Six Things to Consider Before Renting Your First Apartment

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Ready to Rent an Apartment? Before you do, you should read this article. It is not necessarily a quick-read post, but it does have a lot of valuable tips and considerations you should bear in mind before renting your first apartment.

1. Budget

Before you begin your apartment search, you need to understand how much money you can afford to spend on rent. In other words, you need to develop a budget.

Experts suggest spending no more than 30% of your annual income on housing costs. This is just a general guideline. (1)

2. Fees and Costs

The cost of renting an apartment will almost always involve other fees. These include application fees,  security deposit, pet deposits, and utility deposits if you haven’t had electricity or gas in your name within the utility’s geographic region (coverage area).

The security deposit is typically one month’s rent and usually refundable at the end of your lease provided you leave the apartment in the same condition as when you first moved in. Application fees vary by apartment but generally range from a low of $15.00 to as high as $150.00 per application. It is essential to understand all the fees you will be required to pay prior to placing your deposit.

3. Features and Amenities

Hallway Fire Extinguisher |

Before beginning your apartment search, it is important to determine what your needs are versus your wants. In other words, what are the features and amenities that you would like in your new apartment?

One needs to consider location prior to searching for specific amenities and apartment features.

  • Is the apartment close to work?
  • How long will it take to get to work?
  • Is public transportation available?
  • Is the apartment located near shopping, schools, and houses of worship?

Once you have narrowed your options down to a location, area, neighborhood, or zip code, you need to consider features and building amenities. Be sure to take into account whether you need a two-bedroom, one-bedroom, or studio apartment.

If you need a two-bedroom, do you need two bathrooms? Many buildings are walk-ups and therefore you need to determine the importance of floor location to your family. You need to consider the importance of having a modern kitchen, balcony, washer, and dryer in your apartment, the type of construction, and building safety among other features. You need to consider how important amenities such as a clubhouse and pool are to your family.

By determining in advance the importance of the many available features to your family, you can be more productive in your search, and ultimately how satisfied you’re likely to be with your new home after moving in.

4. View the Assigned Rental

View From Apartment Window |

Whenever possible, ask to see the actual apartment you’re considering renting. Even if it is exactly like the model, it may be in a location you find undesirable.

Viewing the actual apartment you are considering renting will also give you a chance to see the condition of the unit itself, the common hallways, and grounds. A dirty hallway with trash all over the place is a sign of of the management company’s priorities, as well as the tenants – your future neighbors. It also gives you an opportunity to see the outside lighting and hallway lighting, both of which are important from a security perspective.

Looking at the apartment you are going to rent will remove most, if not all, surprises.

5. The Lease

Make sure you take the time to review your lease.

The majority of every lease is standard, but each owner has specific rules and regulations with regard to when you can move in, use the laundry, and other permissions like grills, barbeques, late payment penalties, and water beds. (Water beds are often banned in apartments.) You should confirm all the fees and costs that were provided to you verbally. Confirm the term of the lease and the notice provisions requirements. The notice provisions will contain language as to how many days in advance of the end of the term you must provide a notice to terminate and to whom and how that notice must be sent.

A lease is a contract and it obligates the Tenant to its provisions. You, therefore, need to understand and review all of the lease provisions. Generally speaking, the signatures of a lease are jointly responsible for the obligations of the lease. Therefore, if you move in with a friend and they leave, you remain responsible for the full obligations of the Lease.

6. Renters Insurance

Renters Insurance is something you should also consider.

Benefits of Apartment Amenities | Fire Protection |

Most landlords require renters insurance. Renters’ insurance costs anywhere from $10 to $30 a month depending on your desired coverage. Most landlords require third-party insurance to cover losses that you might cause due to negligence or accident from floods, burns, or other injuries. Generally, personal content goods insurance is voluntary but everyone should obtain this form of insurance coverage. The landlord is not responsible for your personal belongings in the event of a loss, and you will want to be covered in the unfortunate event of theft.

Renters insurance is just as important to a tenant as homeowners insurance is to a homeowner. The cost of insurance is relatively low for $20,000 of personal property coverage.

It is a good idea to take pictures of all your valuables and furniture. This will speed up the processing and payment of a claim in the event of a loss. For more information, you might want to read MSN’s Basics of Renters Insurance.


(1) Totaling your monthly expenses to determine how much you have available to spend on housing should be your first step in crafting your budget. The Kiplinger Company provides a handy calculator called the Household Budget Worksheet for this specific purpose. Fill in those lines for which you have known expenses, estimate your unknown expenses. If you leave the rent paid line blank, the difference between expenses and income will be the maximum rent you can afford to pay. The calculator provides a structured way for determining your total monthly expenses, and includes line items for utilities. In this regard, you may be able to get some guidance from your utility company as to the average costs within any proposed property for electric and gas. Keep in mind, however, that the cost of utilities will vary based on household preferences with regard to what is a comfortable temperature setting and how much energy you’d like to use or not use. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t included with the rent you pay. Many buildings charge for trash removal and water/sewer.

As in any budget, some expenses will be fixed, wherein you won’t have the ability to lower the costs. For instance, such fixed expenses include recurring payments that absolutely must be paid, and are nearly always independent of the specific property or location. These expenses include car and student loans, car insurance, food and healthcare. Some expenses are classified as discretionary income such as entertainment and vacations. These are expenses where the family has discretion as to the money they spend for the specific purchase. In determining your budget, you will need to weigh or prioritize these expenses. This will directly impact the money you have available for monthly rent.


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