Everything You Need to Know When Renting Your First Apartment

September 21, 2021

Everything You Need to Know When Renting Your First Apartment

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How to Budget for Your First Apartment

When renting your first apartment, you may be surprised at the up-front costs involved. Landlords usually need you to pay first and last month's rent plus a security deposit.

The security deposit usually equals one month's rent. But some landlords will ask for up to twice the amount of the monthly rent, especially if you have poor credit or do not have rental history. Landlords reserve this money in case you cause any damage to the apartment that needs to be repaired. In theory, you should get your deposit back when you move out if you leave your apartment in good condition. However, property managers usually deduct the cost of professionally cleaning the unit for the next tenants, so you will likely not get the full amount back.

Apartments listed at $1,200-$1,500 per month typically require a total of $3,600-$4,500 up front just to move in. These values include the first month's rent, last month's rent, and the security deposit.

For those with limited resources, this presents a major barrier to finding housing. If you have time to plan ahead, use an online rent calculator. This tool estimates your rent based on your pre-tax monthly income, your location, and the number of bedrooms you need. Then, you can create a budget using a free app and find strategic ways to curtail spending.

Putting aside $300 a month for one year will save you enough money to cover move-in costs for an apartment that costs $1,200 per month.

If you do not have the time or resources to save up, you can look for apartments that do not require big move-in costs. New buildings often offer specials, like one month free on a 12-month lease or a smaller security deposit.

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How to Find an Apartment

When renting your first apartment, make sure to check all the services and community boards locally to get a sense of how much units cost. Market rates change depending on the location and the season. The more you shop around, the more informed you will be when you decide to submit an application.

Whenever possible, filter search results based on their date posted. This way, you do not end up wasting your time applying for apartments that have been off the market for a while.

How to Choose an Apartment

If you find the process of how to rent an apartment overwhelming, ask yourself the following questions to help narrow down your choices.

How to Apply for an Apartment

To apply for an apartment, most property managers require you to provide proof of income. Examples include bank statements or pay stubs. Property managers may also need proof of identification, recommendations from previous landlords, your social security number, your job history, and your employer's contact information. Gather all this information before starting your application.

Landlords also typically require a non-refundable $45 application fee to run a background check and see your credit. Poor credit and a criminal history can damage your changes of approval. But if landlords are highly motivated to rent the unit quickly, they may accept your application if you can provide proof of steady income.

Reading and Negotiating Your Lease

Before renting your first apartment, you should learn how to read a lease. Signing this agreement enters you into a legal contract with your landlord. These terms protect both parties. If you violate your lease terms, the landlord has grounds to evict you. Or, if your landlord violates the lease terms, you can potentially take legal action against them.

Make sure that the rent listed in the ad matches the amount stated in the lease, with a correct start and end date. Other details you may want to look out for include whether or not pets are allowed, if you can sublease the unit, or if you can have overnight guests. You should also check how much notice they need before you can move out.

If their terms seem unreasonable or unsatisfactory, you can learn how to negotiate with your landlord. If they are struggling to rent a unit, you have a better chance of getting them to alter the lease's terms. However, if the market is competitive, the landlord will likely offer the apartment to a more agreeable tenant.

Ask a landlord if they are flexible on specific terms. If they say yes, you can make a suggestion. For example, if they ask for a one-year lease but you'd rather sign a six-month lease, you might offer a slightly larger deposit. Their willingness to cooperate may surprise you.

Moving Into Your First Apartment

Make sure to take plenty of photos of your unit before you move in, especially of areas where you notice damage. This includes things like holes in the walls or scratches on the floor. You should save these photos in case your landlord tries to deduct money from your deposit for repairs when you move out.

Also, look into purchasing renter's insurance. This insurance will help you repair or replace property that gets damaged or stolen. Many apartment buildings require their tenants to purchase renter's insurance. But even if yours does not, most policies are affordable, so consider making the small investment.

Negotiate Chores and Expenses with Roommates

You'll need to learn how to live with roommates after moving out of your parents' house. When sharing an apartment, talk about chores and responsibilities from the beginning to avoid conflict later. Schedule a sit-down to address the questions below.

Making a written list of duties may seem unnecessary, especially if you intend to live with friends. But a list prevents miscommunication and holds roommates accountable. You can use services like Venmo to easily split the cost of bills. You may also find chore charts useful.

Bring the Essentials

Before you take your first trip to the store, take inventory of what you already have at your apartment.

Put Together a List of Important Contacts

Familiarize yourself with important contacts. Ask your landlord who to call with questions about rent or bills and how to get in touch with maintenance. You will want this information on hand if problems arise.

You should also exchange emergency contact information with your roommates as a precautionary measure.

Research Renter's Rights

Renter's rights ensure your home is safe, clean, and functional. Tenants are entitled to functioning heat, utilities, and water. If something essential in your apartment stops working, the law requires the landlord to arrange necessary repairs.

These laws — governed at the state, federal, and local levels — also prevent discrimination and rent gouging. Check your state and local laws to learn more about your rights as a renter where you live.

Moving Out of Your First Apartment

Before you move out, you need to give your property managers notice. Depending on your lease agreement, it could be 30, 60, or 90 days, or more. If you do not give proper notice, you will likely lose your security deposit. You may even need to pay for several months of rent.

Next, cancel your renter's insurance and inform your local utility and internet providers of your move-out date. You should also give your new address to those who send you mail, like your bank and employer, and the post office.

When your move-out date is approaching, schedule a walk-through with your landlord. In the meantime, box everything up and haul it to your new address or storage unit. Leave yourself a couple of days to spare so that you can clean your unit thoroughly before the walk-through.

At the walk-through appointment, they will check the state of the apartment and you will return your keys.

Pay attention to the details, like cleaning food off the range and wiping away cobwebs. This minimizes the chances of your landlord charging you extra for a cleaning fee. Then, take some photos in case you need proof of the apartment's condition. This step can help you get your security deposit back.

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