10 Things you Must Know before Renting an Apartment

10 Things you Must Know before Renting an Apartment

If you can’t afford buying an apartment, your solution is probably to lease. Though moving to a new apartment can be very exciting, finding a good one to rent could be a daunting task. There are things you should consider before the big step, so here are our ten picks to make sure you’re prepared before you sign your name.

Apartment search

1. Set a budget.

Consider how much you can afford to pay and follow the “rule” not to exceed 30-percent of your monthly income. Focus your search according to your budget and though you may be forced to compromise when finding a bigger apartment in a better area, make sure it’s worth spending the extra money. If you’re looking for a cheaper place to rent, try roommate services to share an apartment, but make sure you know what types of people or habits you’d prefer to avoid.

2. Where to search?

Not going to use a broker’s services because of the extra cost the next thing is to look in the newspaper classifieds, apartment hunter publications, college campus bulletin boards or on the Internet. You’ll know the rental market much better and will will probably get yourself a better deal. Also tell your friends that you’re looking for an apartment to rent and maybe they know something in their buildings.

3. What to search for?

Take a sheet of paper and write them down your requirements list. Do you want a quiet building close to school or work, that allows pets and has free parking? How about a dishwasher machine or laundry facilities nearby?

You may also want to visit the neighborhood at various times of the day, night and weekend to see if it’s what you expected.

These all count when you decide where to live in for the next few months, if not years.

Finance and documents

Because the landlord wants to make sure you’re good with paying the monthly rent most of the times, you’ll most likely have to complete an application and pay for the application fees or for credit reports. Be prepared.

4. The renter’s resume.

Just like a CV for a job application, a renter’s resume should include all the information to make you stand out from other applicants and to convince the landlord that you’ll be a trustworthy tenant. Personal references, last addresses with landlord phone numbers, your monthly income or a copy of your credit report will make you look good on paper, which you need it.

5. What’s included?

It’s very important to know if the rent includes heating, water, electricity, cable or Internet connection but more important is to know what are the average utility bills in the building. Ask the landlord if you want to be make sure you won’t get crazy numbers on your bills.

6. Read before you sign

A common mistake we usually make is not to read a contract before we sign. Obtain a copy of any rules and regulations, make sure you go through everything and before you sign the lease, check to see if these are mentioned:

  • The beginning and the expiration date
  • The rental price and information about your security deposit
  • What are the reasons for which your landlord can terminate your lease contract
  • Are there any penalties for moving out of your apartment before the expiration date?
  • Are there any responsibilities on your head for repairs and such?
  • Is subletting allowed ?
  • See if you have to buy renters insurance, because it will increase you total cost
  • Is there a policy about guest visitors?

7. Contract issues

It’s a big move so you have to make sure you’re covered on every aspect so never sign a lease without seeing the apartment even if it’s a bargain. Second of all, our advice is not to sign a contract that has an automatic renewal clause, because you may not know what’s going to happen next year. Maybe you change work or move to a new city and a renewed contract would only force you to pay even if you’re not living there.

Last thing and a very important if you enjoy privacy, keep away from a lease that gives the landlord unlimited access without notification. Tenants have their rights and a landlord should be permitted without notice only in case of emergencies.

Inspect the apartment

Most important thing when you inspect an apartment you plan to lease (or buy) is not to let the looks deceive you. Look for the “hidden” attributes and if there’s any damage ask for it to be repaired otherwise you may be blamed for it later.

8. What to look for

You like the price, the area is great, but you need to see where you’re going to live. Here are a few things to take a closer look at:

  • Pipes – be it gas, water or anything else, check for leaks.
  • Sink faucets, shower heads and water – make sure water (both cold and hot) really comes out of the faucets and the shower head and it’s with a decent pressure. Also the toilet has to flush properly and thoroughly.
  • Electricity and appliances should all be working. Check if all the lights or other electric devices are operational. Also check the air conditioner and the heater to see if they’re good for anything.
  • Walls and windows. Check the windows to see if they open, close and lock properly. Also inspect the walls. The more walls in common (shared with adjoining apartments), the greater the chance of noise from next door.
  • Noise. For a student, outside noise may be extremely disturbing and may interfere with learning. If it’s a highly trafficked area you may have problems concentrating and even sleeping.

