (typically two to four weeks).

8. Take an inventory of the condition of your new apartment.

Don't rush through it. Be thorough about noting on a checklist any damage or dirt you find. Your landlord should join you for the walk-through. If your landlord refuses, do it yourself or ask a friend to help as a witness.

9. Take pictures or a video.

Pictures are worth a thousand security deposits. Hopefully you'll never need to use your pictures in court, but if you ever have a disagreement about damage to the apartment, you will be glad you took the few minutes to do it.

Leta Herman is a syndicated columnist. Questions on any aspect of apartment living can be addressed to lherman@shaysnet.com, or Leta Herman, care of Inman News Features, 1250 45th St. Suite 360, Emeryville, CA 94608. Distributed by Inman News Features.

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