5 things to know before renting a place to live

Man opening door of apartment

When deciding where to rent a place to live, there are more details to think about besides the monthly rent payment. If you’re new to renting an apartment or house, here are five factors to consider before you sign a lease agreement.

Understand the terms of the lease

A lease is the legal arrangement between you and your landlord, or rental company. This document contains details like the length of the lease, the monthly rent payment, your responsibilities as the tenant, and the responsibilities of the landlord or rental company. Keep a copy of this document in a secure location in your home. Consider keeping a duplicate copy in a safe deposit box at your nearest Credit Union branch.

Be sure to read the entire document. This way you’ll know exactly what you’re agreeing to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there are terms and conditions you don’t understand. Once the lease is signed, it can be costly to terminate the contract prior to the end of the term.

Know your upfront housing costs

In addition to budgeting for the monthly rent, be prepared to pay additional upfront costs such as a security deposit before you’re allowed to move in. Review your lease agreement for the specific dollar amount. The security deposit is often the lump-sum total of first and last month’s rent.

A security deposit protects the landlord or leasing company in case of property damage or non-payment of rent. You may also have to pay an application fee. The amount of the security deposit and any application fees may vary based on the type of apartment or house you’re renting, and the location.

Inquire about a pet policy

Many landlords and leasing companies are pet-friendly; just be sure to ask before signing the lease. There could be restrictions surrounding weight, breed, type of pet permitted and/or the number of pets allowed. In addition, an extra deposit for keeping a pet is often required on top of the security deposit.

Sometimes, in addition to a pet deposit, you may have to pay a higher monthly rent, known as pet rent, to keep Fido or Fifi in your home than you would if you didn’t have a pet. These are costs you’ll want to account for in your budget.

Budget for ongoing monthly expenses

In addition to your rent, verify what additional monthly expenses you’ll have when renting an apartment or house. Utilities, like heat and electricity, are not normally included in the monthly rent. Each rental company or landlord will have different rules about what you’ll be expected to pay versus what will be covered in your rent. Those details will be included in your lease agreement.

Ask the landlord or rental company representative for information or even for an unsigned copy of the lease agreement to confirm those details. This way you’ll have a better idea of whether you can afford the place for the duration of the lease. You’ll sleep better at night knowing your lights will turn on every time you flip the switch.

Don’t forget renters insurance

Some rental companies and landlords may require you to take out a renters insurance policy; however, it is something to consider even if it’s not required. Renters insurance, like homeowners insurance, protects you and your belongings in the case of accidental damage, theft or disaster. You may be able to save on these monthly costs when you bundle your homeowners and auto insurance.

Renting an apartment with roommates

If you’re going to live with one or more people, make sure all your roommates sign the lease. A roommate who doesn’t sign the lease could complicate your living arrangements if that person stops paying rent. You may end up responsible for the missing portion of the rent.

Also, it’s best if each roommate takes out a personal renter’s insurance policy. Your insurance will not cover your roommates’ belongings (or their liability if someone is injured in your home), unless you signed a policy agreement together.

These tips for finding a place to rent may help guide not only where you choose to live, but how you live.

The advice provided is for informational purposes only. 

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