What to Know About Renting Your First Apartment

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If you’re ready to fly the nest and get a place of your own, the prospect is probably both exciting and terrifying. With hard-earned independence comes a full set of new responsibilities and obligations, including everything from maintaining your plumbing to changing a light bulb—let alone paying your rent on time.

Apartments for Rent

Before you get ahead of yourself and think about which delicious recipes to prep for your housewarming party, make sure you do some thorough research in advance. There’s a lot you should know about renting your first apartment prior to signing a lease and settling in. Sit back, pour a glass of wine, plug in some relaxing essential oils, and get ready to open a few tabs in your browser (#multitasking).

Apartments for Rent
Apartments for Rent

Finding your first humble abode doesn’t need to be stressful, but it should definitely be deliberate. With these considerations in mind, you can help save yourself from a moving nightmare. No one wants to come crawling back to Mom and Dad, right?

Location, location, location

When you start to think about moving into your first place, there’s usually a target destination in mind. Maybe you’re heading off to college and looking for a close commute, or maybe you want to distance yourself from the suburbs to get a taste of city life. Whatever’s inspiring your move to a new area, don’t forget to research the location beforehand.

Crime rates and traffic congestion usually rank high on the thought list, but more nuanced considerations are equally important! If you hate to cook, you might narrow your search down to easy restaurant accessibility, or if you’re taking the next step towards building your little family, you should look into the local school districts. Comparing neighborhood comps will whittle down your priorities, helping you decide between what’s a hard requirement and what’s within your budget.

Love Thy Landlord

Okay, “loving” your landlord might be a bit of a stretch, but you should be sure you at least like them. He or she will be your go-to person for any maintenance requests, noise complaints, or general concerns. Some landlords forget to treat their rental properties as a business and don’t show enough appreciation to their tenants, or “customers”. If you plan on paying your rent on time and fulfilling your lease obligations, they should return the same respect and respond to your requests in a timely, polite manner.

Love Thy Landlord
Love Thy Landlord

It might be hard to get a confident first impression on your landlord to-be, but try to test the waters during your first interactions to make sure he’s reliable and takes his job seriously. If he forgets about your showing appointment or can’t provide proper paperwork, it might be a red flag.

Protect Yourself

Even if you love your potential landlord and want to turn them into your new best friend, things always have the potential to go a little hairy when a dispute is involved. Say you’re ready to move out of your first apartment and into your first home, but didn’t notice the dinged doorframe or cracked counter slab that you swear you aren’t responsible for. The fact is, if you can’t prove it, you’ll more than likely be held for any damage upon move-out day—whether or not it was there prior to you moving in.

How can you prevent getting stuck with a stiff tab and duped out of your security deposit? By carefully going through a rental inspection checklist. Both the tenant and landlord should scan the apartment together before the lease is signed, looking for damage such as:

  • Dysfunctional appliances such as dishwashers and microwaves
  • Test plumbing faucets and drains
  • Turn on and off all electrical sockets
  • Open and close all windows
  • Look for major scuffs on the paint and floors, stains in the carpet, or holes in the walls
  • Inspect for signs of water damage, mold, or pests

Take pictures of each damaged item you see, documented with the date and time, to prevent any future liability. Most landlords give you a bit of wiggle room after your move-in date—usually between three days to a week—so if you notice anything after your initial inspection, be sure to record it all the same.

You can get so overwhelmed with apartment hunting that it’s easy to forget about the critical pointers to keep in mind. Don’t forget to contemplate why that gorgeous bathroom is going for so cheap (bad location?), why so many units are vacant in an apartment complex (questionable landlord?), or how to protect your security deposit and avoid moving into a lemon of an apartment (inspection!). And now you’re off—happy hunting!

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