10 Tips For First-Time Apartment Renters.

So, you are looking for your first real apartment, huh? Time to start paying the rent? Yea, it stinks, I know – I have been paying rent now for 13 years. And although I want to buy a house, in this market in my neighborhood, it’s just not going to happen! So rent I do, so I have a few tips that might help you out when you start to check out apartments to rent.

1. When you meet the landlord, try to act like a grownup. You might not want to wear your baseball hat backwards or continue smoking that cigarette – it could reflect badly on you. And oftentimes there are several people applying for any apartment, so you want to present yourself at your best…even if that changes once you sign the lease.

2. The landlord is probably going to ask you for a check to cover a credit check, so be sure to bring your checkbook. Also, when you get accepted, you will probably be asked for first, last and security, meaning that your new $1200 a month apartment actually will cost $2400 plus the deposit for that first month. Be sure to have the money in your account!

3. Talk to the neighbors if you get a chance. If only I had done this at a few of the places that I lived, I never would have moved in. Between finding out about the guy that sings love songs to his old girlfriend at 3am to the chain smoker in the apartment next door, you can learn a lot just by being friendly with one of the neighbors. Ask them what they think of the place, how the landlord is, etc. – get a feel for your new home before you sign anything.

4. If having a parking spot is important to you, ask if you get one. A lot of apartment buildings do not have specific spots for everyone, so you should make sure you get one if you want one. I pay $90 for mine each month, that’s how important it is to us!

5. You should never go over your budget. Most finance professionals tell you that you should be paying 1/3 of your gross income, so if you make $5,000 per month before taxes, your rent should not be more than $1,666. Of course, I understand this is not always feasible in certain markets, but it is a good percentage to try to stick to.

6. Clean up your credit. If you have delinquencies all over your credit report, I seriously doubt you are going to get approved for any apartment. Landlords want to get paid every month! Work on fixing your credit while you stay with a friend on the couch.

7. Read the lease. Seriously, read the lease. And then read it again. You wanted to play your acoustic guitar in the house? Make sure you can. Your parents come visit every month? Make sure it’s legal. This is a legally binding agreement you are signing – make sure you read it.

8. Once you move in, buy renter’s insurance. Our renter’s insurance is $22 a month for $35,000 worth of coverage. Not bad for piece of mind. When you live with that many other people in one building, you are trusting all of them to not leave a burner on or plug up the toilet – that’s a lot of trust. You need Replacement Cost Coverage renter’s insurance, which pays the actual cost to replace items that are no longer usable.

9. Make friends with at least a few neighbors. Stay away from the ones that you think will be knocking on your door everyday, but you need to know a few people in your building. Eventually, you could trade keys in case either of you get locked out, or you can pet-sit if one of you has a dog or cat. Also, you want someone to know when you are away, so they can keep an eye on the place. Trust me on this one!

10. Relax, you are in your own place now! Decorate as you see fit. Make it a home, not just some apartment you happen to rent. Enjoy!

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Comments (60)

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  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    All good points–as a first-time renter myself. Our renter’s insurance costs about $10/month. Probably because our stuff isn’t very expensive so it wouldn’t cost too much to replace.

  2. Brip Blap says:

    One more good tip is to stop by your place at night before you rent it. It may seem quiet and calm during the day, but you want to make sure nobody is in the habit of turning their stereo up to 11 from 8 pm to 3 am. You may not know it if you come by during the day when people are (typically) at work.


  3. JSB says:

    I have to agree with #3. I wish I could have spoke to someone about our neighbor before we moved in. He likes to stay out late Thursday – Sunday until 3am. When he gets home he likes to make a ton of noise which wakes us up. We’ve talked to the landlord, but she doesn’t really do anything. So tip #3 is definitely an important one.

  4. Four Pillars says:

    I’ll add one more thing – whenever I’ve rented they usually make you fill out an application with work info, bank info, references etc etc. I put all the info onto one printed sheet of paper which I either gave to them or used as easy reference to fill out the application form.

    I like your #1 suggestion – very good!


  5. Wilma says:

    I’ve never read such a ridiculous set of ‘tips’ in my life!

