Housing and Rental Tips
Searching for an Apartment
Follow these simple tips:
- Know what you can afford. Put together a budget showing your monthly income (after taxes), your expenses and at least a small amount of savings. That will give you a realistic cap. Don’t forget to figure in one-time expenses such as security deposits, moving costs and furniture and ongoing monthly charges for things like wi-fi, electric and water.
- Shop around and compare rates. Become familiar with the neighborhood and the average rates. Read online reviews of landlords and apartments. Seek advice from family and friends who live in the area. Ensure the apartment building is located in a safe area.
- Ask the landlord for a written copy of all the fees you’re responsible for in addition to the rent. Sometimes, first-time renters forget about the security deposit, utility fees or other miscellaneous fees. Find out if parking is included, or if there are extra costs for pets.
- Keep a written record of everything. Your lease agreement should reflect everything your landlord promised or said was included. It’s OK to ask for an electronic copy of the lease to review before you sign – and to ask for changes if you aren’t happy with one of the terms.
- Do a walkthrough with the apartment manager when you move in. Emailing written notes to the manager on things like marks on floors or walls, broken outlets, etc., when you get your keys can keep you from having to pay to repair those items when you leave.
- Store a copy of the lease in a safe place. If there’s ever a dispute, the lease is the document that decides who’s right. Keep a copy that’s signed by you and your landlord.
- Never wire money or pay before you sign a lease. If the property manager or landlord asks you to wire money, that’s a red flag for a scam.
Unfortunately, scam apartment ads can read a lot like real ones. Scammers who use free online sales sites sometimes steal a legitimate landlord’s ads or photos to trick people into sending a security deposit or sharing personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers.
Tips to avoid a scam:
- Ask friends, coworkers or family members to recommend landlords, companies or apartment buildings they’ve had positive experiences with.
- Meet with the landlord or property manager and inspect the property in person. If a landlord tells you he or she is traveling overseas and can’t show you an apartment, it’s likely a scam.
- Never agree to wire money or buy gift cards to pay a landlord. These are payment methods that scammers favor because they’re hard for law enforcement to trace.
- Be suspicious if the rent is a lot lower than similar-size properties in the area. Scammers often use low rents to lure victims.
- Arrange to inspect the apartment before you pay a deposit.
- Research the landlord before you rent. Read online reviews about the company. Check court dockets to see if a landlord fights with tenants often. Check the landlord’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
- Check out the company’s website and read reviews.
- Although you may be eager to sign the lease, carefully read the contract. Confirm there are no hidden fees or additional agreements you’re not aware of.