How to Rent Your First Apartment

Renting an apartment is not always easy, but it’s also not as difficult or risky as some may make it out to be. This article offers tips for renting your first home with a few extra perks thrown in.

The “what do you need to rent your first apartment” is a question that many people ask. There are some things that you will need in order to rent an apartment, such as money, references, and time.

Young man in car leaving home for college illustration.

This essay series is now available as a professionally designed, distraction-free paperback or ebook that you can read at your leisure while offline.

Renting an apartment will most likely be one of the first “adult” things you do when you move out on your own. For a first-time renter, the procedure might be scary. We’ll walk you through the process of locating an apartment, deciphering the legalese of a lease agreement, and managing your rights as a tenant in the sections below. Let’s get started.

Finding a Place to Live

Determine how much you can spend. Examine your monthly earnings. According to experts, you should only spend 25 percent to 35 percent of your after-tax income on rent and accommodation. Let’s suppose your monthly take-home salary is $1,500. Rent should not exceed $525 per month in the ideal situation.

You should also consider the fact that you may be liable for part of your rental’s utility expenditures. As a result, you’ll need to budget additional $100 or more to meet these expenses.

Keep in mind that some apartments have income criteria that would automatically exclude you from consideration.

Consider finding a roommate if you can’t locate a place that fits your budget.

Make a list of requirements for your perfect residence. What exactly are you searching for in a home? Are you looking for a studio or a single room? Perhaps you’d like to rent a little house? Do you need equipment such as a washing and dryer in your apartment? Do you want it to be near to your school or workplace? Do you want it to be close to retail, such as grocery or coffee shops? Are you willing to live in an area renowned for its high crime rate?

Whatever comes to mind, write it down. While you may not be able to acquire everything on your apartment wish list, it will help you limit down your options.

Make a list of possible apartments. With your list of requirements in hand, go online and begin looking for an apartment. When Kate and I were looking for a place to live in Tulsa, I simply Googled “Tulsa apartments for rent.” Google will provide a map of available flats or houses for rent in your city. Because you can see whether the apartments are close to work or school, near food shops, or in safe sections of town, that map makes narrowing down potentials a breeze.

Check to verify whether the apartments you’ve narrowed down by location contain the features you’re looking for in a rental, such as appliances, number of bedrooms, and so on. The majority of large apartment complexes have a website where you may look at floor layouts, amenities, and rent prices. It’s possible that smaller units will merely include a phone number. Make a call to such apartments and inquire about their available flats and prices.

Don’t only rely on Google to find what you’re looking for. Make careful to check Craigslist for houses or apartments that are for rent by individual owners rather than larger corporations.


Rental magazines, which you can pick up for free at supermarkets, and are two more helpful sources for locating possible residences. They’ll give you a $100 gift card if you use the latter to locate your place. Bonus!

Make a day to go see your prospects. You should go to your possible rental apartments in person to see them and potentially fill out a rental application. Visit as many of your potentials as you can in a single day to make this procedure as efficient as feasible. The busiest days for landlords showing flats are Saturdays, so try to go during the week. It’s better to contact and make an appointment with the landlords, but if you can’t, most complexes will gladly give you a tour. Each visit should take around 45 minutes, so schedule your visits appropriately.

Prospective Rental Locations

Vintage man standing in doorway of apartment building.

Create a positive first impression. When you visit a possible apartment, the landlord or apartment manager will assess you in the same way that you assess them. They want to rent to individuals who are trustworthy, respectful, and easy to get along with. The phone call to set up the appointment is your first impression. Always be kind and talk plainly.

When you go to see the flat, make sure you’re dressed appropriately. While you are not required to wear a shirt and tie to your visit, you should not show up in sweatpants and a shabby t-shirt. A pair of nice pants and a shirt would go well.

Please arrive on time! If you are late for your appointment, the management or landlord may assume you are behind on your rent payments.

Give the manager or landlord a strong handshake and a pleasant smile, and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.

Keep your favorable remarks and any potential concerns close to your vest when you inspect the rental apartment. There’s no need to recite a laundry list of improvements and demands before you’ve even been given the apartment. Landlords will be scared away from you as a result of this. Wait until you’ve been approved as a tenant to express your concerns.

Look for any issues. Check the following items as you move around the flat, but don’t voice your worries right away:

  • Examine the area for evidence of mold, mildew, or insect infestation.
  • Check sure all of the doors and windows are open and closed correctly, as well as the locks.
  • Fill the sinks and showers with water and flush the toilet. Pay attention to the pressure and temperature of the water.
  • Look for visible damage, such as broken fixtures, holes in the walls, and damaged tiling, among other things.
  • Examine the carpet for signs of wear and tear.

