If this is the first time you've rented an apartment, whether you are just starting out on your own, are recently divorced, or down-sizing in retirement, apartment hunting can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process. But proper preparation can help make finding the ideal apartment easier. The more aware and prepared you are from the start, the less likely that you will be disappointed with the results of your search.
Know What You Want
The number of bedrooms in an apartment, whether you need appliances included, the availability of parking, and if pets are welcome are common factors to consider when you go apartment hunting. If your search criteria includes a pet-friendly apartment, know beforehand that many landlords require a pet deposit or pet rent.
Location is another factor to take into account. Ask yourself if you want a downtown apartment, an apartment in a quiet residential neighborhood, or an apartment within walking distance to schools or where you work if you don't want to commute.
Know What Rent You Can Afford
Determine the maximum amount you can afford to pay for rent and utilities each month before you start your search. If you work with a real estate or rental agent, remember to include the additional cost of the broker's fee. Once you total all these expenses and arrive at a number, look only at apartments with rent that falls within your budget.
How much you should spend on rent varies depending on a number of factors, not just on how much you earn. However, as a general rule of thumb, try not to exceed 35 percent of your gross income for rent and associated housing costs.
When you check out an apartment, ask what if any utilities are included in the rent. If you are responsible for paying the utilities separately, ask the landlord or a previous tenant what the average cost for utilities runs each month. Consider the number you receive as an estimate, not an actual cost.
Know How Rent Increases Work
Always ask how much notice you will receive if the landlord increases your rent in the future. Keep in mind that if you have a lease for a specific period of time, the landlord cannot legally raise your rent until that lease period ends.
Find out if the apartment is located in an area governed by rent control and ask what is the most the landlord can increase your rent at one time. Make sure any increase won't be more than you can afford.
Know What's In Your Credit Report
Make sure you have a clean credit report when you set out apartment hunting. You can bet a potential landlord will want to know if you have a history of paying your monthly bills on time.
Since you are legally entitled to request a free credit report once every year from the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—take advantage of the opportunity to look it over and verify that the information on the report is accurate. This review gives you time to dispute any mistakes you find so that a landlord can't turn you down for a bad credit report.
Know What Your Tenant Privacy Rights Are
Before renting an apartment, ask the landlord or apartment manager how much advance notice you will receive before he or she enters your apartment. Even when entry involves making necessary repairs, state laws differ in their prior notice requirements. Some states have no laws restricting a landlord's right to enter without letting you know beforehand.
Credit information a landlord receives when requesting your credit report as part of the tenant screening process is another privacy concern. It may help to know that a landlord must dispose of that information afterward according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules. Information in either print or electronic format must be shredded, burned, erased, or otherwise destroyed so that it can't be read or reconstructed to reveal your identity.
When looking for the right apartment, talk to the people at Kirkwood Village Apartments to find out more about the privacy protections and amenities their rental apartments have to offer.