- Benefits of Being Rent Ready
- What to Know
- Preparing to Move
- Renters in the Military
- Renters in School
- Helpful Resources
Benefits of Being Rent Ready
Rent Ready Norfolk makes the process of being a renter easier for you, one of the many benefits of being Rent Ready. You are provided a comprehensive source of information, services and resources related to renting in one location to help navigate the rental process. By being "Rent Ready," you will:
Become a More Informed Renter
- You will have a better understanding of your roles and responsibilities as a renter and you will learn about your landlord or property manager's roles and responsibilities as well. This leaves little room for misunderstanding as it relates to your lease and unit.
- You will be able to make better decisions when it comes to deciding the next place you call home or about where you are currently living.
- You will have a road map for the rental experience from start to finish.
Have Access to Free and Quality Services
- Quality Assessment: Before or after you move into your rental unit, you can request a quality assessment of your unit’s interior, exterior, and common areas to ensure your unit is "Rent Ready".
- Workshops: Workshops designed to help you understand the rental process are available monthly on topics such as Becoming a Model Renter; Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Renter; and Renters Insurance. Workshops are offered to first-time renters and current renters—it is never too early or too late to understand the renting process.
- Property Listing: Searching for properties that meet the standard of "Rent Ready" is now easier with our online property search engine that allows you to view properties certified as "Rent Ready".
Have Access to Free and Quality Resources
- Our Landlord and Tenant Relations Officer can assist you with any rental-related concerns. This resource is available when issues arise between a landlord and a tenant and/or when general advice is needed. Please contact the City’s Landlord & Tenant Relations Officer through the Norfolk Cares Center at (757) 664-6510.
- The Norfolk Cares Center is a single point of contact for residents, businesses, and visitors. Through Norfolk Cares, residents can request a city service, obtain information on city services, and/or receive an update on a previous request for city services. Norfolk Cares also serves as the non-emergency hotline for the City of Norfolk. To request a service and/or learn about a city service, please contact the Norfolk Cares Center at (757) 664-6510 or e-mail email@example.com.
- The Division of Neighborhood Quality is committed to effectively improving the life of Norfolk residents and persevering neighborhood quality through the enforcement of applicable building and property regulations aimed at the protection of public health, safety, and welfare. For assistance, please contact Neighborhood Quality through Norfolk Cares at (757) 664-6510 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Rent Ready Norfolk's services or resource, please contact us by phone at (757) 664-RENT or by e-mail at email@example.com
What Every Renter Should Know Before Moving In
Before signing a lease on your new home, have a look through these tips to ensure you are ready!
- Affordability - Renting an apartment or house can be expensive. Before selecting a place to live, take the following expenses into consideration: monthly rent, utility bill(s), and other monthly expenses (i.e. cable, internet, groceries, and other personal necessities). Your monthly rent should not be more than 30% of your monthly income.
- Location, Location, Location - Ensure the location of your unit is in close proximity to your job, school, grocery store, and accessible to public transportation, if needed.
- Don't Sign on the Dotted Line...Yet - Things to remember before signing a rental agreement: lease agreement start and end dates, amount of the security deposit and additional fees, monthly rent due date, grounds for termination, and the notice period required for the termination of the lease. Do not be afraid to ask questions such as: What if this utility malfunctions? Are my roommates all on the same lease? Are all utilities included in the monthly rent
- Remember, You Have Neighbors - Follow the rules as related to your signed lease, code enforcement property standards set by the city, rules set by your neighborhood civic league and/or neighborhood association.
- Establish a Relationship with Your Landlord - Establishing a good relationship with your landlord will benefit you through the length of your lease and beyond. Remember, a landlord is often used as a reference for your next rental.
- Late Payments = Late Fees - Know the monthly due date of your rental payment. Be sure to pay it on time and know the payment process. Always pay your rent! In the event there are unresolved issues with your unit, there is a process in place to set aside your rental payment into escrow. For more information about this process, contact the Department of Neighborhood Development at (757) 664-4080.
