18 Tips for Renting an Apartment
Where do you start? What do you ask? How will you know if it’s the right apartment? Here are some other things to consider when looking for an apartment.
1. Size – First, determine what size of apartment or house you require. Generally, you want one bedroom per person, though couples or children can share. Also consider the size of the other rooms. Is there room for your belongings? Another consideration is the type of building the apartment is in. Is it a house divided into several apartments? A two-story complex surrounding a pool? A skyscraper? A duplex or townhouse? A loft? These factors will affect several things such as sense of community, and ease of access, among others.
2. Price is another concern. Look around to discover what normal rent prices are for your area. Keep in mind, some parts of town may be more expensive than others. Decide on a price range that you can afford, and don’t forget to consider the cost of utilities. Remember that you will probably have to pay the first (and sometimes last) month’s rent and security deposit shortly before or shortly after moving in. Also, don’ t look at an apartment if it is way out of your budget.
3. Location – you’re going to be living in this apartment for a while, so consider the location. Is it easy to get in and out? Is it close to school/work/the grocery store? Is the neighborhood safe? Even if the immediate street looks safe, take a drive around. Try visiting the place during the day, during the evening, and on the weekend. Your street may look quiet on Tuesday morning but turn into party central on Friday nights. Also consider your apartment’s location in the larger building. Is it on the second floor? Around back? Near the entryway?
4. Utilities – Find out if you will be responsible for utilities, and which ones. Also find out what type of heat you have.
5. Pets – If you have a pet or intend to get one, find out your landlord’s rules on pets. Some landlords don’t allow pets, and others require pet fees and/or monthly fees. Others limit the type, size, or number of pets you can have. Find out before you move in.
6. Parking – Find out where you can park. Is there free off-street parking? This is best. If you do have to park on the street, find out if you need a permit or if you will have to move your car any reason. Ask how many cars you are allowed per apartment and if there is an extra fee for additional cars.
7. Amenities – Do you want/need a dishwasher? A washer and dryer? A furnished apartment? A pool? Find out if they are available in your apartment or complex.
8. Length of lease – Find out how long the lease runs. If you’re a student and want a 9 month lease, make sure that’s what you are able to get. Don’t plan on breaking the least after nine months, as this can be expensive or impossible, and don’t count on subletting, either, as most landlords do not allow this. Most leases are for a year, though some apartment communities offer shorter leases. Find out if you can move in on the first day of the lease (some landlords, especially those with multiple properties, take several days to clean each apartment, so it make take up to a week after your lease starts before you can move in). Also find out when you will be expected to move out. I assumed at my first apartment that our lease was August 1st to August 1st, when we actually had to be out by 9am on the 31st.
9. Closets, cabinet space, power outlets, etc – In the rush to see the place, and in your initial excitement, you might not remember to take a look at the closets or to see if there is enough cabinet space for your dishes. You might also not consider how many power outlets there are per room. These can be very important factors later. My first apartment had one tiny closet and four cabinets, and I felt like an idiot for not noticing this when I first looked at the place.
10. The lease – Read it carefully, and ask questions. If you can, bring someone along who will understand the lingo better than you do. Check to see what you are responsible paying for and what the landlord will repair. Find out about guests. Ask if you are allowed to paint or hang things with nails.
11. The landlord – You will be relying on this person to complete maintenance on time, return your security deposit, and not enter your apartment unauthorized. While you’re taking the tour of the apartment, get a feel for whether your landlord is trustworthy. Also, take a look at the lease. My first lease included a whole page that stated what the landlord would and would not do. My second lease had only two items that the landlord cited as his responsibility. The first lease made me feel much more comfortable. You can also ask current renters if they like the landlord, or look for reviews of the landlord online. In the end, you should make sure you like your landlord.
12. Roommates – Most of you will probably be moving into an apartment with roommates. Find out how many roommates you will have and what their budgets are. Find out how you will divide utility bills, groceries, etc. Determine who has what furniture. Make sure your roommates are reliable, and that you’ll all get along. Sit down and discuss what you will do if something goes wrong.
13. Timing – In some towns, you may be able to find an apartment at any time of the year. Though you may have to start looking for an apartment as much as 6 months early.
14. Safety – Although location is a primary factor when it comes to safety, there are other things that you should consider. Do the doors have deadbolts? Is the apartment on the first floor, or second floor? Does the apartment have sprinklers in case of fire? Is there street lighting nearby? How does the electrical situation look, does it appear to be up to date? Is the apartment near a busy street or intersection, which may result in a vehicle crashing into your house or yard? Is the house near a stream that may flood? Below a hillside which might collapse? Is there a safe place where packages can be left, or will they just be dropped on the doorstep? Most of these things are out of your control, and it is unlikely that something bad will happen, but it’s important to be observant.
15. Renter’s Insurance – Your landlord probably has insurance on the building itself, but this does not cover your possessions, nor does it cover the damages when you accidentally break a window. Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive, so get it early. Some landlords even require that you have insurance, so ask.
16. Appliances and Bathroom Facilities – take a look at the stove, fridge, toilet, and shower. Make sure that they are clean and in working order. You may want to try out some of the appliances, like flushing the toilet or turning on the shower. See if there’s a bathroom fan if you want one.
17. Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, sprinklers and fire extinguishers – All apartments should have working smoke alarms. Some will also have carbon monoxide detectors, sprinklers or fire extinguishers. If so, make sure that you know where they are and how to use them.
18. Windows and lighting – open and close the windows if possible, to make sure that you can easily do so in case of fire or heat wave. Also check and see if there are screens, especially if you have pets. Take a look at the overhead lighting situation, as well as the number of windows in a room. You’re probably looking at the apartment in broad daylight and so lighting won’t be a primary concern, but you’ll want to know if there is no overhead lighting, as you’ll have to purchase lamps.
Make a list of these concerns, as well as your priorities, and carry it with you when you look at apartments. You can also use this sheet of paper to note prices, rules, and the layout of apartments. After a while they get confusing, so this can be a huge help. Keep in mind, you may need to decide quickly if there are other people looking at the property, but you should always look at your notes and think it over. Good luck, and feel free to add your own suggestions below!