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7 Tips for First-Time Renters

7 Tips for First-Time Renters
6 min. read
Image: fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Moving into your own place for the first time can be equal parts exciting and terrifying. While the new-found freedom you’ll soon enjoy is something to relish, it comes with a fair amount of responsibility attached. All of a sudden you’ll have to manage your own expenses like never before, and think of everything.

Fortunately, with a few tips and tricks, you can avoid the potential pitfalls that many first-time renters fall into. Below, we go through 7 must-know tips to help your first rental work out perfectly.

Know the Costs

Besides the monthly rent, there are a few other costs that you’ll need to consider when renting an apartment, and it’s important to know what to expect. In general, you’ll face several up-front costs, which, if you’re not prepared for, can come as a shock. These typically include the security deposit, the first and last months’ rent, furnishings if needed, and moving costs.

Additionally, after you are moved in, there will be a number of ongoing costs besides your monthly rent, such as utilities, phone and internet, parking, laundry, snow removal, etc. It’s a good idea to work out approximately how much both the initial and ongoing costs will be in your area and for the type of unit you’re looking at.

Make a Budget and Stick to it

With these figures worked out, it’s wise to create a budget. You don’t want to be spending too much of your monthly income on rent, so try to work out what would be a comfortable amount each month. Try to aim for no more than 30% of your income being spent on rent and other household essentials such as utilities. It’s also good if you’re also able to put a portion into savings or debt repayment each month.

Think about the initial cost, and be sure you have the funds, so that you’re ready to put down a deposit as soon as you find the right place. Once you have a budget on paper, stick to it. If you find the perfect place, but it’ll take you over budget, you may find that life can soon become a struggle as you live from paycheck to paycheck.

Move in with a Roommate

If you find that your budget won’t get you too far, you could consider moving in with a roommate. This can drastically reduce the costs, and enable you to get a bigger place in a more desirable location. However, it’s important to know what you’re getting into here as well. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s unlikely that you’ll be compatible with everyone, including lifelong friends, so choose wisely.

For example, if you’re an early riser, you probably don’t want to move in with someone who is likely to be up all night watching movies or listening to music. Various social media groups can help renters seek out roommates, and together you can discuss your individual needs. Once you’ve found a likely candidate, perhaps agree on paper about the important things such as how to divide the various expenses and house rules. Also, bear in mind that with both names on the rental agreement, you’ll both be held accountable if one of you causes damage or misses a payment.

Understand the Rental Agreement

Before moving in, you’ll need to sign a rental agreement. This relatively simple document puts down in writing the agreement between tenant and landlord. Besides the basics such as the length of the tenancy, the monthly rate, and the details of both parties, this document may also include various rules and terms set out by the landlord. You should insist on agreeing to a list of repairable items already in the rental space currently so you are not charged for these when you vacate the lease.

Upon signing, you’ll be obliged to follow these, so be sure to have thoroughly read through the lease and know the renter’s rights for your area. Also, check that there’s a dispute resolution process in place to avoid awkward situations in case of late payments, damages, or eviction notices. And once you’re done with this, it’s a good idea to also think about drafting a roommate agreement.

Have Your Deposit to Hand

Ideally, when the time comes to visit potential places to rent, you’ll have the necessary funds at hand. If you visit a place within your budget that you really like, you might not want to wait around. With the funds for the security deposit available, you could effectively write out a check there and then, giving you a huge advantage over the competition, and letting the landlord know you’re serious. A typical security deposit is normally the same as one month’s rent.

Beware of Scams

It’s easy to get carried away when searching for a place to rent, but caution is advised. There are numerous rental scams to beware of. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some things to watch out for are:

  • Rental fees that are lower than the typical market rate
  • Being asked to leave a deposit without signing the rental agreement
  • Not being able to visit the property before paying the security deposit
  • Being offered a unit without having any background checks done on you
  • Pictures on the ad that don’t match up with reality
  • Landlords who can’t be reached by phone
  • Being asked to send a security deposit to a landlord outside the country

Simply put, don’t pay the security deposit if things aren’t adding up, and you haven’t been asked to sign the rental agreement.

Don’t Move in Before Checking the Place

Whatever you do, don’t sign the rental agreement and pay the deposit before you’ve had a look at the place! Not only does this protect you against scams, but it also allows you to know what you’re getting into. Inspect the unit and be sure to take photographic evidence of any damage as proof that it wasn’t caused during your stay.

Check also that the apartment is as advertised, and that everything works properly, paying attention to appliances and HVAC systems. If anything doesn’t add up, discuss it with the landlord, and consider rewording your rental agreement.

Renting for the first time can be difficult, but with these 7 must-know tips, the experience can go from harrowing to heavenly.

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