Do you remember the day you moved into your own apartment or rental property? I do. As exciting as it was, I was also a little nervous to sign the rental agreement that stated my responsibilities for someone else’s property. Fast forward a few years, and now I’m the property owner. There were things I know now as an owner that I wish I had known as a renter. And since 35% of families in the United States are renters, I thought it might be a good idea to point out the biggest mistakes renters make that cause them to lose money. As I detail these ten mistakes, remember that good communication and following the lease agreement is essential for a healthy rental relationship (and satisfactory living situation)!

1. Declining renter's insurance

The landlord has insurance on the property he or she rents, but not the renter’s personal property. Consider calling your auto insurance carrier to ask about renter’s insurance—you may even get a discount as an established customer! One of our properties experienced a break-in where jewelry was stolen, but the renter did not have renter's insurance and suffered the loss financially.

2. Signing a rental lease without thoroughly reading it

The lease details the "rules" for renting the property. Details include: starting date and length of lease, amount of deposit paid, when the rent is due, and terms of the rental agreement. Make sure the owner provides you with a copy of the signed lease agreement for your records.

3. Paying the rent past the due date and incurring a penalty

Some rental leases (including mine) specifically list when rent is due and when a late fee (typically 10%) will be charged. If rent is $500 per month and there’s a $50 late fee after five days, you’ve just added 10% to your rent. Do this every month and you’ve spent $600 in 12 months by paying your rent late. In the past, I’ve even changed the date that rent was due to align with a tenant’s pay schedule. Doing this saved him late fees and I was able to feel more confident about consistently receiving payments.

4. Failing to report problems with the property when they occur

The property owner is dependent on the renter to report issues with the property. Even the smallest problems matter. For instance, an improperly functioning clothes dryer could be a fire hazard and lead to bigger losses. Reporting issues saves the owner time and money and keeps the tenant in a safe, well-maintained home.

5. Inviting extra people to live with you

One of my tenants recently made this mistake. The five-member family moved another three people into the home. The property was too small to accommodate these additional people and we had to ask them to move. The lease typically states the number of tenants allowed to occupy a property. This protects the owner from violating county and city ordinances and provides you with a safe environment.

6. Ignoring the lease specifics

Here’s a perfect example: bringing pets into a home when the lease specifically prohibits pets. One of my tenants initially agreed to the pet clause but wanted the option to bring the pet in during inclement weather. We said, “no problem,” and added it to the lease agreement. If you’re worried about a certain rule, simply ask the owner and they may be willing to make an exception!

7. Failing to properly maintain the lawn

Keeping your lawn well maintained is usually not an option if you live in a rental. Some leases may even mention eviction and a forfeited deposit for unkempt lawns. Keeping the yard properly maintained as per the lease keeps the property within the subdivision standards—if any—and it also advertises the property for future renters.

8. Failing to provide a notice prior to moving

If the rent is $500 per month, the deposit is normally $500 upon signing the lease. If you’re a renter, you probably don’t want to lose your deposit for something simple like failing to inform your landlord of your moving date. Keeping the landlord informed is the best money-saving advice you can follow when renting a home. Plus, a proper notice will give your landlord an incentive to provide a reference for your next rental agreement.

9. Forgetting to forward the mail

When our last renters moved out, we found a notice for a federal express shipment placed on the door of the property. We've also found tax information in the mailbox, bills and personal communication. The property owner will appreciate your cooperation in forwarding your mail to your next address, as will the next occupant of the property.

10. Possible eviction for non-payment

Suppose you lose your job and can’t pay the rent. The landlord wants to keep someone in the home, so he may negotiate with you to make payments instead of a lump sum for the month. Or, he may knock $50 off of the rent to help you out. We’ve delayed rental payments due to hospitalization, a death in the family, and car accidents. Just ask–you might be surprised!