6 Key Tips for First Time Renters

If you are going to be renting your first apartment, then you will want to have all the information in hand so you can get approved quickly and avoid any unnecessary delays. You really should know the following six tips for first-time renters before you apply for your first place.

Photo of a lease agreement
One of the key tips for first-time renters is buying the right renters insurance.

1. How Much Apartment Rent Can You Afford?

Apartments like apartments for rent in Tacoma will require that you make a certain amount of income before they will approve your application. This figure is usually between 3-3.5 times the monthly rent. If you try and apply for a place without meeting their income requirements, your application will most likely be denied. For example, if you earn 6k per month, then you wouldn’t want to apply for a place that rents for no more than 2k per month. For this reason, before even beginning to look, it is a good idea to ask yourself the question “How much house can I afford?” and carefully calculate your budget, so that you meet all of the requirements when you get to the application stage. 

That is probably the max rent you will want to pay. As a renter, you will want to consider choosing an apartment that is under the most you can pay. This way you can put something away for savings or purchase a home.

2. Be Knowledgeable About the Application Process 

Each management company or private landlord will charge an application fee and will conduct a background check. Application fees will usually be in the neighborhood of $50 per applicant.  

Credit scores will come into play. Ask the leasing agent or apartment manager how they use your credit score when they are making a decision about your approval.  Anything above 700 and you should be fine. If you have anything under 600 then your odds of success will drop. If you are denied, you will want to have a co-signer ready. 

The co-signer should understand what they are signing up for. Usually, this is a parent or close family member. If you fail to make a payment they will be responsible!

3. Find a Real Estate Agent or Apartment Locator

Sure you can search online or use an apartment guide website. But in some cities, you may be able to use the services of an apartment locator. In most cases they are free. (Cities such as Dallas and Houston fit this model).

They will collect a commission from the apartment community.  However, all areas in the U.S. don’t fit this model. Cities like New York City will require the renter to pay the agent. This is because it is much harder to find a place on your own. 

4. Read and Understand the Lease Carefully 

This is the most important of the tips for first-time renters. It’s not fun but it’s critical you understand what you are signing up for.

The application and lease are two entirely different documents. The lease will explain everything you could possibly want to know about the rules of living in the new community. You will want to read this thoroughly as well as keep this in a safe place as you probably will need it in the future. 

Here are some common items that a renter will want to be familiar with:

  • Moving Out: As a renter you just don’t move out of your apartment with your lease ends without providing valid notice. This means as a renter you must inform the manager or member of the leasing team that you will be dropping off your keys. Most apartments require that you offer 30-60 days’ notice. Most leases will simply transition to month-to-month. 
  • Subletting and Airbnb: Many people are now trying to run an Airbnb business out of an apartment community. Especially for those residents who live in primetime areas, this can generate some great income. The lease agreement should have specific rules about any subletting allowed on the property. 
  • Changes in Rent: Don’t be surprised if your apartment rent increases after your initial lease term expires. Most landlords will drop a note underneath your door or email you 60 days or so before your term expires. You will have a chance to negotiate rent if an increase is priced. 
  • Additional Fees: Not only will you be responsible for your rent, but there may also be additional miscellaneous fees like trash, utilities, and even pet rent that you will be responsible for. Remember that after you move out you might also be responsible for cleaning the apartment. If you don’t; this fee might be deducted from your security deposit. Many states have rules that your landlord must send this back to you within 30 days. 

5. Opt for Renter’s Insurance

Your lease agreement may actually require it. If yours does not, then you should strongly consider it. The average cost for a renter’s policy is very affordable and cheaper than you might think.

If any items in your apartment are stolen or destroyed by a fire, you can be reimbursed for your loss. Consult an insurance company that can provide you with the best options. 

6. The Apartment Walk-Through 

After you sign the lease, you will have a few days to notate any damage in the apartment home that existed before you took possession. Be sure and take photos for documentation and return the form in the allotted time to the apartment representative. You don’t want them to deduct the costs after you move out. 

We hope you have learned a lot from these tips for first-time renters. Check back for more expert content on other real estate topics.