As I’m nearing the end of my first apartment lease, I wanted to compile a list of considerations when searching for a rental for future reference and for others who are new to renting and don’t know where to begin.
This is Part 1 of a series on apartment how-to’s. Part 2 focuses on the rental tour and walkthrough. Part 3 focuses on furnishing the rental when moving in.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
Cost: Consider the monthly rent and additional fees: application fees, security deposit, cost of initial move, utilities, pet fees, parking fees, etc. Determining whether an apartment is affordable depends on personal budget priorities, but the general rule of thumb is that approximately 30% of one’s income should be allotted to rent. (This isn’t set in stone for everyone and can range from 25-40%.)
Type of rental: Rental houses, townhouses, and apartments each have pros and cons.
Leasing Options: What are the different leasing options offered? 12 months? 13 months? Month to month?
Proximity to work or school: Do you prioritize a shorter commute or cheaper rent? Do you stay late at school to study or work late?
Surrounding community: How high is cost of living here? Is it a safe area? Are there enough grocery stores and dining options nearby?
Location: Is it near the entrance of the neighborhood or complex? Is it a first, mid level, or top floor apartment?
Accessibility: Is the rental near an interstate or major road or is it more secluded? How many floors are there? Are there ramps and elevators or stairs only? Is there handicap parking?
Furniture: Does the rental come furnished? Are essential appliances provided?
Washer/dryer: Is there an in-unit washer and dryer or is there a communal laundry facility? Are washers and dryers provided or only the connections? Facebook marketplace sells refurbished appliances that can include a delivery and installation fee.
Pet Policy and associated fees: Are pets allowed? What is the initial pet deposit and monthly pet fee? What is the maximum number of pets and weight limit? Are there breed restrictions?
Apartment Amenities: AC/heating, dishwasher, cable and internet, and utilities. What plans are offered for them?
Community Amenities: Is/are there HOA rules and associated fees, high speed internet, free coffee, fitness centers, office centers, game rooms, pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, walking trails, dog parks, pet wash stations, car wash stations, Amazon hubs and mail centers, hot tubs, grilling areas, and outdoor lounge areas? Not all necessities, but they make a rental more enjoyable and convenient.
Parking: Are there any parking fees? Are there designated parking spots? Do guests need parking passes?
Security: Is the complex gated? What other security measures are there?
THINGS TO ASK:
What is the initial application fee and security deposit? What are accepted forms of payment? Are there any upfront fees for moving in, security fees, brokers fees, credit, or background check fees?
What kind of salary verification is accepted and under what circumstances would a cosigner or guarantor be accepted? Are loans an accepted form of “income”?
Are there any special offers for college or graduate students or move in specials? If not, are there any incentives such as a deep clean carpet steam? Sometimes rentals may have a special deal for students enrolled in a nearby college or university.
Who are the prioritized applicants?
When does the lease start and end? Can a longer lease be negotiated for less per month?
Can I move in before the start date? Would a prorated rent be added for that?
How is rent paid and how often? What forms of payment are accepted (check, cash, money order, online)? Can automatic payments be set up? KEEP PROOF OF PAYMENT EVERY TIME.
Does rent increase significantly after 1-2 years? Is it rent controlled/rent stabilized?
Is renter’s insurance required?
How long has the management team been there? Has there been a change in management recently?
regarding the rental community:
What are the resident demographics? Is it mostly college students, graduate students, single young adults, families, or elderly residents?
How safe is the surrounding community? Are there security cameras? Are there public entrances and how are they secured?
What is the usual noise level? Are there “quiet hours”?
Is there handicap parking? Are there ramps and elevators for easy access?
How is mail received and protected from theft?
Are there pet amenities such as pet washing stations, pet waste containers, and dog parks?
Who do I contact for maintenance requests? How quickly do they respond? What is the process for emergency maintenance requests? Is there someone available during office hours? What about after hours emergencies?
Are there restrictions for guests? Do they have a designated parking location? Do they need special passes?
Regarding the rental unit:
What is the recycling policy? How often is trash collected and when?
Is there extra storage space on the property or nearby?
Is there a balcony or patio?
How often are pest control treatments done?
What kind of AC/heating/electricity system is used?
Is the fuse box located in the rental or elsewhere?
Is there an apartment unit security system? Is it linked to notify the local police? How do I operate it?
Do doors lock automatically? Is there a latch or deadbolt in place?
What happens if I lock myself out?
How thin are the walls? How do I file a noise complaint?
Has there ever been bedbugs in this complex/building/unit? How has it been handled?
Is subleasing allowed?
How does the leasing office/landlord communicate announcements to residents?
Under what conditions can a lease be broken early?
What happens if a roommate wants to move out?
When and for what reason can a landlord enter your home? How much notice is given?
Can landlord make modifications to your living space without your approval and to what extent?
To prevent sore thumbs from scrolling, I’m dividing the apartment hunting how-tos into two posts. The next post will be a checklist of things to keep in mind during a rental walk through.