8 Essential Tips for First-Time Renters

A happy young woman who know the top tips for first-time renters.

Renting your first apartment is a stepping stone to adulthood. That’s why it’s both exciting and scary. On the one hand, you’ll finally be free to come and go as you please, live your life as you want, and decorate your place to your taste. However, when it comes to renting your first apartment, it’s not all roses and butterflies. You’ll also need to accept responsibility for your role and duties as a tenant. In addition, you’ll need to choose an appropriate apartment, conduct due diligence, and figure out your finances. After all, this is one of the biggest milestones in one’s life, so, naturally, it comes with a bunch of new responsibilities. Lucky for you, we carefully curated a list of 8 essential tips for first-time renters that will help you go through this change as smoothly as possible.

Make enough room in your budget 

The first of 8 essential tips for first-time renters is knowing how to budget for your new apartment. Of course, the most considerable expense you’ll have is the rent. However, there will be additional one-time and ongoing expenses you need to account for. Let’s elaborate a little.

A calculator.
It is essential to know how to budget for your new apartment.

Initial costs 

Before moving into your new apartment, there will be several upfront costs you’ll need to prepare money for. First, you’ll have to pay application fees and a security deposit. These two you cannot overlook! Rent for the first month is a must and some landlords even require the rent for the last month as well. Next, if you don’t have furniture in your new apartment, you’ll have to acquire some yourself. This is another initial cost you need to consider.

Last but not least – moving fees. Once you find the perfect apartment, you’ll need assistance with the transfer. Therefore, you’ll have to hire a reliable residential moving company to help you relocate trouble-free.

Ongoing costs 

Once you move into your new apartment and settle down, you’ll see there are several recurring costs you’ll have to pay. Here are the most common ones:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Laundry
  • Parking
  • Internet and phone

Make a list of must-have features 

Everyone dreams of their dream home. However, if you are about to rent your first apartment, you’ll need to put your imagination to a minimum and be more reasonable. You likely won’t be able to find an apartment that has everything you dreamed of. However, certain things should be on your list of must-haves. So, let’s see what these features are:

  • Functional kitchen
  • Outdoor space (patio, balcony, small backyard)
  • Enough closet and storage space
  • Proper HVAC system
  • Proximity to work, dog parks, etc.
  • Up-to-date appliances

You can always add things to the list the apartment absolutely must have. After all, it’s your apartment.

Asking the right questions 

We can’t talk about essential tips for first-time renters without mentioning the questions you need to ask your prospective landlord. So, without further ado, let’s see what you need to find out before moving into your first apartment:

  • How much does the rent cost?
  • What about utilities? Are they included?
  • What is the amount of the security deposit?
  • How do I pay my rent and utility bills?
  • Is there a parking charge?
  • Do I have to pay for the application process?
  • How long does the lease last?
  • How frequently and by how much does rent rise?
  • What changes may I make to the apartment?
  • Is it my responsibility to conduct maintenance?
  • Are there any specific policies I should be aware of?
A woman surrounded with question marks asking hersef what the essential tips for first-time renters are.
Make sure to plan your interview with the landlord in advance.

Get acquainted with the rental application process

Each apartment will have a unique renting procedure. In general, your procedure will feature any or all of the following elements:

  • Complete a rental application
  • Provide proof of income
  • Conduct a credit check
  • Conduct a background check
  • Provide rental history along with contact information for the landlord or a personal reference
  • Get a co-signer if you have a poor credit score or no credit history
  • Include a cover letter if necessary

If any of these steps are unfamiliar to you, ask your prospective landlord to give you a hand and explain the process.

Read and understand the lease agreement

As a first-time apartment tenant, one of the most crucial tasks is to go over your lease agreement. Though the lease may involve complicated terminology, it will describe the most important terms you are committing to by signing it. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • The pet policy, as well as any particular terms
  • Deposit regulations and how your deposit is refunded
  • Subletting regulations
  • Responsibilities for utilities
  • Procedures for routine maintenance
  • What happens if you fail to pay the rent

When in doubt, consulting with a landlord-tenant attorney is a wise option. The attorney will be able to identify any unlawful terms, explain how provisions function, highlight negative provisions and their repercussions, and recommend revisions that would give you a more favorable lease.

Get renters insurance

While renters insurance is not required by federal law, having it provides you an advantage when applying for your first apartment. Renter’s insurance protects you and your belongings while you are a tenant. Renters that represent the least danger to landlords are always preferred.

The best part about renter’s insurance is that you can acquire one even if you don’t have a signed lease. A decent renter’s insurance coverage protects against property theft and damage and may be extended to include family members. This will often cost between $20 and $30 each month. Getting renters insurance is one of the essential tips for first-time renters you can’t overlook.

Take a walk around the neighborhood

Once you visit prospective apartments, we suggest that you also use this time to go about the area. You’ll get a sense of what it’s like to live in the neighborhood and discover what amenities are nearby. Consider what it would be like to live there daily. Is there public transportation nearby? What about gas stations and hospitals? What restaurants and grocery stores are nearby?

Besides getting to know the neighborhood, meeting your prospective neighbors is always a good idea. It will be easier for you once you move into your new apartment.

A man looking through a magnifying glass.
Explore your new neighborhood in detail.

Have a final walkthrough

After you’ve signed the lease and received your keys, ask your landlord to accompany you on a walkthrough of the apartment. Take note of any pre-existing faults in the unit, such as worn-out or damaged structures. These are the landlord’s concerns, and you should not be stuck with the cost of resolving them.

After completing the walkthrough, create a list of all the necessary repairs and snap photos of them. Send this list to building maintenance so they may address these concerns. Having these concerns resolved before you move in avoids problems later on, such as the landlord attempting to deduct the cost of repairs from your security deposit.

Wrapping it up

After reading all these essential tips for first-time renters, one thing is sure – it won’t be easy, but every effort will be worth it once you finally get your own place. Yes, there are a lot of legal documents involved, and you need to be more responsible than ever before. However, it’s not impossible to beat every challenge that gets in your way. Just follow our advice, and you’ll be enjoying your first apartment sooner than you think.

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