    #1 – ‘Act grown-up?’ For goodness sake, you ARE grown up, or you’re not looking for an apartment.

    #2 – There is no ‘probably’ about it; you will need money – you can use either a credit card; check – even a money order or cashier’s check. Only an immature person would expect to rent an apartment without paying ‘money first’ – how dumb do you think these people are?

    #3 – There’s no ‘if you get a chance’ – YOU MAKE THE OPPORTUNITY AND THE CHANCE…you do this before you even walk into the office to talk about being a potential renter. You drive by; you drive in (unless there is a security gate); you get references from the newspaper; real estate offices, and near-by neighbors within 3 to 5 blocks of the apartment complex!


    #5 – Never go over your budget; again, are you talking to morons here? You should go to a real estate agent if you don’t know the answers; tell them your situation – they will work with you to determine what you can afford (if you’re not smart enough to know that yourself). More often, they will do this at no charge because of the ‘good-will’, and also they are many times involved with property management services to a variety of complexes, and it is in their best interest, to work with you BEFORE you step foot on any property.


    #7 – Again, no one but a moron would NOT read the lease; take someone with you if you think you don’t read ‘legal terms’ easily – you can read it, but you don’t comprehend it, then it’s a waste of time….

    #8 – Wow – at least that one is ‘right’….

    #9 – Right, ‘trade keys’, so you can go on vacation and find your stereo missing….enough ‘traded keys’, and where to start? Oh yes, and your renter’s insurance won’t pay for the loss if keys are ‘handed out’ to family and friends. This is completely nuts….

    #10 – Decorate as you please? Whoops – bet you didn’t read the lease; there are all kinds of rules about what you can NOT do in the way of decorating……

    I actually came here thinking I could learn something MORE to give out to my grand-daughter in the way of ‘guidelines’….this is a joke.

  6. david says:

    You should write your own tips – why did you come looking for some if you already knew them all! Best of luck to your grand-daughter.

  7. matthew says:

    David Your article was a JOKE !! Youve got to be kidding me.
    By the time I got down to the comments I was thinking that

  8. david says:

    I love when people have time to write comments but have nothing but negative things to say – must be hard to be that upset and angry all the time, sorry you have to go through it! Have a great day Matthew, if you are capable!

  9. deya says:

    lol good come back david. it’s better to be a grown up then to deal with ignorant people that have nothing beter to do but critizes others work.now matthews grow up and wilma find something better to do go take an anger management clas or some councling you really need it.

  10. 18isgreat says:

    I don’t know about that Wilma woman, or that Matthew guy, but as a first time renter (or I will be very VERY soon), I believe that these were very good tips. I didn’t even think about some of them, so thank you for offering the help, and don’t worry about those two…they obviously have some time to go before they grow up.

  11. david says:

    I agree with you – and thanks! 🙂

  12. Jenn says:

    I second 18isgreat – I am planning to move out on my own by this time next year (taking a year to prepare financially and medically), and having never rented before, this article was very helpful. It presented a couple of ideas that I hadn’t thought of, and confirmed a few that I already knew.

    Thanks for the advice, and don’t let the naysayers get you down!

  13. Veronica says:

    Wow, Thanks David. This helped me out when I was trying to figure out what I needed to ask the Apartment Manager when I called to inquire about their homes. This gave me alot of ideas I didn’t think about or even realize that I needed. As for the other people who commented negatively, you may have experience about renting but those who come here looking for help NEED this and find it HELPFUL!!
    So thank you David. And happy renting for all the others.

  14. Kimberly says:

    I think it’s hilarious that two NON-first time renters are unimpressed by these tips for FIRST time renters; obviously these tips to be golden nuggets of hidden wisdom for the old and wise veterans of renting. For an inexperienced renter these tips are very helpful.

  15. david says:

    Thank you Kimberly, glad you got something out of the article!

  16. Kathleen says:

    Awesome tips! I’m moving out in a month or 2, & I’ve been searching the internet for as many tips & lists as I can find, & I’ve never seen half of these. Thanks so much. Obviously, Wilma (wth?) has no life, & likes to waste her time typing excessive amounts of ignorant words. She’s gettin tough with the keyboard! Oh how grown up… oh, is that irony?

