10 Things to Consider When Renting a House in the Northern Mariana Islands

An aerial view of Honolulu in Hawaii, with Mariana Islands.

The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) restricts land ownership to persons of “Northern Mariana Islands descent.” This restriction is found in Article XII of the CNMI Constitution.  Legally a person of “Northern Mariana Islands descent” is identified as a person with parents who, in 1950, were born or were living in what is now the CNMI, and were a citizen of the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Island. For everyone who does not fall under this category (including the majority of US citizens) they can rent real estate property in the CNMI for up to 55 years. 

This means that if you’re looking to settle in the CNMI and are not of CNMI descent then renting is your only option. If you are looking to rent a home here, there are a number of things to consider. Below, we’ve created a basic guide on things to consider when scouting  houses for rent in CNMI. 

1. Make Sure the Neighborhood Is Desirable

Do your research on the different neighborhoods and areas of the CNMI to get a better idea of what would best suit you and your daily needs. Do you want to be close to your place of work, to a supermarket, to a medical facility,  or to a gas station? When visiting the neighborhoods, talk to potential neighbors and ask them what the area is like. How happy are they living there? Get their opinion of area services like water, power, and mail delivery.

2. Do Your Due Diligence on the Property

It’s always best to physically visit your potential home and inspect it thoroughly before deciding on anything else . Look at the layout of the home, and ask yourself, “ will this suit my needs?” Examine the structure, electrical wiring, and plumbing system. Take note of any damage or things that need to be repaired or replaced. Talk to your landlord about these concerns,ask all your questions about the property, and get answers before you sign the lease. State any requests or changes you want to have done. Many landlords in the CNMI run credit and background checks on potential tenants, but it’s also wise to do your own check on your potential landlord and their reputation.  

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3. Read and Understand Your Lease Agreement

When you sign a lease, you are effectively agreeing to abide by the clauses set therein. Make sure you thoroughly understand each and every part of your lease before signing it. Find someone you trust to help you understand any parts you are unsure about, or get assistance from a professional lawyer. Make sure all the terms you and your landlord have agreed to are clearly stated on this document. 

4. Get a Typhoon-Proof Home

Typhoons are a part of life in the CNMI. As such, make sure that the house you are renting is typhoon proof. This means it must be made to official standards so that it is structurally solid and able to withstand strong winds and torrential rains. A solid home with a reinforced roof and wind-and-debris-proof doors is best. Its windows should also come with typhoon shutters that can be closed to protect flying debris from entering the home. 

5. Make Sure the Property Has Consistent Electricity

Check that the electrical system of the property you are renting is up to date, properly installed, and running smoothly. Also check the consistency of electrical service in your area and the frequency of power outages. You want to live in an area that has electricity 24 hours a day. It’s also wise to have a generator on standby so your house will have power no matter what, even in the aftermath of a typhoon.

6. Check If the Property Has Proper Access to Water

Make sure your chosen neighborhood and home has running water 24 hours a day. If you can, get a home with an emergency water tank or cistern. This will be useful if the island you live on loses power and running water in the aftermath of a storm. Also consider looking for a home with good water pressure. This is particularly important if you would like to have a washer and dryer in your home. 

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7. Take Parking Space into Consideration

Private cars are the primary mode of transportation in the CNMI. As such, make sure your rental home has ample space to park a car in. A covered area or garage is preferable so your car can be properly shielded during a storm.  

8. Ensure That Safety Features Are in Place

Choose a home that is well lit, with secure doors, and with a fence, if possible. Many homes in the Northern MarianasI do not have fences around the property, so this might be something you should request from your landlord before moving in. Also check the crime rate in the neighborhoods you are considering. Areas with higher incidents of crime are best avoided. In these areas, it is recommended to have security bars or grills on the windows to prevent theft.

9. Ensure That You Have Access to the Internet

Have the internet and phone line installed and running before you move in. Ask around for the best internet provider and plan in your area.  

10. If You Have Pets, Check If the Rental Property Is Pet Friendly

If you have pet dogs or cats, look for a rental property that is pet friendly. It is common for dogs in the Northern Marianas to be kept in homes as a form of security and not primarily as a pet. As many homes do not have fences, these dogs sometimes run free and become strays, which could be unsafe for other pet owners who will be walking their own pets. There have also been reports of dog theft, so dog owners would be wise to rent a secure home with a fence around the property.   

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Renting a home in the CNMI is a big responsibility. Diligent planning and thorough research will make the move easier. Try to be as organized as possible and plan ahead to avoid unnecessary headaches. Know what your non-negotiables are and what you can be flexible about. Above all, have fun in your search. Good luck!

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