The Basics of Renting for a First Time Renter

You are renting your first apartment, so of course you are going to have a couple questions about how it all works. Here are four questions we get asked often about renting an apartment.

1) How do you rent your first apartment?

While it seems complicated, there are only 5 steps needed to rent an apartment:

  • Find an apartment with availability and tour the apartment.
  • If you like the apartment, fill out an apartment application (apartment applications may cost between $30-$100 which also covers the credit check).
  • Some landlords will ask you to include references to enquire about your character. If you have poor credit, providing some solid references is one of the few ways to persuade a landlord that you will be a good and reliable tenant.
  • The apartment management will contact you to let you know that you’ve been accepted.
  • Once you have been accepted, you will have to provide a security deposit and your first month’s worth of rent. Security deposits are often one month’s worth of rent and with pets, this may be even more. So, you will need to have a little saved up in order to rent.

2) What are the requirements / what do you need to rent an apartment?

  • You need a credit score of 620 or more.
  • Your yearly income needs to be more than 4x the amount of your monthly rent. While this isn’t a rule that is set is stone, many landlords use this number to make sure their tenants will not have trouble paying their bills. If you do not have an income (in case of many college students), you will need a cosigner/guarantor.
  • A security deposit.
  • With most apartment complexes, you must be 18 or older unless you have government assistance.

3) When you rent an apartment, who do you make a payment to?

The answer to this question varies from apartment to apartment, but renters usually pay either a property management company that runs apartments for landlords, or renters pay the landlords themselves.

In the past, one would have to mail the landlord or property management company a check each month, but now most of this takes place online. Often, you can set your payment to be automatically taken from your bank account every month, so that you are not penalized with late fees in case you forget.

4) What do you pay for when renting an apartment?

The answer to this question also differs between apartments. Here’s a checklist of the things you will most commonly have to pay for when renting an apartment:

  • Rent
  • Your deposit (often the cost of one month’s worth of rent)
  • Utilities, often referred to as bills such as water, sewer, gas, trash, and electricity
  • Parking spots (usually only in large cities)
  • If you own a pet, you will have to pay a pet deposit and for some apartments, a monthly pet fee