Pose inquiries. While you should keep minor concerns about the property to yourself while seeing it, feel free to ask the landlord or apartment manager any questions that may assist you in making your selection. Here are some questions you may want to consider:


  • How much does it cost to rent a room on a monthly basis?
  • Is the rent inclusive of utilities?
  • What is the amount of the security deposit?
  • When does the rent have to be paid? Do you have automatic payments set up?
  • What are the other tenants’ personalities like? Is it mostly younger students? Are there any married couples with children? What about the elderly?
  • Have you had any break-ins in the last 12 months? Is it true that automobile break-ins are a problem?
  • How is the parking situation? Do you have to pay for parking?
  • Do you handle minor maintenance concerns, or am I liable for some of the apartment’s repairs?
  • Is it possible for me to re-paint the walls or make other changes?

When you ask these questions, remember to be kind and courteous. There’s no reason to fight.

Inquire about the experiences of existing renters. In my experience, online apartment reviews are mostly useless. It seems that only those who have had a terrible experience with the landlord or apartment management submit feedback. And reading the evaluations, it’s easy to get the impression that this person is a bit insane, and that they probably contributed to the situation they’re complaining about in the first place.

It’s ideal to ask existing tenants about their experiences renting at a certain complex to get a better understanding of what it’s like to live there. If you don’t have a representative from their office with you when you visit, ask any tenants you meet about their experience living there. Is it simple to deal with the landlord? Are they quick to respond to requests for repairs? Is it safe for them to live here? Are your neighbors pleasant and quiet?

Obtaining a Rental Application

You’ll almost certainly have to fill out a rental application after you’ve found a property you like. The software is used by landlords and apartment managers to screen prospective tenants. Your work and monthly income, as well as your renting history, will be asked on the application. You’ll also be asked to sign a consent form granting the landlord permission to do a background and credit check on you. When filling out the application, be entirely honest! Any inaccuracies will very certainly be identified during the background check, resulting in your application being rejected.

To be clear, submitting a rental obligation does not bind you in any manner. You’ll be invited to come in to the apartment office to sign a lease if the management authorizes it.

Before applying for a rental, check your credit history. Landlords are authorized by law to examine prospective tenants’ credit records to determine whether or not they are likely to pay rent on time. If they see that you have a history of not paying your bills on time, it’s a red indicator that you shouldn’t be rented to. It’s a good idea to verify your credit history before completing an application so you can address any errors that might harm your chances of getting a rental.

Be prepared to pay a charge when submitting a rental application. Landlords might impose an application fee to cover the expense of a credit check. The charge should be in the $20-$30 area; if it’s more, you’re definitely being taken advantage of. Credit check costs might easily mount up if you’re submitting many rental applications. To save money, you might acquire your credit report yourself and make copies to send to landlords. Some people may insist on getting the report themselves, fearful that you have tampered with the copy to make it seem better than it is. However, you may be able to convince a few people to accept your copy, saving you money. It’s not a bad idea to give it a go.


Prepare a list of references. A list of personal and professional references will be requested. Prepare them, and inform your references that they should anticipate a call from a landlord.

The Lease is Signed (or Rental Agreement)

The landlord will invite you to come to the office and sign a lease when your rental application has been accepted. This is where you may voice any complaints you may have concerning the rental property, as well as bargain for better terms or benefits. You must be on your game at this period, since once you put your name on the dotted line, you are essentially bound by the lease’s conditions.

Make sure you have enough money in your bank account to pay the security deposit as well as the first month’s rent. The landlord will normally need a security deposit in addition to the first month’s rent when you sign your lease. Make sure you have enough money to pay both sums (they may only accept cash, money orders, or debit cards). During the period of your lease, the security deposit will be held in a savings account. If you break your lease early or leave the flat in poor condition, the landlord will deduct the security deposit from your rent. You may receive your security deposit returned if you leave the flat in the same condition as when you first moved in. I’ll get to it later.

There is a distinction between a lease and a rental agreement. Except for one thing: time, leases and rental agreements are almost identical. Rental agreements are normally month-to-month, while leases are for a longer duration, usually a year. When a rental agreement ends at the end of each month, landlords are free to increase the rent; leases lock in the rate of rent for the whole year.

If you know you’ll only be in the apartment for a few months, request a rental agreement; if you intend on remaining for at least a year, get a lease.

Before you sign the lease or rental agreement, make sure you read everything! Don’t sign anything until you’ve read the lease from beginning to end. When you agree to rent from a landlord, you want to know precisely what you’re getting into. Make a note of everything that irritates you, and inquire about anything you don’t understand. Look for terms in the lease that address the following questions as you read it:

How much does rent cost? Duh.

What is the amount of the security deposit, and how do you receive your money back? Recognize what kind of condition you’ll need to leave the apartment in if you want your security deposit returned.

What is the tenancy’s duration? Month-to-month? Is it really nine months? Is it really a year?

