Renting an apartment

Your budget is your starting point

  • A good general guideline is that housing should not exceed 32% of your gross salary. Your gross salary is the total amount of your paycheck before taxes and other deductions.
  • Look in the classified section of the local newspaper to find neighborhoods with apartments that fit your budget, plus meet your needs for safety, convenience, and amenities.
  • Get leads for apartments from friends, the Web, neighborhood bulletin boards, newspapers, apartment guides, and other publications.

The search is on

  • Set up appointments to view apartments that interest you.
  • Walk through each room. Note the positive and negative features. Look at closet space, kitchen appliances, bathrooms, and electrical outlets.
  • Check on safety and security features such as smoke detectors, door and window locks that are in good condition, and hallways and entryways that are well-lit.
  • Are there laundry facilities?

Fill out the application

  • Almost all landlords will ask you to fill out an application. Be ready to fill one out if you find an apartment you like: bring a folder containing documents you may need, such as a bank statement, most recent tax return, and personal references.
  • The application gives the landlord the information needed to do a credit check. The credit check shows them what your history has been as a money manager and if they can trust you to pay your rent on a steady basis.
  • If you don’t meet the income requirements or have credit problems, you may need your parents or guardians to sign a guarantor form. By signing this document, they take legal responsibility for the rent or property damage if you or your roommates fail to pay.

Before you sign a lease

  • If possible, give yourself a day to think before renting. In some cases, you can give the landlord a refundable deposit to hold the apartment until you’ve reached a decision.
  • Get the lease in writing! Never take an apartment on the basis of a handshake with the landlord.
  • Read and understand the lease. It may be written in “legal-ese,” so consider asking someone knowledgeable to help you read and understand the lease. If you don’t understand something, don’t sign!
  • As you review the lease, consider these items:
    • How long is the term of the lease?
    • When is the rent due?
    • What are the penalties for paying late?
    • How much is the security deposit?
    • Are utilities (electricity, water, etc.) included in the rent? Which ones?
    • Are pets allowed?
    • How much advance notice is required before moving?
    • What happens if you break the lease?
    • Can roommates co-sign the lease? This will insure that they share responsibility along with you.
    • How are repairs handled? Do you need permission to make cosmetic changes such as painting or putting nails in the walls to hang pictures?
    • If repairs are needed now, ask the landlord or management company to put promised changes in writing.

Move-in checklist

  • Rent a truck or hire movers. Arrange this with as much lead time as possible to insure availability and the opportunity to comparison shop for a reasonable price.
  • Consider getting household contents insurance.
  • Contact the local utility companies to connect your electricity and water. Some utility companies may require a deposit.
  • Make appointments for cable, internet and telephone services. Remember, you’ll probably have to be there during installation.
  • Fill out a change of address form. You can pick up a form at the post office, or find it online at
  • Notify your bank, creditors, and others of your new address.