If you’re planning on moving away from your parent’s house—or your college dorm—and into your own space for the first time, you have a few big choices (and big expenses) coming up. Knowing what to expect and how to negotiate will make everything run smoother so you can get down to the fun stuff, like decorating and deciding how you want to live now that you’re finally out on your own.
Know How Much You Can Afford
Crunch the numbers before you start apartment hunting. When you sign a lease you will have two waves of expenses to pay—upfront fees and monthly living costs. Generally, landlords require a security deposit before you move in. A security deposit is like insurance for the landlord. If you leave still owing rent or with damage to the place, the landlord can deduct the costs from your security deposit. If you don’t, you will get the money back when you move out. You may pay up to a full month’s rent for a security deposit.
Many experts say your total rent payments in a year shouldn’t exceed 30 percent of your annual income.
Be Prepared to Apply
Before you can sign the lease, you’ll have to fill out an application and pass a background and credit check. Your landlord will also likely check your income to verify you can pay the rent. To be prepared for the application process you’ll need: your Social Security number, a photo ID, contact information for your supervisor and recent paystubs. If you don’t have any credit or a lengthy work history, you may also need a co-signer, someone who signs the lease with you, such as your parents.
Read the Lease
Before you move in, your landlord will ask you to sign a lease. Read through the lease carefully. If you don’t understand or agree with anything in the lease, ask the landlord to explain it. Once you’ve signed, you’ll have to stick to this lease the entire time you live in the rental, so don’t skim. You can also get a copy of the landlord and tenant laws in your state online or at a local housing office. These laws protect you as a renter and you should know them.
Do a Walk-Through
The day you move in, walk through your rental with your landlord. Test everything from the lights to the drawers. If you notice any damages, dirty areas or needed repairs, write them down and have the landlord sign your inspection. This way, when you move out, the landlord can’t say you caused the damage and deduct the cost of repairs from your security deposit.
Don’t Forget to Turn the Lights On
Typically, when a tenant moves out of a rental, the utilities stay on and transfer back to the landlord’s name. When you move in, the lights will probably turn on, but your landlord will be footing the bill. If your lease doesn’t cover utilities, you will have to have each one put in your name. Discuss with your landlord which utilities aren’t covered and call the utility companies to make the switch.
Discuss Everything With Your Roommate
If you’re planning on living with a roommate or two, set aside time to discuss living arrangements before you move in. Make sure you know how much everyone will pay, who will buy furniture and household items like dishes, rugs and trashcans, and how you will divide up cleaning and other chores. Having a plan ahead of time will make things run smoother once you move in.
Do you have any questions or comments? Please let me know!