Moving out. These are two very scary words when you’re a college student who is used to living in the dorms and eating at the dining hall every day. Moving into your first college apartment is a big step toward being an actual adult, but a huge step up from your tiny dorm room. There’s a lot that goes into finding the perfect apartment, so here are some tips and information to make sure you find the right fit.
WHAT IS A LEASE?
Growing up is scary, and looking at legal documents is even scarier. A lease is a legally binding document you sign and agree to honor when you find the apartment or house you’re ready to rent.
A lease provides the following:
-A description of the rental property
-Names of the tenants who will be living with you
-Duration of lease
-Security deposits, fees and rent payments
-HOA fees (if applicable)
-Use and subletting
-Right to entry
-Repairs and maintenance
-Rules and regulations
I know it’s a lot to take in, but take a deep breath; when first looking at a lease, the most important section is any fees like security deposits, rent payments, HOA fees and pet fees. Also, make sure you read through the entire document and understand everything covered. Ask your landlord or a lawyer any remaining questions you may have before signing.
Security, pet and utility fees and deposits are usually a one-time thing and if you take care of the property and follow all the rules, you should be able to get your deposit back.
MONTH-TO-MONTH VS. ANNUAL LEASE
Now that we’ve covered the basic outline of a lease, it’s time to learn about the two most common types of leases you will see when signing a lease for an apartment or house: a “month-to-month” lease and an “annual” lease. Sounds pretty upfront and easy right? Well, let’s lay it out just in case anyone is confused.
A month-to-month lease is a residential agreement that typically lasts for one month at a time and involves an automatic renewal of the agreement unless the landlord or the tenant provides a notice of non-renewal. If that’s the case, there should be a notice of at least 30 days.
An annual lease agreement will typically run for a one-year period and will usually include an automatic transition to renting month-to-month unless the tenant or landlord provides a notice of non-renewal, in which case the notice to vacate will usually be 30 or 60 days. Some landlords also offer leases that last for a six-month period.
LEAVE A GOOD IMPRESSION ON YOUR POTENTIAL LANDLORD
Once you get past reading over the initial lease and decide it’s the right apartment for you, it’s time to impress your landlord! Usually when signing a lease, your potential landlord will ask you for a lot of information to make sure you’re the right person to rent their property.
Prior to move-in, your landlord may ask you for your credit score, background check, housing history, references, proof of employment, a co-signer or a deposit.
It’s a lot to take in and you’re probably thinking “I don’t have credit or rental history!” It’s OK; just be ready to show dates of employment and at least one reference from work.
Next, make sure you have proof of a checking and savings account, so you can prove you’re able to cover the first few months of your rent. If you’re having someone co-sign for you — which means you have a designated person that is obligated to help you if you are unable to pay rent —make sure you bring them with you to sign the lease.
Most of this will most likely be in the rental application. Be prepared to pay between $10 and $15 to run an accurate background or credit check and always make sure to keep a receipt of any fees, deposits or rent you pay!
WHAT IS RENTERS INSURANCE?
Although not required through all apartment complexes and property owners, renters insurance is an extremely important thing to have.
Renters insurance ensures you are covered in case anything happens while you are renting an apartment or house. It usually provides coverage for any lost, damaged or stolen possessions inside the residence.
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK THE AMENITIES THAT ARE PROVIDED!
When moving into a new place, you don’t want to be surprised or disappointed by anything, so don’t forget to check what amenities are (or aren’t) included.
There are usually two main areas to pay attention to when looking for a potential place to live: You want to make sure everything you need is inside the apartment and that the apartment complex is exactly what you want it to be.
Inside the apartment you want to look for:
Around the complex make sure you look for:
-Access for guests
Of course not all of those amenities are extremely necessary but it’s always nice to know that you have a place to sit outside and a place to work out!
Make sure you figure out how much your utilities will be or if they will be included in your rent. Some apartments, especially ones that are located next to college campuses, will often include your WiFi, water, electricity, A/C and sometimes even cable in your rent.
When it’s time to move in, make sure to inspect your new house or apartment. You should write down any concerns or necessary repairs. This allows you to notify the landlord about the problems and get them fixed before you get charged for them.
Budgeting also comes with moving in; it’s important to keep track of your expenses so you know what you can and can’t afford while you are also paying your rent.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy your new space!