What You Can Expect When Renting Your First Apartment

What You Can Expect When Renting Your First Apartment

This summer my middle son is working and living downtown and renting an apartment with a friend. It was an easy decision for him. Last summer he just worked at the same place and spent over 3 hours a day commuting. In his own words, when asked why he decided to spend a decent chunk of of his hard earned money, “I’m young. There has to be more to life than getting up at 6 am and sitting on a train.”

While he has rented student housing, this was the first time he actually went out and looked for a place for himself. Renting an apartment for the first time can be an exciting venture — the freedom to pick a spot in neighborhood you love, choosing your own furniture or maybe even having a room to yourself. However, as he found out, there are a few other things a first-time apartment renter should expect before moving in and shopping for throw pillows

You’ll have your credit history and background check run.
When you rent your first apartment you can almost guarantee that the property owner will request a check against both your credit history as well as your background. Landlords or property management companies will also mostly likely check eviction history, ask for references and/or pay stubs to make sure you’re gainfully employed. So, be prepared. If you’ve had any discrepancies in either your work or rental history it’s best to get a jump on it so you can explain gaps in either area. Additionally, just like applying for a job, you should avoid using references involving landlords that may have been difficult and could potentially paint a less than rosy picture of you.

What You Can Expect When Renting Your First ApartmentYou’re gonna have to sign on the dotted line.
If your history passes inspection, the next step will be signing a lease. This is a legal document that should outline details such as how much rent you are required to pay, when it’s due and in what form. It should also explain what you are responsible for, consequences for damages and/or late payments, policy on pets or subletting, as well as provisions for giving notice when you plan to move out. It’s important that you read this very carefully. Do not sign anything that you’re not comfortable with, and consider negotiating if there’s a clause. For example, if a landlord has stated in the lease they do not allow pets, consider asking if they would amend the lease providing you pay an extra pet deposit. However, if any changes are made, make sure to get an updated lease in writing before signing anything.

Sometimes utilities are not included.
Be prepared that some rental agreements do not include utilities. You’ll find that some rentals will pay for trash and water, but not gas, while other will cover gas and water, but not trash. Make sure you find out the details so you don’t end up storing trash on your patio for two weeks or end up eating takeout in the dark. Additionally, if you already have accounts you’ll need to make sure you transfer them over to your new address. Don’t forget cable and internet!

You may not be able to change roommates.
This is one of those details that often gets overlooked. Most lease agreements require all potential tenants to sign the paperwork before move-in can begin. However, say you and a friend decide to move into an apartment together, but six months later he or she gets a new job in a new state and has to move out. In most cases, as long as a new tenant signs the lease agreement you can exchange roommates. However, this isn’t always the case, and why reading all the details of the lease agreement (or asking particulars) is crucial. If you know ahead of time that you’re moving into a space that you won’t be able to afford to rent on your own you’ll want to ask your landlord if changing roommates is acceptable. You definitely don’t want to end up in a situation where you to go through the hassle of finding a new place to live as well.

Pre and post-move out inspection.
Before you move in and before you move out you will most likely have to undergo an inspection with your landlord. It’s in your best interest to take lots of pictures and create a really solid record of what the condition of the apartment was like BEFORE you begin living there. If there’s water damage, chipped paint or anything else outstanding the landlord or property owner is not planning on fixing before move-in, make sure you note it on your pre-move in inspection paperwork and have the landlord sign so you don’t end becoming financially responsible later on.

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