10 Tips for First-Time Renters

First-time renters can often feel overwhelmed, and a bit lost when renting their first apartment or home. Several pitfalls can easily be avoided as long as you know what they are and how to prepare for them.

Here are some things to think about so you can feel more confident about moving into your very first place! 

1. Always read the lease.

While you may have heard this before, it’s essential that you read all of the details of your lease agreement before you sign it. Things like subletting and pet policies, hidden fees, and rules about what changes you may and may not make to the property will be included. If you’re not aware of these things, you may unwittingly incur fees and penalties when the time comes to move out.

Also, be aware that it’s ok to take your time with the leasing documents. If you are being rushed to sign the papers, there’s probably a red flag or two that you may be missing. You can take the lease agreement with you to have a better look or have someone you trust to review it with you before signing it.

Remember, once you sign a lease, you agree to all of its contents, demands, and policies and will be held liable.

2. There will be deposits and fees.

Not all lease agreements are the same, and specific properties may come with extra fees and deposits. You’ll almost always be asked for a security deposit that accomplishes a few things like proof that you are serious and able to rent the property and provide the landlord with additional money should you damage the property during your lease.

There may also be other fees for things that you might not think of, so be sure to call around and ask different complexes about their prices or talk to landlords about their fees before signing the lease agreement.

3. Renter’s insurance may not be needed.

A lot of landlords will require you to furnish proof of renter’s insurance. There is no federal law that requires you to get this insurance, but if it’s part of the lease agreement, you’ll need to comply or try to negotiate with the landlord to have the requirement removed.

If you do get renter’s insurance, know that it is there to protect the property and your stuff in an emergency like a natural disaster or a burglary. Most policies cost less than $15 a month, so even if it’s not required, it may set your mind at ease knowing your things are protected.

4. Make sure your roomies are on the lease.

Be sure that all of the occupants of the rental property are listed by name on your lease. With their name on the official documentation, they are not liable for any fees, deposits, or damage that may occur during the lease period.

While no one wants to plan for a roommate to ditch the lease agreement or refuse to pay rent, everyone should be on the same page (literally!) when it comes to the lease agreement. That way, everyone is aware of their responsibilities, and there is no room for drama later if someone drops the ball.

5. Save up for other expenses.

Besides security and pet deposits, first and last month’s rent, and renter’s insurance, there will be other things you’ll need and want to buy for your new place. There are everyday things like silverware, dishes, glasses, towels, etc., but there may also be more significant expenses like a bedroom or living room sets. It’s best to start saving as early as possible so when the time comes to pay for the boring stuff AND the fun stuff, you’ll have what you need to pay for it all.

6. Know your Tenant Rights.

Ideally, you’ll have a great relationship with a fair and trustworthy landlord; however, it’s essential to plan for everything. Be sure to check your states Tenant Landlord Handbook so you know all of the rules and regulations.

7. Seasonal price changes may come into play.

Believe it or not, there are better times of year to sign a lease than others. While there seem to be more options in the Spring and the Summer (ideal moving times for college students and families), prices are usually higher due to the increase in demand.

When it’s Winter or Fall, there are typically fewer renters and so you’ll see a rise in move-in specials, rent discounts, and larger rental properties going for a bit less as nervous landlords seek to fill their vacant properties.

8. Budget for pet deposits/allowances.

If you have a pet, you’ll probably need to pay a pet deposit. According to PetFinder, a pet deposit can be anywhere between 40% and 80% of one month’s rent. Landlord will charge this deposit as a way to pay for for pet-related damage to the property that may happen during your lease. Things like stained carpets, scratches, digs, hole sin the yard, etc. would all be things a landlord would need to fix when preparing the property for the next tenant.

If you don’t have a pet when you sign the lease agreement, but you feel like you may get one, be sure to read the agreement carefully so you know what pet breeds are allowed and how much a pet deposit will cost. It’s also a good practice to talk to your landlord about their pet preferences so you stay on good terms when the time comes to bring home a new friend.

9. Make sure you’re informed about subletting.

Change is inevitable and you may find yourself needing to move from your home or apartment before the lease is up. Breaking a lease is often very expensive so the idea of subletting, or allowing someone else to live in the rental space during your lease, may seem like a good idea.

It’s important to know if your lease allows subletting or not. If it does not and you do it anyway, you can incur financial penalties. If it is allowed, only sublet to a person you trust and be sure to create an agreement with them as any damage or issues that come up during their remaining stay under your lease will be your responsibility as the responsible part of the original agreement.

10. You may not get everything you want.

Depending on inventory and your budget, you may not get exactly what you want with your first place. The most important thing is to get what you need. Things like appliance colors and floor types may not be what you want so you’ll need to manage your expectations about what your first place may include. Remember the important things like a pet-friendly property if you have or you want a pet, or access to public transportation if you don’t have a car, etc.

Enjoy this exciting time! While these tips for first-time renters are thorough, there’s always more to learn! This is an exciting time in your life and doing research before hand, knowing your budget, and the lease agreement will ensure that your first-time renting experience will be a good one.