Whether you're just out of high school or college, renting your first apartment will require some initial preparation to make sure that you qualify. There are a few issues that can make the process more challenging if it's your first rental. The following tips can help you avoid some of these challenges, or at least help you overcome them.
Tip #1: Consider alternative credit
Many landlords and property management firms run a credit check to verify that you are a financially trustworthy tenant. This can be a challenge if you don't have a credit history because you have yet to take out a loan or procure a credit card. You can overcome this by offering alternatives to traditional credit, such as providing letters of reference or asking a parent or relative with established credit to cosign on the apartment with you. Keep in mind that this will make them responsible for your rent if you don't follow through with your responsibilities. Having a plan for this challenge before you begin to apartment shop is key.
Tip #2: Plan your income
Landlords usually require a deposit before you can move in. The limits on this deposit amount vary by state tenant laws, but generally they consist of some combination of first and last months' rent plus a security deposit. You will also have to show that you have income sufficient to cover the monthly rent payments. Standards vary, but a two to three times the rent amount is a basic guideline. You must be able to show proof of this income, usually via pay stubs, so anything you receive as a gift or "under the table" won't be considered. When shopping for apartments, it's best to already have the deposits saved up and to only look at apartments where the rent fits into your income restrictions.
Tip #3: Talk to your insurance company
Another cost you need to figure into your first rental is insurance. Some landlords require that all tenants carry rental insurance, while others leave it up to the tenant. Rental insurance protects your belongings if something happens, so it is a good idea to have it. You can often get it relatively inexpensively if you combine it with another insurance policy, such as your car insurance. Find out how much this will cost before you determine your apartment budget so you can plan accordingly.
Tip #4: Understand lease terms
Lease terms are generally defined by the landlord within the restrictions set out by tenant law. As a general rule, being under a lease means your rent cannot go up until the end of the lease term, but you also cannot move out during the lease term without a financial penalty. Month-to-month leases means your landlord can refuse to renew or can raise your rent every 30 days, but it may be a better choice if your future plans may require a prompt move. On the other hand, signing a six or 12 month lease may be more cost effective if you are planning to stay in one place for awhile. Apartments in college towns often have an option to sign a lease just for the academic year or the summer months, which can come in handy if you are still a student.
For more help, contact apartments in your area.