Renting a new apartment can be exciting. However, it is important not to rush into things and take time ensuring you’ve found the best place for you.
When Choosing Your Apartment
While some might think this is the easy part, it is not always as easy as it seems. It is especially true when apartment shopping from a distance. Make sure you avoid these mistakes, though, because you may discover the charming little apartment that you see as a diamond in the rough may turn out to be just a lump of coal.
- See it in person. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but clever photographers can use tricks of light, wide zoom lenses, forced perspective photography, and other tactics to make apartments look bigger, brighter, and better than they will ever look in person. Take the time to visit the apartment and look for signs of age, disrepair, and potential problems. Issues such as a lack of electrical outlets, closet space, or proximity to an airport where planes are taking off and landing at all hours may make an otherwise attractive apartment undesirable. If you are unable to visit in person, such as if you are relocating from another state, and if you know someone that lives there, see if they can visit on your behalf. Also look at apartment/landlord reviews to make sure you are making the right choice.
- Visit the community at different times of the day. While it is great to see the neighborhood when it is light outside, you may not get a true appreciation for the area until you visit at night. Is there a lot of loud noise? Are people mulling about? Do you feel safe? Will you feel comfortable there? These questions are answered best by both day and nighttime visits.
When Signing the Lease
You should never sign a lease without carefully reading it first. Look for anything that isn’t as originally described for you and pay attention to the responsibilities you face as tenants for things like lawn care, snow removal, association fees, utilities, water, and garbage. Also be aware of regulations stated in the lease regarding deposits and first and last month’s rent.
Do not sign a lease that you do not like. Some landlords have been known to change the parameters between what they tell you when trying to get you interested in the apartment and what they write into the lease. They may also add things that they never told you about into the lease. If you do not like it, don’t sign it. There are other apartments and plenty of other landlords out there.
When Moving In
Before you move one box into the apartment, conduct a room-by-room walk-through inspection, with a video or still camera to document the condition of the apartment. Submit a copy with your lease agreement and save copies of your own for your records. That way you can make a legitimate claim for the return of your security deposit at the end of your lease if your landlord alleges you did not take appropriate care of the apartment. You are protecting yourself from claims that you did the damage.
The final tip that many renters forget about, is purchasing renters insurance. In most cases, it is a very small monthly investment – one that is worth every penny and then some for the liability protection alone. After all, you may be responsible for legal fees even if you are found innocent of liability claims against you. Renters insurance will cover your legal fees (up to the limits of the policy) as well as any judgments awarded against you. Additionally, renters insurance will help to replace or repair personal property that is damaged or destroyed in a covered event.