Your first apartment is an exciting milestone. But before you rush to sign the dotted line for that extra cozy bungalow that’s finally available, you’ll want to make sure you got all your bases covered. So, before you call that moving truck, make sure you take these need-to-knows into consideration, and skip the most common first-time renter pitfalls altogether.
Underestimating rent cost
When you’ve really got your eye on a specific place, it’s easy to put on the blinders and just say “To heck with the details.” Before you seal the deal on anything, it’s important to be really honest with yourself and have a solid handle on your finances. Aside from the upfront cost, which often includes first and last month’s rent, in addition to a security deposit, you’ll have to take utilities into consideration as well. Make sure you know exactly what you will be expected to cover as each apartment complex and/or landlord will difference. While some may cover trash and water, others may not.
Not protecting your personal information
Typically, before a landlord will hand over the keys, potential renters are subject to screening. Often, it includes handing over pretty private information, including social security numbers and sometimes even account numbers, to someone who’s a complete stranger. Furthermore, tenant verification services for landlords, which usually include a criminal or credit check, will protect a property management company of private owner but can also negatively impact renters’ credit score. Protect yourself by researching secure services such as SmartMove, which works to protect your private information and won’t impact your credit.
Not reading the fine print
When signing a lease it’s critical that you read it in its entirety before signing. You want to make sure you understand each component of the lease. If at any point you think you may want to work remotely abroad and sublet your apartment, or even become an animal foster, you’ll need to make sure it’s covered in the lease. Some leases do not allow subletting for any reason whatsoever, while certain clauses may make you responsible for structural integrity problems that predate your lease date if you choose to house animals or even long-term guests that aren’t reported. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of a lease if something makes you uncomfortable. Just keep in mind, a lease is a legal document and you’ll want to take the terms seriously before offering up your John Hancock.
Not having renter’s insurance
One of the beauties about renting is not having to worry about financial responsibility for maintaining the property; however, the insurance an owner may have for property you rent does not include your personal belongings. In case of natural disaster, fire damage, or robbery, you’ll want to be sure you have a safeguard in place. First-time renters especially either don’t know they need insurance or don’t feel their belongings are worth insuring; however, it’s relatively easy to get, and most insurance companies offer inexpensive bundling alongside their car insurance policies.
Not transferring utilities
Before you live on your own for the first time, you may never think twice about your modern conveniences like electricity and running water. The thing is, even if your landlord covers the cost of the utilities you may have to make sure it’s been turned on, especially if there’s been a lag in occupancy. You’ll also have to confirm the electric company has transferred your account to your new residence. Make sure you figure out when the electricity will be available and if you’ll need to arrange for garbage pickup so you don’t end up eating takeout in the dark and storing your garbage on the back stoop for a week.
Not investigating the neighborhood
Sure, the apartment may be a dream but how’s the surrounding area? If the rent seems a little too good to be true you may want to do a bit of investigating before committing yourself to a lease. Ask your landlord about the neighbors, or if you’re able, introduce yourself so you can get a feel. Visit the apartment at a couple different times of the day and evening, and perhaps even during the week and weekend. You may find that while it’s quiet during the week, the area gets a lot of traffic during the weekends, or that the next door neighbors are prone to ragers.