In the same manner that homeowners have the right to search for a good tenant, boarders have the right to search for a good home. There are several issues to consider:
What are you renting? Be certain you are getting a defined area of space plus access to cooking and plumbing facilities -- both of which should preferably be indoors.
What about pets? Find out if there are any pets -- such as a cat -- which may not be present when you first visit the property. This is particularly important for individuals with allergies.
What does the rent include? Is there an additional fee for utilities or the phone? Can you use the washer and dryer without cost?
Does the owner have special interests which could prove objectionable? For example, is band practice held at the house?
Has there been a past tenant? If so, ask to contact that individual.
Will you have access to common facilities such as outside yards, barbeques and parking areas? Find out before you move in.
How can you terminate your tenancy? It should be possible for either party to terminate their tenancy with 30 days' notice. The deposit, generally the equivalent of one month's rent, should be returned as soon as the owner and renter have determined whether any money is due for damages or unpaid expenses such as phone bills. The deposit money is not a substitute for the final month's rent.
In looking for a boarding situation, consider your needs for personal space, geographic location, affordability, and amenities. Ask questions and get to know your prospective landlord. there are many excellent boarding opportunities in the Washington area and with a little searching you may find a situation which is more attractive, and less expensive, than many apartment units.