    “#1 ““ “˜Act grown-up?’ For goodness sake, you ARE grown up, or you’re not looking for an apartment.”

    Well apparently she’s not a renter for this reason…

  17. Cassidy says:

    Wilma’s advice was actually useful to me. So don’t rag on ’em.

  18. kirsten says:

    THANK YOU !!!
    I appreciate this.

  19. John says:

    Thanks David!!! All good tips even from the Wilma 😀

  20. Neph says:

    Thanks David great tips…

  21. Daniella says:

    I NEED HELP!! I track my credit report monthly and saw a recent transaction of $8,019.00 on my acct. It says the monthly payment of 729.00 WAS paid. However I DID NOT make a purchase through any creditor for this amt. I contacted the # and found out it was my apartment complexes management company. Long story short, the new manager told me that my “lease is like a mortgage and is put on my credit and will go down as I pay it monthly”. I DO NOT ever remember reading this in my lease and have lived in other apts and this has NEVER been the case. CAN MY APARTMENT COMPLEX REPORT ON MY CREDIT AND INSTALLMENT LOAN OF THE FULL AMT OF MY 12 MONTH LEASE?? PLEASE HELP ME IF YOU CAN!

  22. Lori says:

    David, I think your advice is sound. I am appalled that Wilma & matthew were as negative as they were. They clearly have a lot of knowledge about renting themselves and perhaps have forgotten how daunting a task it can be to the uninitiated.
    I am a high school guidance counselor and many of your tips are spot on. Young people today (yes, even the higher achievers), seem unwilling or are afraid of venturing out into the adult world. In fact, even when they are led by the hand, they will often purposely sabotage themselves thinking mommy & daddy will rescue them. I am very worried about our young adults and their parents (possibly) allowing them to avoid responsibility.
    I recently heard my own 20 year old son’s voice mail message and discovered that even my own kids do not grasp the importance of acting like an adult in certain situations. I would suggest that young adults looking for housing or gainful employment make sure that when they leave a call back number, the message is not cutesy, or sarcastic.
    Thanks for the good info. I appreciate it.

  23. David says:

    Thanks Lori, appreciate your very kind words!

  24. Kelly says:

    When I read Wilma’s comment I felt hurt. I’m sorry I’m stupid but it’s not like they teach this in school!
    Thank you David, your tips were helpfull! 🙂

  25. MissyBean says:



  26. Jason P says:

    These are some really nice tips that every tenant should know about.

  27. Blythe says:

    David, I found all of these tips helpful, I never even considered renters insurance, Im moving out of my parents place and to a different city in october and little articles like this a great help to me…as for Wilma, I think you should feel blessed at the obvious amount of time she took to go through your article 😛

    thanks again for the GREAT tips! 🙂

  28. ashley says:

    David, I’m going to be renting an apartment for the first time most likely by next year. I feel as though your tips were helpful. Wilma, your tips were helpful as well YET who acts in that manner? Your comment was enitrely crass. Unnecessarily rude Wilma. Along with a few others. There’s always another approach to leaving a comment advising someone of their faults.

  29. Courtney says:

    Geez, David.. you’ve got some haters huh? Well, as a first time apartment renter I know…. NOTHING. So this helped! Thanks so much.

    P.S. “Remember the compliments, forget the insults and if you succeed in doing so, tell me how.” -Sunscreen

  30. Chester says:

    Find out of the apartment is submetered or not. You can save yourself lots of money on utilities if you use them wisely. If the apartment is not submetered you end up paying for other tenet’s wasteful habits.

  31. Jordann says:

    I rented my first apartment when I was 19 and there are some tips here I wish I knew about before hand. I had the money to rent, that wasn’t a problem; but I was taken back a bit when I realized How Much you had to pay upfront. Given I lived in a house for 19 years I had no idea how much work, I guess you could say, it took to move to an apartment.

    It’s true, they don’t have apartment renting 101 in school.

