Renting your first apartment is one of those rites of passage and an adulthood milestone. But before you make any snap decisions or sign any contracts, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Before you even think about calling a moving truck, you may want to take a tip or two from this new-renter’s to-do list.
Don’t underestimate your budget
While you may think you have an artist’s loft with hardwood floors and sweeping windows kind of budget, the reality might not be as rosy. Before you settle on anything, it’s important to be realistic about your finances. Moving into a new apartment often comes with a lot of other hidden costs. Most landlords ask for both first and last months’ rent, as well as a security deposit. You’ll also need to think about utilities. It’s important to be clear exactly what you’re responsible for and what your landlord or property management company covers. For example, some landlords may cover water and trash, while others may not.
Protect your privacy
Typically, before a landlord will even consider your application seriously you’ll have to undergo screening. This process often includes handing over personal information, including social security numbers, account numbers, and details about your criminal history to someone you hardly know. Sometimes these credit and background checks can also have a negative impact on your overall credit score. Be sure your prospective landlord is using a verified service when screening you; request a credit check for rental tenants from MySmartMove or a similar service. This will ensure they get the information they need, while your sensitive information is protected.
Make sure you have renter’s insurance
One of the best things about renting property instead of buying property is you’re not financially responsible for property maintenance. Despite this, the insurance that covers your landlord’s property usually will not protect you or your personal belongings. For example, in the event of a fire, break in, or natural disaster, it’s very important that both you and your belongings are insured. Many first-time renters aren’t aware they need renter’s insurance or they may think that they don’t have anything really worth insuring; however, acquiring renters insurance isn’t that difficult and there’s many companies offering inexpensive bundling with both renters’ and car insurance policies.
Check out the neighborhood
One of the things new renters most commonly forget to investigate thoroughly is the neighborhood. It’s important that you visit your apartment during different parts of the day, including afternoon and evening, and perhaps during both the week and weekend. Your dream apartment can quickly turn into a nightmare when what may seem like a quiet street is unbearable noisy at night—or, surprise, is directly under a flight path. It also may be a good idea to try to get a feel or your potential neighbors. Take a moment to introduce yourself if you’re able, and ask them what it’s like living in the neighborhood.
Read the fine print
Before you sign your lease, it’s very important that you read and understand all the components. Why? Your lease should contain essential details that you might find don’t work for your lifestyle. For example, if you’re considering adopting a pet or subletting your apartment while you work or study abroad, you’ll need to make sure these are covered in the lease. Some landlords may not allow subletting for any reason, while others may include stipulations about when and how you may do so. It’s also important to pay attention to any clauses that outline the treatment of property damage that may predates your lease, pet policies and even policies regarding long-term guests that aren’t named on the lease. While reviewing, if you find anything that makes you uncomfortable or you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions and to renegotiate the terms if necessary.