Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: What should I ask when renting my first apartment?

Alan Moore
by Alan Moore, The Garrett Network  (@@R_Alan_Moore)

You have finally found the perfect apartment to call your own. The leasing agent is probably pressuring you to sign immediately, but you aren’t sure if you have asked all of the right questions.

Here is a list of some questions to ask:

What utilities are included in the rent? Apartments may include some utilities while not including others, for instance your rent might include heat but not water. Also, be sure you know if you will need to pay for gas as well as electric. A separate gas bill can be expensive, so be sure you understand what you will need.

READ: Apartment rents rise at highest rate since 2007

What is the average utilities bill of other tenants? Apartment managers will have a good idea of what their tenants are paying for utilities. If they aren’t willing to tell you, it might be because they tend to be very high.

When can the building manager come into my apartment? Many states have laws that require the manager to give notice before entering your apartment, but you want to know what their standard practice is. This is especially important when you are moving out, as the manager will want to show the apartment to interested renters.

How can I end my lease early? When you sign a lease, you are signing a contract. Typically you are agreeing to stay there for 12 months; however something may happen in your life that would make you want to move out before then. You may have the option to sublease your apartment to another tenant, or pay a fee to have the apartment manager find a new tenant. Be sure you understand how you can end your lease early, if at all.

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Although the leasing agent will probably tell you that you need to make a quick decision because they are showing the house to 2 other people that afternoon, don’t rush. Take your time to be sure it is the right fit for you, and that you understand what you are signing. Once you decide to take the plunge and sign your name on the dotted line, take a lot of pictures. Walk through the apartment and take pictures of every stain on the carpet, hole in the wall, and scratch on the cabinets. This will help protect you in the event that the landlord says you caused the damage and demands that you pay for it.

P.S. Don’t forget to get renters insurance before you move in!


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Alan is the founder of Serenity Financial Consulting and is a Certified Financial Planner professional and Certified Retirement Counselor. He earned his bachelor’s degrees in Family Financial Planning and Consumer Economics and his Master’s Degree in Family Financial Planning from the University of Georgia.