- Know Your Local Resources - Keep up to date about the local resources that can assist you while you are renting such as the Department of Neighborhood Development’s services and programs like Rent Ready Norfolk, the Landlord -Tenant Relations Officer, the Norfolk Care Center, Neighborhood Engagement and Neighborhood Quality and Code Compliance.
- Renters Insurance is Worth Every Penny - Get renters' insurance to protect your personal property in case of an unexpected event or emergency such as a theft, natural disaster, or fire. Policies are generally affordable!
- Learn and Know Your Rights and Responsibilities - Learn about your rights and responsibilities as a renter and learn to become a model renter through Rent Ready Norfolk’s RentingSmart Academy: Good Renter Track. To schedule a workshop or get more information, contact Rent Ready Norfolk at 757-664-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Contact the City Landlord and Tenant Relations Officer - Do not wait to for a problem to persist, such as noncompliance with your rental agreement, with your landlord or property management company, if there is an issue that needs to be address, contact the City of Norfolk's Landlord and Tenant Relations Officer, through the Norfolk Cares Center at (757) 664-6510 to see what options are available for you to resolve the issue.
Preparing to Move
Beyond moving boxes and scheduling a moving truck, here are some facts to consider before moving into your new home.
- Walk through the unit - Before you sign the lease and pick up the keys to the rental unit, schedule a walk through of the unit to ensure it is in good condition to be moved into.
- Schedule a date to move - Once you have signed your lease and paid your security deposit, schedule date with your landlord or property manager when you can move into your unit.
- Change Address - Once the move date has been finalize and the lease has been signed, visit the USPS webiste to change your address to your new residential address.
- Set-up utilities and services - Once the lease has been signed, unless otherwise directed by your landlord or property manager, set your your unit’s electricity, natural gas, water, and cable and internet services in your name.
- Purchase renter's insurance - Purchase renter’s insurance once the lease has been finalize to protect your personal assets from theft and damage, to cover unforeseen circumstances such as injuries or accidents at your unit and to cover additional living expenses if your unit becomes uninhabitable.
- Do a fire safety check - Make sure your rental unit has a fire extinguisher , fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector. If your unit does not have have a fire extinguisher, fire alarm and carbon monoxide request, in writing, these items from your landlord or property manager.
- Schedule a quality assessment - Schedule a quality assessment of your rental unit’s interior, exterior and common areas, if applicable, to assist you with your walk-through of your unit. An extra set of eyes will ensure that your unit is livable and safety.
- Know your rights and responsibilities - Before you move in or after you move in to your unit, attend Rent Ready Norfolk’s workshops on Becoming a Model Renter and VRTLA-Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Renter and read the Virginia Residential Tenant and Landlord Act to review and understand your rights and responsibilities as a renter in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Military Renters: What You Should Know?
As a member of the United States Armed Forces, you have access to additional resources that are available to you as renter because of your status as member of the Armed Forces.
Resources include: the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, The Rental Partnership Program and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) enacted in 2003 and amended several times since then, revised and expanded the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA), a law designed to ease financial burdens on servicemembers during periods of military service. The SCRA is a federal law that provides protections for military members as they enter active duty. It covers issues such as rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, evictions, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosures, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.
For most servicemembers, SCRA protections begin on the date they enter active duty military service. For military reservists, protections begin upon the receipt of certain military orders.
Common invoked provisions of SCRA include, but are not limited to:
Six percent on interest rates: The SCRA’s benefits and protections include a 6 percent interest rate cap on financial obligations that were incurred prior to military service; the ability to stay civil court proceedings; protections in connection with default judgments; protections in connection with residential (apartment) lease terminations; and protections in connection with evictions, mortgage foreclosures, and installment contracts such as car loans. The SCRA limits the amount of interest that can be charged on certain financial obligations that were incurred prior to military service to no more than 6 percent per year, including most fees. In order to have the interest rate on a financial obligation such as a credit card or a mortgage capped at 6 percent per year, a servicemember must provide the creditor with a copy of his or her military orders and a written notice. The written notice and military orders must be provided to creditor within 180 days of the end of the servicemember’s military service. In response a creditor must forgive – not defer – interest greater than 6 percent per year. The creditor must forgive this interest retroactively. The creditor is also prohibited from accelerating the payment of principal in response to a properly made request for a 6 percent interest rate cap.
