Renting your first apartment is both exciting and scary. It’s a big step towards adulthood and you’ll need to prepare yourself for a lot of new responsibilities.
Many landlords require a rental application that includes your credit score, pay stubs and/or W-2, past renters or personal references, and your social security number. You may also need to include a co-signer.
1. Know Your Limits
Leaving the comfort of your parents’ home or your dorm can be an exciting adventure, but renting an apartment comes with some new responsibilities. Knowing your limits can help you navigate the rental process successfully.
It’s important to know how much rent you can afford and what upfront costs will be required. Some common fees include a security deposit, first month’s rent and an application fee. If you have a pet, you’ll also need to pay a pet deposit and/or fee.
Be sure to factor in utilities, food, transportation or gas costs, subscriptions, and other ongoing expenses when determining your budget. Conventional wisdom recommends spending no more than 30% of your income on housing. Be sure to run the numbers and make a list of all monthly expenses so that you can find an apartment that will accommodate your budget. The last thing you want is to lose out on an apartment because you weren’t prepared!
2. Know Your Rights
Being a first time apartment renter can be exciting, but it also comes with its fair share of responsibilities. Luckily, many of those are fairly simple to understand and manage, especially when you have the proper knowledge.
One of the most important things for a new renter to know is how much they can afford to pay on a monthly basis. A common recommendation is that rent should be no more than 30% of your gross income.
A new apartment renter may have to pay upfront costs such as a security deposit (sometimes equal to 1 month’s rent), an application fee, and the first and last months of rent. If they have a pet, they will also likely have to pay a pet deposit or fee.
Many landlords will require a co-signer, which is usually a parent, peer, or mentor with good credit to help qualify for the apartment. They will be responsible for paying the rent if the tenant fails to do so, as well as any damage to the property.
3. Know Your Lease
When it comes to renting a new place for the first time, you need to know your lease. You want to avoid a situation where you are moving in and find out you are not allowed to have pets, or you are required to pay an extra fee for having a pet.
Also make sure to ask about whether trash and garbage are included in the rent, and if there is a monthly parking fee. Lastly, you should always see the apartment in person before signing anything. You never know if the pictures online are old or just from the model apartment.
If the landlord made any oral promises while you were looking at the apartment, get them in writing. It will help you if something goes wrong during your stay. For example, some corporately managed apartments try to sneak in clauses that require you to pay two months of rent if you end the lease early, which is illegal in most states.
4. Know Your Landlord
Whether you’re moving out of your parent’s home or leaving the dorm room behind, renting your first apartment is a big step. But the process doesn’t have to be intimidating. With these expert tips and a few other essentials, you can start off your new rental experience on the right foot.
Landlords want to rent to responsible tenants who will take good care of the property and pay their rent on time. When you meet your landlord or property manager, treat it like a job interview and put your best foot forward. It’s a chance to prove you are the ideal tenant.
You may need to provide information such as a credit score, employment, income verification, references and proof of identity before you can sign the lease agreement. Some states require that landlords report rent payments to the credit bureaus, which can help you build your credit history as a renter. If you can, look for a building that offers these benefits.