What happens when the lease expires? What are your options for renewing your lease after the term expires? How much will your rent be raised by the landlord? Can you ask for the lease to be converted to a month-to-month rental arrangement if your lease is up but you still need a place to stay for a month or two?


What if you want to end your lease early? This is a crucial clause to double-check. Sure, you may want to remain in your apartment for a year, but circumstances may change, forcing you to break your lease early. If you want to break your lease early, most apartments will need 30 to 60 days notice. Check to see if there are any cancellation costs. In most areas, you are only legally obligated to pay the landlord for the actual rent lost as a result of your early termination. You’d be accountable for one month’s rent if you moved out early and it took the landlord a month to locate a new tenant.

Many corporately managed complexes may attempt to smuggle in conditions that require you to pay two or three months rent if you break your contract early. They typically end up with a large profit since they can replace the vacancy fast – they get two months rent from you plus rent from the new person. Most states make it unlawful to do so. If you discover costs like those in the lease, attempt to get them removed or changed before you sign. A acceptable termination cost is normally forfeiting your security deposit and paying a month’s rent.

Are you jointly and severally responsible if you signed with a roommate? When you sign a lease with a roommate, the lease usually states that each co-signer is responsible jointly and severally. This implies that if your roommate doesn’t pay his half of the rent or leaves before the end of the contract, you’ll be responsible for the whole amount.

What happens if you don’t pay your rent on time? Where, how, and when do you pay your rent? You may be shocked to learn that some landlords are quite picky about how rent is paid. They need it in a certain format (check, credit card, etc.) and to be deposited in a specific location. Make certain you understand where and how this will take place. Make sure the lease specifies when rent is due and what happens if you don’t pay on time. Late payments are usually assessed a fee by most landlords.

What utilities are you in charge of? Some landlords pay for all utilities, while others pay for none. Many people will make agreements to pay the water bill, but you will be responsible for the remainder of the cost, which will be added to your monthly rent.

Is it legal to sublet? Let’s pretend you’re going on a three-month vacation in the summer. During the same three-month time, you have a buddy who needs a place to stay. Rather than keeping your flat unoccupied for three months, you offer to let your buddy remain as long as he pays you the monthly rent so you can pay the landlord. You’ve just sublet your apartment. The majority of landlords forbid subletting, however some do. Make sure the lease permits you to sublease to someone else if you think you’ll need to.


Are you permitted to make changes to the house? Because you aren’t the owner of the property, you can’t change the countertops or paint the walls without the approval of the landlord. Most of the places I’ve leased from let you paint the walls as long as you return them to their original hue before moving out.

Are you or your landlord liable for minor repairs? While landlords are obligated by law to make repairs that make the home livable, they are not compelled to make minor repairs and may leave such to you to handle. Almost everything in your flat will be fixed by most major apartment complexes. You’ll commonly see stipulations in leases with individual landlords saying that the tenant is liable for modest repairs.

Is it possible to bring a pet, and if so, would you have to pay an additional fee? Some flats permit dogs (usually with size limitations), while others do not. Those that do often demand a monthly fee.

Is it permissible to smoke? Landlords have the right to make their premises smoke-free. If you smoke, you should be aware of this before signing the lease.

Any verbal pledges should be written down. If the landlord made any verbal commitments to you while you were seeing the property, make sure they are written down in the contract. Any of these conditions are open to negotiation and deletion. If you find any terms that you don’t like, request that they be changed. Feel free to haggle over the rent or the security deposit. Anything in the lease contract may be changed before you and the landlord sign it.

Before you take possession of an apartment, inspect it.

The landlord should offer you a Landlord-Tenant Checklist before you take possession of the flat, which specifies all of the rooms, fixtures, and appliances. Examine the flat and make a note of the state of the things on the list. If you discover any damage, take pictures of it and report it to the landlord or management. During this check, be as thorough as possible. This will prevent you from losing your security deposit due to damage that occurred prior to your taking ownership.

Renter’s Insurance is a must-have.

Any loss to your personal belongings caused by robbery or accidents is covered by renter’s insurance. It also covers any damage you may make to the property of other tenants. Let’s assume your washing machine bursts and water seeps through the floor, destroying your neighbor’s antique dresser. That would be covered by renter’s insurance.

When you sign your lease, your landlord may strongly urge, if not outright state, that you get renter’s insurance. Their interest isn’t in your best interests. Instead of the aggrieved party suing the landlord, the landlord wants your insurance coverage to compensate for any damage or injury caused by your carelessness. While renter’s insurance isn’t required in most places (with the exception of Virginia), it’s a good idea to purchase it regardless. “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,” as Woodrow Call from Lonesome Dove would remark. Renter’s insurance costs $15 to $25 per month, or less if you bundle it with another policy (such as car) with the same provider.