Residential (apartment) lease terminations: Section 3955 of the SCRA (formerly Section 535) addresses the topic of lease terminations. With respect to residential apartment leases, the SCRA requires that the premises be occupied (or are intended to be occupied) by a servicemember or a servicemember’s dependent(s). Additionally, the lease must either be executed by a person who later enters military service, or is in military service and later receives permanent change of station (PCS) orders or deployment orders for a period of at least 90 days. To terminate a residential lease, the servicemember must submit a written notice and a copy of his or her military orders – or a letter from a commanding officer – by hand delivery, United States Postal Service (USPS) return receipt requested or private carrier to the landlord or landlord’s agent. Under Section 3955 of the SCRA (formerly Section 535), if a servicemember pays rent on a monthly basis, once he or she gives proper notice and a copy of their military orders, then the lease will terminate 30 days after the next rent payment is due.
For information about SCRA, click here.
Rental Partnership Program (RPP)
The Navy's Rental Partnership Program (RPP) is an agreement between the Housing Service Center (HSC) and community housing landlords and is designed to provide service members with suitable and affordable off-base housing and aid in defraying some of the costs incurred by relocation. Housing units which are offered in the RPP are evaluated, inspected and qualified to meet the highest standards by the Navy HSC. The RPP is available to both families and unaccompanied service members.
Tenant Eligibility and Requirements
Generally, all full-time active duty service members married or single and who are drawing BAH are eligible to participate in RPP.
- Service member is required to have a minimum of six months to one-year left on End of Active Obligated Service (EAOS) and Projected Rotation Date (PRD) (depending upon normal lease period for the area).
- If single, service members E-4 and below with less than 4 years of active duty service must have approval from their current Command to live off base (BAH approval from the HSC is also required). To get started with finding properties in the RPP, the service member should go the HSC with their orders, Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), and a copy of their page 2 to be properly counseled on their eligibility and requirements.
Benefits to the Tenant
The program offers service members special rental benefits. The RPP varies at each installation, and typical benefits may include:
- Homes are inspected by our HSCs and pre-approved as suitable, safe and affordable for military members.
- Discount on rental rates.
- Waiver of or reduced security and utility deposit costs.
- No or reduced application fee or credit check fee.
- Rent payments via allotment.
- No income requirements (as long as service member is receiving BAH in accordance with his or her current rank).
- Lease cannot be denied to a service member due to a negative credit check (only a poor reference from a previous landlord).
For more information about the Navy's Rental Partnership Program, click here
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
The Society provides financial assistance and education, as well as other programs and services, to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, their eligible family members, widows, and survivors. The Society also receives and manages donated funds to administer these programs and services.
The main goal of the Society is to help each person who comes to get support for their immediate needs. The long-term mission is to help Sailors and Marines become financially self-sufficient by learning how to better manage their personal finances and prepare for unplanned expenses. Assistance, for qualifying situations, from the Society includes:
- Financial Assistance and Counseling
- Quick Assist Loan
- Education Assistance
- Health Education and Post-Combat Support
- Budget for Baby
- Emergency Travel
- Disaster Relief
- Thrift Shop
For more information about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, please click here.
Student Renters: What You Should Know?
If you are thinking about moving off-campus, it will likely be your first time having a landlord, reviewing and signing a lease and maintaining a rental unit.
Before signing a lease, consider the following information to make your transition from on-campus housing to off-campus housing successful.
Individual Lease vs. Joint Lease
So what is the difference? An individual lease is when one occupant signs for a bedroom and share of the living area. A joint lease is when all occupants sign for the full rent and any damages as a group. To put this into perspective, if you were to sign a joint lease with your roommate and your roommate is not able to pay his or her share of the rent that was agreed upon before signing of the lease, you, as their roommate, will be responsible for paying the full rent despite you already paying your half of the rent. If it was an individual lease, you would not be responsible for your roommate proportion of the rent.
