Renter Resources  

What to Know as a First Time Renter - When You’ve Found an Apartment


Picture this: you’ve found an apartment you want to rent - but you’ve never done this before. How on earth do you go about making the place yours? We’ve put together a list of handy tips to give you the best chance of snagging your dream apartment.

Prepare Your Application

Make sure you know what documents you’ll need to provide in order to make an application for the apartment you decide on. Some information your potential landlord may need might include your credit score, rental history, and proof of income. Sometimes you’ll also be asked to provide your social security number. You’ll more than likely need references, so prepare them ahead of time. As a first time renter, you won’t have previous landlords to get references from, so you’ll want to ask people in your network for help here. Your boss, colleagues, previous roommates from college maybe? Any reputable person will be worth asking, to give yourself the best shot at nailing your application.

Renter’s Insurance

While it’s not the law to have renter’s insurance, it is highly recommended that you do so. Where landlord insurance covers the physical apartment, renter’s insurance covers your belongings. So, if there was a fire, renter’s insurance would cover the cost of replacing your damaged items. It’s important to note that some landlords require tenants to have renter’s insurance as a condition of the lease.

Budget Again

You’ve already budgeted to make sure that you can afford the apartment in the first place. But now is where you’re going to have to figure out how much cash you need up front. First and last month’s rent. Moving costs. Furnishing the place. Work out how much you need and make sure you save enough. While the security deposit will usually be refundable, sometimes they’re not. You’ll want to check this out before you sign anything. And find out what non refundable fees may be involved. These could be admin fees, credit check fees, etc. 


This is where the second round of budgeting comes in handy. Some furniture can be snagged cheaply from places like Craiglist or flea markets, but there are certain items that you don’t want to be tight with money on. Things like a mattress, which you’re going to use every day for potentially years to come. Consider certain pieces of furniture investments, and don’t skimp on them. Otherwise, grab bits and pieces as you see them. Yes, you’re going to need a few things up front, but ask your friends and family if they have any bits and pieces spare. Maybe someone has just upgraded their cutlery drawer and has some knives and forks to spare?

Deep Clean

One important thing a lot of new renters forget to do is to deep clean before actually moving in. Yes, the previous tenants probably gave the place a cursory glance with a duster before moving out, but you want to make sure the apartment is spotless before you move your own stuff in. Either hire cleaners to do a deep clean or grab a couple of crates of beer and a few friends to get it done as soon as you have the keys.

Consider Hiring Movers

And then reconsider. Chances are, if you’re moving into your first rental, you don’t have much in the way of furniture and ‘stuff’. While movers are fantastic for established homes, moving into your first apartment can probably be done using the trunks of a couple of cars and bribing a few friends with beer again. If you do have a LOT of stuff, then professional movers might be beneficial. They can take a lot of stress out of moving leaving you to relax and get to know your new area.

Check The Inventory

This list of everything that’s provided in the property, along with the condition it’s all in, is something you’re going to want to check immediately. Make sure you report any discrepancies between the list you’re given and what you actually see, and document everything. Take photos of every room, from every angle, and video a walkthrough of the apartment if possible. This can help you later down the line if your landlord tries to keep your security deposit. It’s also best practice to leave the apartment in as good (or better) condition as the day you moved in, so being able to prove that you’ve done so just makes sense.

Know Your Rights

Make sure you read through your lease thoroughly before signing it. A person’s rights as a tenant vary depending on which state you’re in, so make sure you look them up to ensure you know where you stand at all times. Check out Nolo for the legal rights in your state.

New Home

Renting for the first time can be overwhelming and things can move pretty fast once you’ve found an apartment you want to rent. With our useful tips, you should be able to be fully prepared to make the apartment yours - although don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get the first apartment you like.