As a renter, you have certain rights and responsibilities.

As a renter, you have rights and obligations that have been established by court rulings and state regulations. You have legal remedies if your landlord breaches any of these rights.

The Rights of the Tenant

You have the right to live in a safe environment. While you don’t have the right to five-star facilities, you do have the right to rent a livable space. What is the definition of a livable premise? It has the following characteristics, according to case law and statutes:

  • Floors, walls, roofs, and lockable doors and windows are all examples of safe structural features.
  • All electrical, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems are operational.
  • Using both hot and cold water
  • eradicating rodent and other pest infestations
  • Having access to garbage cans is a must.

Your landlord has a responsibility to rectify any flaws in your flat that make it uninhabitable (such as sewage backing up in your bathtub). While some apartments allow you to submit maintenance requests online and include a phone number for “emergencies,” you should always record your request in some manner. After that, the landlord will have a certain length of time to perform the repairs. If they don’t, you have a few options, including withholding money until the issue is fixed or hiring someone to remedy the problem and then deducting the repair cost from your rent. When you choose to proceed down those paths, it’s critical to keep track of your contacts with your landlord.

You are entitled to privacy. Even if the landlord owns the property, he or she cannot enter at any time. Renters in all 50 states have the right to privacy when renting. The only time your landlord may enter your rental without your consent or notice is if there is an emergency that poses a risk of harm or property damage.

Any other time the landlord wishes to enter your unit, they must first get your permission and, in certain situations, provide you with 24-hour notice. Some landlords or apartment managers may attempt to intimidate you into providing consent. Don’t surrender. You may sue your landlord for invasion of privacy or violation of the “implied covenant of quiet enjoyment” if your landlord annoys you more than is reasonably required and refuses to comply with pleas to leave you alone.

You have the right to a secure environment. Although the landlord cannot avoid all crimes or accidents on their property, if the crime or injury was caused by the landlord’s carelessness, you have the right to claim for any damages or expenses you have suffered.

Responsibilities of the Renter

Many states have legislation on the books that identify the duties of the renter in addition to the conditions in the lease agreement.

Maintain a clean, safe, and well-maintained environment. This is the most prevalent duty that you’ll come across in legislation. Basically, while you’re a renter, you’re expected by law to maintain the flat. It’s not too difficult.


You must compensate the landlord for any damages you may have caused. If you don’t maintain the apartment clean, safe, and in good repair, you’ll be responsible for paying the landlord to clean, safe, and in good repair the unit again.

When You Move Out, You Can Get Your Security Deposit Back

So your lease has come to an end, and you’re ready to move on to pastures new. How can you reclaim your $500 security deposit? Most landlords, in my experience, would go to any length to avoid paying back your deposit.

First, do your best to clean your residence, including carpet cleaning if feasible (landlords will often clip you on this). Second, get up your Tenant-Landlord Checklist from when you initially moved in and do another inspection with your landlord. You cannot be charged for normal wear and tear that comes with apartment living, but you may be fined for damage and severe filth. Check out this chart to see what kind of wear and tear a landlord is responsible for, as well as what types of damage they may deduct from your security deposit.

Object if they attempt to bill you for a replacement when a repair will suffice. Also, if you paid a cleaning charge before moving in, your landlord cannot remove any cleaning costs from your security deposit.

If your landlord has to remove money from your security deposit to repair or clean your unit, you’re entitled to an itemized statement that explains why. Push back and make your case if you believe any of the sums are excessive and unjustified. If your landlord refuses to modify his mind, your only option is to sue him in small claims court. If you want to do this, make sure you have everything clearly recorded.

The landlord has 14 to 30 days to reimburse your security deposit once you move out.

 Do you have any further recommendations for a first-time renter? Please share them in the comments!



Renting your first apartment can be a daunting task. But when you’re 18, it’s a lot easier to find an apartment. Here are some tips on how to rent your first apartment at 18. Reference: how to rent an apartment at 18.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much should you have saved before your first apartment?

A: This is tricky because everyones situation and needs are different. But if youre young, it shouldnt take longer than 3 months to save up for your first apartment.

How can I afford my first apartment?

A: As you may have heard, the apartment market is currently at an all-time high. A lot of people are priced out of their current homes and looking to buy new apartments in a better location or with more amenities. In order for this trend to continue, landlords will need tenants who can afford these new developments that theyre building. To figure out how much your monthly rent would be if you were moving into one of these buildings, do some research on what the average rents in your desired city/area are and multiply it by 12 (monthly) assuming a 6 month lease length from when you move in until then

Related Tags

  • how to rent an apartment with no credit
  • how to rent an apartment for the first time with no credit
  • what documents do i need to rent an apartment for the first time
  • how to rent an apartment without a job
  • how to rent an apartment at 17