How to Rent an Apartment

How to Rent an Apartment

Prepared by ASPIRE at SHS

January 2018

Look for apartments on Craigslist, on campus bulletin boards, in the local newspaper classified ad section, or just by driving around town and looking for signs. Try to find something close to campus; the farther away you live, the more isolated you will be from campus life.

When you go to see an apartment, it is best to take a friend with you. You will be meeting a stranger in an apartment, and that presents the (remote but real) possibility of trouble.

Watch out for scams. Although quite rare, it is nevertheless possible that the person who shows you the apartment is not the owner. If you give him or her a check, you will never see your money again. Try to get a business card or other means of verifying that the person you meet is actually the owner or agent who has the authorization to rent the apartment to you.

Never agree to sign for a rental unit that you have not seen and visually inspected (unless someone you trust has inspected it for you).

· Is the apartment clean?

· Do the appliances (refrigerator, stove, oven, heating and air conditioning) work?

· Does the apartment have air conditioning? If you live in a warm or hot climate, you will probably want air conditioning. This could be in the form of central air conditioning or window units. If you see window units, turn them on to see how noisy they are. Some are very noisy.

· Does the heating system work well? Ask if the filters are changed regularly. If not, you may develop allergy problems from dirty air circulating through your apartment.

· Do the windows open and close easily? Check to see if they seal properly; otherwise, you may have cold, drafty air in the winter months.

· What is the condition of the paint? The floors?

· Have the door locks been changed since the last tenant moved out? You will be safer if previous renters don’t have keys to your apartment.

· Is there any visible mold, or any reason to believe there might be mold (such as evidence of water damage, flooding, etc.) Suggestion: do not rent the unit if there is mold. It is unhealthy!

· Are there any signs that the roof leaks? It’s best not to discover a steady drip during the first heavy rainstorm.

· What about other renters in the building? Are they college students or working adults? Will the building be quiet at night, or are there noisy all-night parties that will interfere with your sleep and studying?

· What sense do you get about the neighborhood? Will you be comfortable returning to your apartment late at night? Are there security lights around the building and in the parking area?

· Is the apartment upstairs or downstairs, and if upstairs, is there an elevator? Carrying heavy furniture (and books, groceries, etc.) up and down stairs can be a challenge. Also, while a downstairs apartment can be more convenient, you might have to endure the noise of people walking around above you. If you rent a downstairs apartment, ask if the upstairs apartment has carpet or hardwood floors (hardwood floors are going to be a lot noisier when people walk on them).

If you need to sign a lease, read it carefully and understand what you are signing:

· How long is the lease (month to month, or for a year)? Be careful not to sign a lease that is for any longer than you know you will be staying.

· After the lease runs out, can you extend it or pay month to month?

· Is a security or damage deposit required? If so, how much?

· Are you allowed to hang pictures, put up posters, etc.?

· What are the restrictions on loud music, parties, etc.? Find out when and to what extent you can have parties, but also during what hours it will be quiet so you can sleep.

· Are there restrictions on the number of friends you can have in your apartment at one time?

· Will the management object if your boyfriend/girlfriend spends nights there? You don’t want to be charged extra under those circumstances.

· When is the rent due, and what is the penalty if it’s late?

· How much notice do you have to give if you are moving out?

· Are you permitted to sub-lease? (That is, if you have to move out before your lease terminates, can you lease the apartment to someone else?)

· Are there conditions under which the rent will increase, or is it fixed for the term of the lease?

· Who pays for utilities (water, electricity, gas, trash collection?) If the rent is lower than that of comparable units in the community, it may be because you have to pay for the utilities.

· If you have a car, is there a parking space for it? Do you have to pay extra for parking?

· Does the lease state the condition of the unit when you move in? If not, you could be held responsible for damage that was there before you moved in.

· Who makes repairs (if the stove stops working, a water pipe leaks, a door falls off, etc.) and who pays for them?

· How much notice do you have to give before moving out? Be sure keep this in mind. 30 days is typical, and notice usually has to be given in writing.

It is possible that, if you do not have established credit or a job, another adult may need to co-sign your lease. It is common to ask a parent or other close relative to co-sign, but if no such person is available to you, then consider who else might be able to co-sign.