Nearly everyone rents at some point in their lives. Whether you are looking for your first apartment or searching for a new place, these tips will prepare you and make you feel at home in your new space.
1. Avoid Scams: When you begin your search make sure you are using reputable sources and ALWAYS make an appointment to meet with the landlord before agreeing to anything. See: Buyer Beware: Avoiding Rental Scams for more detailed information.
2. Pick The Right Neighborhood: You want to feel at home and safe in your new environment. Make sure to scout out the area of potential apartments before committing to any. A nice neighborhood will go a long way toward your well being and overall satisfaction.
3. Be Prepared: So you've found an apartment that fits your needs and have set up a meeting with the landlord--that's great! Now it's time to prepare. Think of your first meeting with the landlord as a job interview-you will want to make a good impression. Dress nicely and bring with you your rental application, list of references with contact information and a current copy of your credit report (or the information necessary for the landlord to run one). Your future landlord will be impressed with your responsibility which goes a long way in selecting a tenant.
4. Don't Forget Extra Costs: Remember that the cost of your rent should be no more than 28% of your gross monthly income. Don't forget the other costs associated with your new apartment though: heating, hot water, tv, internet, phone service etc. These all add up. Make yourself a monthly budget to be sure you can afford the apartment you are interested in before fully committing.
5. Review The Lease: Once your credit report comes back and the owner feels you are a good match for the apartment, you will sit down to review and sign the lease. It is important to read through the agreement carefully and ask questions on anything that isn't perfectly clear. Remember your landlord will be happy to explain the rules and regulations now but will not be as pleased to find out of any violations later. Remember to keep a signed copy of your lease for your reference.
6. Be Honest: If at anytime your living situation changes (new roommates, pets, accidents, etc.) make sure to contact your landlord immediately. It is always best to be direct and honest about changes than to have the owner find out through the grapevine of unsavory changes. Your landlord will appreciate the communication and be more likely to work with you. You risk violating your lease and facing possible eviction if you keep secrets--it's best to be honest from the beginning.
7. Keep Track of Issues: Be sure to notify your landlord of any problems you are experiencing with your apartment. Remember that this property is his investment as well as your home; a leaking sink is not only a nuisance to you but harmful to the property as well. This applies to neighbors as well--if you are having problems with another tenant that you cannot work out alone, let your landlord know.
8. Insure Your Property: The apartment building and property you live in is covered by your landlord's homeowners insurance. However, that insurance will not cover any personal property inside the residence. It is highly recommended that you invest in renters insurance to protect your belongings.
9. Protect Your Security Deposit: No one wants to think about moving out when they have just unpacked, but you need to take note of the conditions of the apartment. Make a list of anything you notice isn't perfect and give it to your landlord upon moving in. Then do your best to minimize wear and tear while you live in the apartment. Remember that you are liable for any damage that occurs while you occupy the apartment so fill any nail holes, offer to re-paint if necessary and thoroughly clean the apartment before moving out.
10. Treat Your Rental As Your Home: Even though this may be a temporary living situation, it is important you feel at home in your space. Transform the apartment as much as you can (abiding by the lease of course) to make the apartment your own. Why wait until you own a home to invest in art and furniture you love? Treat yourself now and make the most of your living situation.