Finding the right apartment is never easy. Sometimes, you get really lucky and happen upon a dream spot shortly after you’ve begun your search. But many times, it takes a lot of work to find a place that checks all (or, at least most) of your boxes. Once you’ve found a spot that resonates with your needs, there are a few things you should always pay attention to so there are no surprises along the way. The better the tenant you are, the better the response you’ll get from your landlord when you need his or her assistance.
If you’re ready to learn how to rent an apartment, let’s take a look at a few key essentials that every renter must know!
1. Read the Lease Before You Sign It
The lease is the most essential part of any tenant-landlord relationship (besides the roof and walls that come with the property!) There can be all kinds of clauses in the lease that might obligate you to pay a higher monthly fee than the rent you’re anticipating.
For example, the fine print might require you to pay a pro-rate share of certain things such as:
- Water bills
- Trash bills
- Internet usage
- Lease renewal terms
- Pet deposits and monthly rents
- Parking spaces
More than likely, you’ll be required to pay a security deposit, as well as first and last month’s rent. Make sure you understand the financial implications of your lease before you sign, as the upfront fees can be a bit heftier than the actual monthly rent you’ll be paying after you get settled in.
If things like utilities, cable, and internet aren’t included in your lease, make sure you understand how much those monthly payments will be. The most important of those items is electricity. You can call your utility provider to request an estimate of the monthly payments other renters in that unit have made in previous years. If you need to have cable and internet in your home, make sure those monthly fees fit into your budget after your rent is paid. Be sure not to budget down to the bare minimum, as you’ll still need to eat and get from place to place.
It’s imperative to understand the terms of the lease before you sign, so you don’t find yourself underwater with bills you weren’t factoring into your budget after you’ve already moved in.
2. Put All Correspondence in Writing
People who don’t know how to rent an apartment often find themselves in precarious situations when they take landlords at their word. While your soon-to-be landlord may seem incredibly trustworthy, it’s in your best interest to get everything in writing.
By emailing your questions to the property management company, you’ll have a written record of the responses that you can file away in case you need them. Phone calls don’t afford you this luxury, and he-said-she-said situations are extremely difficult to contest in court. If a dispute ever arises, you can refer to the email exchanges you’ve accumulated throughout your tenancy.
Along the same lines, make sure you always have a receipt for your monthly payments, indicating the amount you paid and the date on which you made the payment. If you’re able to pay online, you should be able to reference those records fairly easily. But if you’re paying cash or by way of money order, it’s more difficult to track and access previous payments.
3. Always Ask Permission First
When you rent an apartment, you’re using the facilities of the person who owns the property. He or she may have rules that you’re not aware of—either because they weren’t specified in the lease or you didn’t quite understand what the applicable portion of the lease was telling you.
It’s okay to have questions, and it’s a far better idea to ask permission first than request forgiveness later when you’re in a rental situation.
Are you thinking about getting a pet? Do you want to alter the landscape by planting a garden or pulling out some bushes? If you’re not sure about something, always get permission first and (as mentioned above, be sure to get it in writing.
4. Keep Your Apartment in Good Shape
This is one of our top renter tips, but it’s also good for overall peace and well-being within your dwelling.
You need to keep your apartment in a sanitary condition. If you have a mess that attracts rodents and pests, the management company can make you pay for the extermination and cleaning of the property, which can be extremely costly. In very rare instances, if your apartment is found to have appalling living conditions, the property manager can terminate your lease prematurely.
In most cases, renters put down a security deposit, and they want that money back when they vacate the premises. By ensuring the apartment is kept in good shape, you’ll have a greater chance of receiving your full deposit back.
Here are some other tips to help you keep your place looking as top-shape as possible:
- Call your property manager as soon as something malfunctions. If your refrigerator stops working or your stove is doing weird things, call your property manager immediately. Don’t let problems go without attention.
- Don’t let people who aren’t on the lease live with you. In the end, you’ll be liable for any damage they do, and the simple fact of having someone else in your home could cause you to incur other penalties.
- Clean your space regularly. You don’t have to clean your windows every day but vacuuming weekly, keeping dirty clothes off the floor, and the dishes washed will help keep unwanted pests from appearing on the property.
Bay Management Group works with landlords and renters across Baltimore, Laurel, and Philadelphia. Our goal is to ensure we find the best fit for all parties involved. If you’re searching for a rental home or apartment unit in these areas, we’d love to help! Take a look at our tenant FAQs, and feel free to reach out to us if you’d like to discuss your ideal rental situation!