Everything You Need to Know Before Renting Your First Apartment
The First Things to Consider When Renting
When you begin to search for an apartment, you’ll want to consider a few essential first steps. Rental costs are going to be your primary concern. You’ll want to find an apartment that you can afford along with your other living expenses. Keep in mind that apartment rental costs vary widely, often from one neighborhood to the next. Once you establish your rental budget, consider location. If you opt for a rental close to your place of employment, you’re apt to save money on transportation costs, and that may affect your decision about where to rent.
Whether you’re planning to rent on your own or with roommates, consider the following steps carefully in order to make the best renting decision for yourself. Although an apartment rental is typically only associated with a six- to 12- month leasing agreement, that’s still a sizable time commitment—make sure you can adhere to that agreement.
Checklist for the Apartment Selection Process
Cost and location are primary factors that will govern your apartment search. Here, we’ll discuss these crucial factors in more detail:
Reflect on your budget when you consider rental costs. You’ll need to budget for other costs related to your rentals such as gas, electricity, internet service, phone service, and laundry. Sometimes, landlords include certain amenities like water in the cost of the rent. That benefit could inform your decision whether to rent one apartment over another. You should also find out about the security deposit requirements since they could impact your selection.
Size / Apartment Type
The more you search for a rental, the more likely you’re going to come across different property types and styles. Although luxury apartments tend to have more square footage, that’s not always the case, especially in high-demand locales like downtown city locations. You may want to confine your search to loft or studio apartments that may be much cheaper than apartments with two or three bedrooms.
Location is often an important consideration for renters. Consider each potential rental’s proximity to your work, schools, parks, gyms, shopping centers, or other attractions and amenities that interest you.
Some renters prefer to deal with on-site property management rather than an off-site property owner. Before renting an apartment, get to know the landlord’s situation. Do some online research to find out about the rental’s previous tenants and their experiences associated with the landlord or leasing agents.
Are you looking for a month-to-month lease or a year lease? Sometimes you may even find landlords willing to enter into six-month leasing agreements. You’ll want to select an option that best suits your rental needs.
As you consider different choices, remember to assess the amenities that come with your rental as these, too, could impact your decision. Some common amenities that renters look for include:
- On-site laundry facilities
- Parking space or garage
- Fitness center
- Swimming pool
Navigating Rental Paperwork
Once you narrow down your choice, you’ll need to submit a rental application. Typically, you can get these from the landlord or the property management website. You may even be able to download their form online. The rental application is not the lease, but rather a formal request for the property owner to rent to you. The forms are typically self-explanatory. You can expect to provide information such as:
- Current contact information
- Social security number for credit and background checks
- Rental history
Although the rental application will make it feel like you’re the one being interviewed, the reality is that you need to ‘grill’ your prospective property managers, too. For instance, how attentive are they to maintenance problems? What’s considered a renter’s emergency requiring maintenance ASAP versus what isn’t? Does the landlord provide snow removal? Garbage pickup? Lawn service? A great apartment will be a lot less great under the oversight of a terrible landlord or property management company.
What Your Potential Landlord Isn’t Allowed to Ask
The renter application process can feel intrusive and intimidating. Remember, however, that you have options—and rights. For instance, landlords cannot ask you questions such as:
- What country you were born in
- If you have any (or how many) arrests
- Whether or not you attend church, synagogue, mosque, etc.
- If you have a service animal
- Familial status (i.e. are you and your partner married?)
If a landlord asks questions such as these, they are overstepping their bounds—and either know it or should know it. You might want to avoid getting into a rental arrangement with property managers who break the rules right from the get-go.
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