More and more Americans are choosing to live in rental units, rather than buy their own home. For individuals who have little to no rental experience and/or those who have difficulty obtaining rental housing- finding and maintaining rental housing can be a complicated and confusing process that could have long-lasting consequences.
“To help individuals gain a better understanding of how to establish a positive landlord-tenant rental experience, the University of Wisconsin-Extension developed Rent Smart – an educational program that provides valuable information for potential renters to find and keep housing. The program focuses on gaining the knowledge and skills essential for a successful renting experience,” said Amanda Kostman UW-Extension Youth and Family Educator in Walworth County and co-chair of the UW-Extension Rent Smart team that recently updated the program.
Rent Smart takes an active learning approach that emphasizes forming a strong partnership between tenant and landlord. Other goals include helping people gain the skills and confidence to find and maintain affordable housing; understanding the application and screening processes landlords use; and learning the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords.
“Establishing a positive rental history is much like having a positive credit report,” says Michelle Tidemann, Rent Smart team co-chair and UW-Extension Family Living Educator in Fond du Lac County.
Tidemann said local partners trained in teaching the program are crucial to its success. Rental housing providers, local housing authorities and other tenant service providers who are trained in the course play an essential role in making it available in the community.
Rent Smart is digital in format which enables instructors to use the six units in their entirety or taught alone. The sections cover helping future renters determine if they can afford an apartment; checking out an apartment and landlord; applying for rental housing; learning who is responsible for maintenance and repairs; communicating with landlord and neighbors; and legal aspects of renting. The curriculum is available in English and Spanish.
To learn more about Rent Smart, visit online at https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/rentsmart/ or contact your local UW-Extension office.