  32. Rachel says:

    My daughter just rent her first apartment along with two roommates. This apartment is next door to the university she and her roommates attend – student housing was not available. The landlord is charging an additional $200 a month for rent: $1900 + $200 = $2100 just because they are students. Is this fair?

  33. Tiffany says:

    Its an advice column. For people who need advice. Get off his nuts people! I learned things from it, and I’m not a moron, I never had my own place before, so ef all you haters!

  34. Reese says:

    This post is more than 3 years old and still helping folks! Thanks, David 🙂 Your labor was not in vain. I hope to be a first-time renter very soon and these tips were very helpful to me. I even benefited from the comments left by others – like that sub-meter thing :0 I would’ve never thought about it otherwise.

  35. Pert says:

    This Wilma and Matthew obviously have nothing better to do than troll the internet in search of people they think they’re better than. I mean, why is Wilma even here? She obviously knows everything. I think this is good advice to first time renters who DON’T know everything.

    Maybe Wilma and Matthew could benefit from a “Finding a Hobby” or “Getting a Job” article.

  36. Ffion says:

    Good tips in my opinion, thanks very much. Wilma sounds positively crazy!

  37. dragon lady says:

    As a former landlord for nearly 30 years, the tips were pretty good. You would be amazed at how many people have no clue when it comes to renting. Why should they? Mom & Dad took care of everything prior to that. One thing I taught my children when they were beginning to rent was to drive thru the parking lot-during the day and during the night to see how many residents worked at either night or day, also to see the condition of the cars in the lot. Are they raggedy, have bullet holes, well maintained? That tells the type of clientele that lives at that complex. You can also call the local police dept. and ask if this is an area they spend alot of time in.

  38. When inspecting a place always take a friend with you. A second set of eyes can often see a lot of smaller issues or problems you might miss, especially if you are chatting with the owner/property manager, and not able to give the place your 100 per cent attention.

  39. Larry says:

    Don’t forget to ask if the apt., or the building has ever been sprayed for bugs, such as silverfish, roachs, earwigs.

  40. Vicky says:

    Hey David,
    I am 21 years old and I found your advice very useful. Thank you for the tips..also do you have any advice for other important questions to ask when looking at a place? Also, do you have any tips on specific things to look for in a lease? Thanks for taking your time to help others. It is greatly appreciated! 😀

  41. Corinne says:

    These are good general tips for renters. Although some are common sense like having enough money to begin with, it is unnecessary to get angry with the author.

    I never thought about renter’s insurance! I’ll have to look into that!

    Thank you for your help.

  42. Jon says:

    haha this was almost as funny as reading comments on youtube.

    Anyway, thanks for the tips David. I will be needing this in the near future.

  43. anonymous says:

    Holy, I came here looking for tips for a FIRST time renter? Not a highschool argument. Jesus. Thank you to the person who wrote the origional set of tips. As a first time renter I found them helpful. I guess that makes me a moron? Have a good day WILMA. You should write in the paper or something.. You must be real intellegent to tell us morons how it is :)Good luck to your grand daughter. Ha.

  44. Livy says:

    As I first time future renter, I found some tips helpful and others I already knew. The only problem for me is absolutely falling in love with the place that I bypass all the bad stuff. Having someone else with me and coming into the home being sceptical of what the landlord says helps me to see straight.

    Maybe Wilma didn’t have her cup of coffee that day?

  45. shae says:

    thanks so much………this was very much needed because i was lost, as a first time renter in the upcoming year this helped so much and i appreciate it.
    #thanks so much #shaee(:

  46. lomr says:

    Great tips for first time renters, wish I had some of these when I got my first apartment

  47. Great topic and tips you have here. No wonder why people are engaged in browsing the net. Imagine, you can hardly find people giving tips on personal matters like tips for first time renters, but you did. Keep it up!

  48. Nadia says:

    Excellent tips for a first time renter. We just moved into our first apartment, and it’s a real daunting task if you’ve never searched for a place or rented before. Thanks for the advice!

  49. Alexsis says:

    Once you’re done reading the coments, go back up and read Wilma’s “negative” comment, Yes she could have phrased things better but I think they do provide some insight that’s helpful to new renters.