Negotiate your lease

If everything went smooth, you like the apartment and the landlord likes you, it’s worth trying to negotiate a little bit.

9. Know your landlord

It’s very important to know some basic information about the landlord. If it’s a management company with thousands of apartments for rent it may be harder to negotiate, but if it’s a family and they just need to secure the income each month, you have a green light to close the deal with a small discount.

10. Get your deal

Read the lease carefully and see what applies and what doesn’t. If there are things in the lease you may not need or if you’re willing to take some responsibilities like cutting the lawn or taking deliveries kindly ask the landlord to lower the rent. Another way could be to offer a longer-term lease or a higher security deposit. A very important aspect of negotiating your lease is to be polite and not give ultimatums because you may get a quick negative answer.

Freshome readers probably have more tips to add to these, so why not tell us what you think in the comments below.


  • John Smith May 28, 2008 at 18:35 PMLogin to Reply →

    no more than 30% of your income :D :D I guess that’s in America.
    I’d say housing takes 50% of your income if you’re low/mid income.

  • Design for Mankind May 29, 2008 at 01:30 AMLogin to Reply →

    This is so helpful!!!

  • real estate properties May 29, 2008 at 08:43 AMLogin to Reply →

    and also take note make sure all the douments if you are settled..

  • John Lampard May 30, 2008 at 09:59 AMLogin to Reply →

    When inspecting a place always take a friend with you. A second set of eyes can often see a lot of smaller issues or problems you might miss, especially if you are chatting with the owner/property manager, and not able to give the place your 100 per cent attention.

  • angelina May 30, 2008 at 22:22 PMLogin to Reply →

    Is the landlord allowed to have you pay
    both last months next months rent and a deposit?

  • Brittany June 3, 2008 at 20:24 PMLogin to Reply →

    Make sure you know what the terms are for early termination of the lease. Emergencies happen, new jobs pop up in different states, and exiting a lease before the preplanned date can be very expensive. Most leases offer a “buyout” clause that ensures the landlord keeps the deposit, plus the equivalent of two or three months rent. Losing your $400 deposit plus paying $1500 to “buy out” of the lease is often crippling to lower/middle income renters. If possible, negotiate an option to sublet or transfer the lease to a new tenant.

  • zoran kralev March 19, 2009 at 15:48 PMLogin to Reply →

    halo halo halo………..

  • Danielle April 3, 2009 at 17:31 PMLogin to Reply →

    This is the way things should be, get off what we are on now

  • dilak October 11, 2009 at 09:32 AMLogin to Reply →

    Subjects are clean and straight ;those help me on the right time, Thanks.

  • Audria Chicalace February 1, 2010 at 08:10 AMLogin to Reply →

    Do you really think this is true?

  • Alan Rammel February 24, 2011 at 23:21 PMLogin to Reply →

    Nice article. Raising prospective tenants awareness serves to raise standards from the property managers point of view and as such weeds out the bogus and unscrupulous landlords and gives the rest of us a better name!

  • Reg East February 26, 2011 at 18:39 PMLogin to Reply →

    I followed some of these rules when looking for a house, but found I had to make some compromises!

  • Sky June 3, 2011 at 02:27 AMLogin to Reply →

    Would these rules also apply when looking for someone who has an apartment to share or room to rent? If so, in what way(s)?

  • Kristen Dockery February 25, 2015 at 17:57 PMLogin to Reply →

    Thank you for the great tips in this article about renting apartments. My husband and I have never rented an apartment before, but my husband had to move for his job and we don’t know how long we are going to be there so we are just going to rent an apartment at first. I hope that we can get it all worked out and I am so excited for our new adventure.

  • Phillius Thomas March 5, 2015 at 16:02 PMLogin to Reply →

    Numbers six and eight are arguably the most important. I would say that every time, because if you don’t read the lease, they could have you agree to anything. And if you don’t inspect the apartment, if there are damaged things, you may get blamed for putting them there.