6. Paying too much in rent

Apartment evaluation site ApartmentRatings.com has tips on ways tenants can save money. Those include renting from individual landlords, who value long-term tenants and are less likely to raise rent quickly; searching in the middle of the month when there are fewer people out apartment-hunting; and signing the longest lease you can afford, because landlords often discount for long-term tenants.

7. Not taking action if your landlord breaks the law

When few apartments are available, some landlords believe they can get away with letting repairs go, allowing unsafe conditions to persist or increasing rent more than local regulations allow. Most often, landlords count on their tenants being ignorant of the law.

"Tenants give up rights and fail to assert rights all the time" because they don't know what they're entitled to, says tenant lawyer Feinberg. Don't be one of them. Local governments and nonprofits often provide booklets and online materials to educate you on the basics. There's also LawHelp.org, which has links to legal information on tenant rights in all 50 states. You can also check your phone directory for government agencies whose names mention housing, consumer affairs, or tenants.

The best landlords know the law and follow it. Those who don't shouldn't be able to count on your ignorance.

8. Passing up possible tax benefits

When landlords pay local property taxes, they usually pass on part or all of the cost to their tenants in the form of higher rent. But they also benefit from the road, school and sanitation improvements that those taxes pay for. Some states -- California, Missouri and Maryland, for example -- have tried to correct this by providing a tax credit to renters. Contact your state tax department to see if yours does, too.

9. Eliminating rental prospects based on square footage alone

A great layout can make an apartment with less square footage feel bigger than one with more, says New York City real estate agent Brad Malow. He recently showed a 750-square-foot apartment that felt tiny because it included a long hallway that served no function, while a smaller 600-square-foot unit seemed spacious because it had an open layout. "Renters miss opportunities because they merely are looking at numbers on a page," Malow says.

10. Not taking your roommate to appointments

Finding a place can consume hours, days or even weeks, and it's tempting to save time by splitting up visits to prospective apartments with your roommate or significant other. But in group or couple situations, Malow says it's a waste of time not to have all parties at the initial appointment. In a hot rental market, by the time you get the second person to look at the apartment, it's already gone.

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