Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Life Skills: Finding a Place to Live

One of the basic things each person has to do after leaving an abusive situation is find a safe place to live. To some this may seem like a very simple thing to do, while to others it is the cause of a lot of stress. Some people have never had to look for housing by themselves and do not know where to start. If you have never had to do this, you may not even realize that there are deposits and things that will require money up front, and various other things that you need to be aware of.
If you have the money and are planning to just buy a house, do your research first. Don’t get caught into a mortgage that you will not be able to afford later on. If you have never bought a house before, talk to friends, family, and co-workers that have bought houses and ask for advice. Whether buying or renting the following may help you some, but is in no way a complete explanation as to what you may need to do.
Start at the beginning, where to look? Look in newspapers, internet, and local reality companies, and ask people you know if they know anyone that have a place for rent. Some apartment complexes and reality companies advertise in papers and some do not, so get out the phone book and just call each one listed and see if the having anything available in your size and price range.
It is a good idea to always view the place before signing any paperwork. While there check that all the light switches work, the faucets all work, drains are working and make sure the toilets flush without problems. I realize that some of this seems elementary but it is amazing what we forget get when stressed and if you are looking for your very first place on your own while also dealing with the other stresses of just leaving an abusive situation you may over look things that will only cause further stress in the future.
Depending on what area of the country you live in you may need to check inside the closets and cabinets to make sure there isn’t a mold or termite problem. Look for obvious signs of water damage that may have been caused by a leaking roof or window. You do not want to end up living somewhere that may end up making you regret leaving the abuse.
One thing most of us almost always forget to check for is working smoke/fire detectors, and if there is more than one way into and out of the dwelling in case of an emergency. Along those lines if there is an alarm type system in the place ask how much it costs to turn it on and what the monthly payments would be. Some alarm companies will make you sign a term of service agreement where you will have to pay for a certain term even if you move. So make sure you know all of that and before getting the alarm system turned on in your name.
Ask what the landlord’s rules are concerning sizes and types of pets allowed, and if they require a pet deposit, if you plan to have pets or already do. Some apartment complexes do not allow children either, so if you have kids make sure you aren’t trying to move into one of that doesn’t allow children.
Some income brackets qualify for housing assistance; ask the organization that you are working with what programs are available in your area and how to find out if you qualify. If you do not qualify or there are no programs in your area it is important that you understand that some reality companies and apartment complexes are going to ask for past rental history and may even check your credit report. In both of those cases if you think there is anything on either of those that would keep them from renting to you, explain briefly what your situation is. Some will go ahead and check anyway but will work something out with you. It never hurts to try!

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