Renting offers the benefits of mobility, flexibility and reduced responsibility for serious property issues, but it does come with its own crop of concerns. Be sure you know your rights and what you're getting into before you sign your lease with these tips to help you pick an apartment and move out without penalty. We even offer a move-in checklist to help make sure you have everything you need for your apartment space.
Choosing an Apartment
When shopping for apartments, you'll want to consider many aspects before you sign the lease. Be sure you see the exact unit that you would be renting — not a model. In your walk-through, be sure you take note of these things before you commit.
Take time to consider where you want to live. Living close to places you frequent can save money on gasoline and time in traffic.
- Safety features
Ask if the locks on the doors and sliding doors will be changed prior to move-in and ensure the fire detectors are operational. Remember that there are things you can do to improve your home's security, even if you don't have an alarm system.
- Evidence of pests
Look inside cabinets and drawers for any evidence of pests. Droppings or small holes can indicate a problem.
- First floor vs. upper floor
Living on the first floor may be convenient, but it may put you at a greater risk for break-ins.
- Unit location
If the apartment is right by the pool, elevator or party room, ask about the noise levels and their posted hours.
- Working appliances
Turn on the oven and stove. Use the ice maker and start the dishwasher.
- Water pressure and temperature
Turn on the faucets to ensure there is enough pressure. Start up a hot shower to see how long it takes to heat up.
Check around the sinks and toilet area for signs of water leaks. Look for discoloration or puckering on the floors.
Check the unit's past utility bills for an unusually high utility bill. A top-floor apartment or an apartment with large windows that face the east or west will get more sun, boosting your electricity in the summer but possibly reducing it in the winter.
If after you review, you have concerns regarding any of these issues, report them right away to the building manager. And consider choosing another unit or apartment complex.
Knowing Your Rights
As a renter, you have certain rights. Review these helpful hints (and your lease terms) so you know exactly what you can expect.
- Ask for a walkthrough of the exact unit that you will be renting.
- Make a list of repairs needed prior to your moving in, such as broken appliances. List any defects, such as chips in the walls and carpet stains.
- Send these lists to your landlord and keep a copy for yourself. This will give you written proof that these damages were pre-existing.
- The landlord is obligated to provide you with certain things in working order and must make the major repairs so that the unit is livable.
- Certain repairs may be your responsibility. That's why it's always a good idea to read the lease carefully.
Getting Your Deposit Back
If you've ever lived in an apartment home, then you know it's common to provide a security deposit to the leasing office to cover unpaid rent or clean-up after you’re gone. However, you can only be charged for items not covered under “general wear and tear.” Typically, a leasing agent must provide an itemized deduction of how your security deposit was spent OR return your money in full, within 14-30 days.
Here’s what you can do to help get your deposit back:
- Document any existing damage during your first apartment walk-through. Take photographs. If you have a cellphone, you probably have a camera built-in.
- Give 30|60|90 day notice before moving out. Check your lease agreement for the exact time needed to give notice to your leasing agent.
- Clean the apartment thoroughly.
- Scrub the oven
- Be present when the landlord reviews the apartment. Confirm any repair or cleaning expectations and get it in writing.
- Document your cleaning and repair work.
- Give the leasing agent your forwarding address to mail your deposit check.
Here is a list of items NOT covered under general wear and tear:
- Stains and burns on the carpet.
- Broken windows.
- Broken or missing blinds.
- Gouges in the doors and walls.
- Flea infestation caused by your pet.
- Pet scratches on the molding and on/around doors.
Apartment Move-In Checklist
These basic items are a great start to stocking your first apartment. Later, as you have more time, you can purchase other furnishings to make your apartment your own.
- Coffee maker
- Small, medium and large saucepans
- Small and medium skillets
- Roasting pan
- Casseroles/baking dishes
- Ridged grill pan
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Chopping board
- Vegetable peeler
- Can and jar opener
- Wooden spoons
- Cookie sheets
- Garbage can
- 4 place settings
- 4 settings of cutlery
- 8 glasses
- 8 plastic cups
- Table with a leaf and 4 chairs
- TV Trunk (good storage) or coffee table
- Shower curtain
- 2 bath towels
- 2 hand towels
- 2 washcloths
- Toothbrush holder
- Soap dispenser
- Waste basket
- Futon or bed
- Alarm clock
- Ironing board
- Laundry basket
- Laundry soap