  50. S.A. says:

    I read you article, but I still have a lot of questions. Due to several problems, the day after graduation i had to leave home and moved in with other family. I have no credit history, barely any money and looking for a good job. My fiance and I want to move in together in an apartment in 2013, but I want to know more of what Im wishing for. I’ve been sheltered my entire life and I have no idea of whats out there or how to do things without getting myself into more problems. What paths should I take into consideration? Im a strong person and can get things done on my own, I just need common sense on what Im aiming for and this would help me greatly.

  51. Jeremias says:

    As I’ve been looking around at some apartments, I have noticed that there are different leases according the amount of time you plan on living there. There are month to month leases that are a bit more expensive compared to a 6 month – a year lease. Thought that might be helpful

  52. Jason says:

    Best tip EVER! For finding rentals as they hit the market try Jack’s Rental Service app. very good and helpful service from real people. Trulia is pretty good too.

  53. Jessica N says:

    This is great advice! If I had followed this I would have avoided some serious issues I have with my current place. We have to always consider that most places require a 6-12 month lease and that is a big commitment. Where I have been living for 10 months seemed like a great place at first since it was 2 bedrooms (ideally what I wanted), was close to work, and seemed to be in a pleasant neighborhood. Little did I know the building was infested with cockroaches and the neighborhood was actually a low-income neighborhood, which would have been fine except for the fact that my roomate’s car got stole our first week here and my experiences of walking to the bus stop in the mornings and nights was not only unpleasant, but pretty dangerous. I definitely have to emphasize DO YOUR RESEARCH ALWAYS.

  54. Cal says:

    Great advice. Even though it’s from 2009, still, thank you for writing this up.

  55. Toodles says:

    (Reads Disputitive Comments)
    Trolls live in apartments too? -_0

  56. Rebecca says:

    Dearest Wilma:

    I know this comment is probably a little late…2008 to 2012… just gonna go ahead and throw that out there, but either way you will probably rant and rave, regardless. You know, you strike me as an individual who disagrees with anyone and anything-no matter what. Now, you mentioned that you were trying to help your granddaughter with tips on renting an apartment for the first time. Apparently, you already know about renting apartments, and so if you know so much, maybe you should consider making your own guidelines, for whatever you want. You seem to feel that you are correct, and that you know what’s best. So since you know so much, by all means, please enlighten me on this topic of renting apartments. I am a senior in high school, and I am preparing a list of ideas/suggestions that are of potential assistance to anyone renting an apartment for the first time-it is a part of my final exam in my Life Choices class. Go ahead. We will pause to let you call me and anyone else taking Home Ec. classes dumb, dumb, and dumber, since I’m SURE you know everything there is to know about the obstacles and joys of life-vocation, relationships, marriage, child-rearing, the cycle of life, the stages of grief, divorce, addictions, moral and ethical development (or lack thereof in your case), protecting one’s identity, the purpose of mangaging a budget, the discernment process, reproduction, techniques designed for promoting life by way of artificial insemination, IVF, among others, handling personal responsibilities, suicide, and a medley of other components of life bestowed upon us during the course of our lifetimes.
    So back to you, thinking you know everything about everything, and that you have to be up in everyone’s business, insulting everybody and their brother. Is that a way of life for you?
    Well, let me tell you. There are many people in this world, and you are just one little person. Has there been a time in your life that you had no idea what to do or what to expect? Or do you run around the universe playing God all day, and already have everything figured out? I would say not, since you are human. In fact, I would say that there have been multiple times in your life when you were uncertain about what would happen next, or you weren’t sure what to do about an important decision in your life. The reason I ask is because if you have, then you would know how it feels to be unsure about the next steps of a major life decision or transition. In essence, this tips list is a “joke” to you, because you have already been exposed to the helpful and unhelpful suggestions related to renting an apartment, and so therefore, the tips are irrelevant to you. However, the reason this list exists, the reason why people visit the site, the reason why you have people to fuss to, is because there are in fact, people that have no idea the first step to renting an apartment. You might think they are immature, or dumb, but they really aren’t. In reality, anything anyone does for the first time is intimidating. It can make someone feel hesistant. Checklists, guidelines, and tips and suggestions work to pacify anxieties and other emotions associated with any change. So, you basically did nothing but insult the visitors of this page. For those that agree with you, they too, have insulted visitors. Just to let you know, in an ideal world, this site would not even be available is everyone felt the way you do. But the world is not a utopia, it never will be. A utopia is a theory, an idea in which only perfection exists, a world in which each member of society is identical in thought, feeling, and other emotions, and all levels of community become one. My apologies to you in my negative attitude towards your fantasy-land, your castle in the sky. The author of the tips list is trying to HELP others learn. You, I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re definitely not helping in any way. Maybe in terms of a learning lesson maybe-not for those of us who are mature and understanding, but for you. Someone needs to talk to you. I mean really. You’re too snooty to initiate anything yourself, seeing as how you are hold some type of superior authority. But you don’t, you have diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of human respect. Think about it: There are multiple scenarios in which someone may need some internet help. To share with you, I have some personal experiences that you should probably think about. A close friend, who is also friends with the family, Jessica, is very responsible. She has always done the “right” thing, followed expectations. She is a well-rounded individual, with many talents. She is funny and creative. She is smart. She can figure things out. When she was 17 years old, her boyfriend (who was my cousin), and her went on a short trip to the Dollar Store. They invited her mother, but her mother said that she was tired and would rather just stay at the house and rest, and that she would see them when they got back. Jessica never talked to her mother again. When they got home, Jessica’s mother was dead. She had a problem with her heart, and when she said she was “tired”, she was short of breath and simply could not exert any energy. Jessica was 17. Now you can imagine, what it would be like to lose your mother so suddenly. Jessica’s father tried to be as involved as he could, but he was hardly around. Her parents were divorced, to make matters worse. Jessica was left to do everything-plan a funeral, arrange expenses, and notify everyone. She also had to finish school, pay the bills, have a job, and work out financial problems. She had to sell her mother’s Denali for extra money. You’re probably thinking: Extra money?? She could just get a job! Well, she had a job, like I said, but between school, family, everyday life that was no longer everyday life, and grieving for her mother, her job was more than enough, emotionally, but not enough financially. People do fall apart. Well, she needed to move into an apartment. She had NO IDEA what to do. Do you think, in a situation like hers, it would be appropriate to visit a site like this? How do you think she would feel if she saw your comment? On top of everything else, do you think she might feel insulted? For being called stupid, basically? You cannot say that would never happen, because you never know. YOU NEVER KNOW. That’s why it is best to shut your squeaker. But go ahead, by all means, tell these innocent and unsuspecting people what you know. It will take less than 10 seconds. Anyways your human, I don’t think you’re a fool. But then again, what’s MY opinion against thousands of others. Some people live and learn, but you-you just live. You might think I am a hot-blooded, selfish, questioning, insulting, rude, offensive, arrogant, disrespectful, indecent and tastless high-schooler, but I do know the Golden Rule (no matter what your negative opinion of it is…), and you should try to live by it sometime, it is a valuable element in life. By the way the Golden Rule is: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Second, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you probably shouldn’t say anything at all. I mean it’s all common sense. It’s called karma. What goes around comes around. Maybe it already did. Maybe it has yet to come.

    Good day to you.

  57. Heather says:

    (Starts to slow clap)

  58. nikki says:

    What tha hell?:-D

  59. Roxanne Jones says:

    These are all great tips! There is a lot of research that has to go into finding and renting your first place! But as you can see there are lots of resources out there. I remember when I rented my first place and it was across the country away from my family and friends. It was a learning experience for sure. If you want even more tips on what to ask before you rent check out this link I found to be helpful! Good luck out there!! http://www.gardencommunities.com/moving-resources/what-to-ask-before-you-rent.aspx

  60. Timi Burke says:

    Hello ~ Great advice!

    Just to be helpful, we’ve got tips and advice on locating your first-time apartment at Rent.com’s ‘The Shared Wall’ blog. Also, when you move into a place your found using us, we give you a $100 reward card, which helps defray moving costs.