A co-signer or a guarantor is someone who signs the lease in addition to the student. By signing the lease, in most cases, the co-signer agrees to:
- Have the property owner check his/her credit;
- Guarantee that the tenants complies with the rental agreement; and
- Guarantee the payment of rent.
Before subleasing your rental unit, you need to review your lease to make sure you have permission to sublet your unit. If not specified in the lease or you want to request an exception, send a certified letter with a return-receipt requested, seeking permission from your landlord to sublet your apartment at least 45 days before your departure. In the letter, you will need to include the time frame you are planning to sublease your apartment as well as the proposed subtenant and his or her credentials, and reason for subletting. If you have roommates, make sure to include their written consent to bring on a subtenant in your certified letter.
One of the most important questions students should ask themselves is, "How much can I truly afford to spend on my housing?" The answer to this question should be based on your individual budget. This works best when done before you even begin to look for a place to call home. To determine your budget before moving off campus, evaluate your financial situation using the questions below to guide the design of your budget:
What sources of income of financial support do you have to cover housing expenses (i.e. parents, guardian, or sponsorship)?
Will you have a job while in school? What will be your estimated monthly incomes?
Will you be using financial aid, such as, but not limited to loans, scholarships, and/or grants, to cover household expenses?
Additionally, items to consider before moving off campus are:
Your living expenses should never exceed 30% of your take home income. Living expenses include rent, utilities, cable/internet services, renter's insurance, pet fees, and other fees related to housing on a monthly bases.
Your transportation costs and personal expenses should never exceed 30% of your income (15% for each category). Transportation expenses include bus fare, car insurance, parking fees, car payment, and gas cost. Personal expenses include food, toiletries, medical expenses, cell phone, and laundry cost, if applicable.
Remember that what you are basing these numbers on depends on the total amount of money you are actually receiving each month, as you should only factor in income that is guaranteed.
Off-Campus Student Services
The City of Norfolk is home to several colleges and universities that have off campus student services available to students. In addition, to the services and resources available through Rent Ready Norfolk, students in the area should become familiar with the resources and services available to their university or college's campus:
- Eastern Virginia Medical School's Campus Housing
- Norfolk State University’s Off Campus Housing
- Old Dominion University's Off Campus Student Life Office
- Charting Your Course - The City of Norfolk’s property owner guide to increasing rental property value and enhancing property management. For more information click here.
- Federal & Virginia Fair Housing Act - The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for housing. The prohibitions specifically cover discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children. Virginia Fair Housing Office is responsible for investigating housing discrimination complaint, to file a complaint Click here
- How to be a Successful Renter - Prepared by the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) this eBook is designed to help be a successful renter. Click here to download the eBook.
- Landlord and Tenant Relations Officer - The City of Norfolk’s Landlord & Tenant Relations Officer aids landlords and renters with any rental related concerns and is available when issues arise between a landlord and a tenant and/or when general advice is needed by either landlord or renter. For assistance, contact Norfolk’s Landlord & Tenant Relations Officer, Denise Wilson, CHC at: (757) 664-6782 or email@example.com
- Norfolk's General District Court Mediation Program - No-cost mediation is a voluntary process that is available to all parties involved in a dispute. To schedule a mediation orientation before a scheduled court hearing, contact Norfolk's Mediation Coordinator, Patricia Willis at: 757-739-0476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to learn more about Norfolk's General District Court Mediation Program.
- Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia - Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia (Legal Aid) provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income residents of Hampton Roads. Legal Aid represents civil matters including landlord/tenant, public benefits, domestic violence, family law, consumer law, collections, estate planning, education and other civil rights and discrimination matters.
- Regent Law Clinic - Regent Law Clinic provides free legal services to low-income residents of the Tidewater area which includes Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. The clinic operates from August through December and January through April when classes are in session for the university.
- Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Handbook - The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Handbook has been prepared to provide information on the rights, remedies, and responsibilities of landlords and renters concerning the rental process. Before signing a lease, prospective tenants should read and understand the terms of the contract. Consulting a lawyer or the landlord for clarification of the rental agreement is advisable.