How Do You Rent an Apartment?

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Whether you’ve outgrown your parents’ home or just graduated college, at some point, you’ll take part in an inevitable rite of passage into adulthood: renting your first apartment. However, finding a new set of digs isn’t easy, especially if you’ve never done it. Where do you look? What’s the process?

Don’t fret. This article will teach you everything you need to know about the ins and outs of renting an apartment, so you have a place to call your own.

Where Do You Look for an Apartment?

So you have your dream pad already fleshed out in your head. You’ve even begun to visualize furniture placements, but you may not have given much thought to where that apartment will be. Luckily, thanks to the power of the internet, there are a multitude of options to get you started on your hunt. Consider looking for apartments on:


You can look for apartments on these sites within a price range you specify, and within certain neighborhoods. Of course, always beware of potential online scams when looking for anything on the web. Don’t ever give out personal information upfront without seeing an apartment first.

If you’re not sure what neighborhood to start looking at, begin by asking friends and family. Someone might even know of a particular building you might like that has vacancies. Be sure to do some exploring of your own as well.

If you get a recommendation for a neighborhood, you’ve never spent much time in, take a drive out there and maybe walk around a little. You can get a feel for many neighborhoods pretty quickly, especially when you’re taking it in on foot. Not only that, but some buildings don’t bother advertising online and will only post signs outside.

What to Consider

Looking for an apartment may seem like the easy part, but there are a lot of things to consider in the process. Where you live can affect your environment and mood, as well as your finances. Ultimately, you want to find the right apartment for you, so be sure to account for these factors:

  • The type of apartment. What kind of apartment are you looking for? A studio apartment or a one-bedroom? Be clear on what your ideal apartment looks like and be flexible when searching for what you want. Look at square footage, amenities, natural light, parking and more.
  • The neighborhood. Each neighborhood has its own personality, and you want to find one that jives well with your lifestyle and values. Do you prefer something that is more urban or suburban? Do you like arts and culture, or something that is near nature like a park? Consider the type of neighborhood you want and understand how each area may differ. Ultimately, the neighborhood you choose can affect how much you pay in renter’s insurance as well as car insurance.
  • Property management. Many apartment complexes have property managers that handle any issues for residents. In some cases, they may even live on-site. Check out reviews online for the property management company and ensure that they will have your best interests. Tenants usually will have something to say about their management.


You’ve found your dream apartment! What now? It’s time actually to apply. First, get an application from the property management company or landlord and fill it out as soon as possible.

Good apartments can go fast, so you’ll want to complete the paperwork quickly. Typically, you’ll need to fill out your basic personal information and provide certain documents as part of your application.

As part of your rental application, you may need to provide:

  • Paystubs
  • Bank statements
  • Driver’s license
  • Social security card
  • Employment history
  • Rental history
  • References
  • An application fee

Ultimately, these documents can help prove you are a viable candidate for an apartment. Landlords want to know that you have good character references, stable employment, and income and will be a good fit for the apartment.

Unfortunately, just because you apply for an apartment doesn’t mean you’ll get it. In some cases, you may be rejected because of your credit or insufficient income. Be sure to understand what the eligibility requirements are before paying a non-refundable application fee for an apartment.

Getting Approved

After submitting your application and required documentation, you wait. Getting approved for an apartment may take a few business days or more, depending on the requirements.

Once you’re approved, the landlord or property management company will typically call you and let you know.

To secure the apartment and make it your own, you need to put down a security deposit, which is most often equal to one month’s worth of rent. Depending on the company, your security deposit could be more or less than one month’s rent.

Your security deposit is held in case there is any damage to the property when you move out. If your apartment is in good condition when you leave, you will likely get it back. If not, all or a portion of your deposit may be held to cover the costs.

On top of the security deposit, you need to put down your first month’s rent, and in some cases, the last month’s rent too.

So if your rent is $800, your total move in costs might look like:

$800 security deposit + $800 first month’s rent + $800 last month’s rent = $2,400

As you can see, move in costs can add up, so it’s important to budget ahead of time and realize how much deposits, etc. can run you.

Additionally, you will likely need to sign a lease for the apartment. A lease is an agreement between a lessor (such as an owner or landlord) and a lessee (such as a tenant), which is often called a rental agreement.

It will usually be presented after a credit check is already completed and the property management has decided they want to accept you as their tenant.

The rental agreement is a document that will outline all of the fine print such as:

  • Limits of occupancy: The number of tenants allowed to reside in the home.
  • Terms of tenancy: The length of time that a tenant is expected to remain and continue making rent payments. Terms of tenancy vary but generally range between month-to-month, six months or one year.
  • Rent: The amount of money to be paid at regular intervals by the tenant, and when those payments are expected, typically the first of the month.
  • Deposit and Fees: This section should explain what money will be required along with the first month of rent. It will also detail what charge you incur for the credit and background checks that will be performed, as well as the fee for violating the terms of the lease, such as moving before your lease is up.
  • Utilities: A lease will often describe which utilities are included in your rent, and which you will need to pay for yourself.
  • Pets: Some buildings don’t allow any pets. Some will allow pets under a particular size or weight. This section will explain those regulations and how to get a potential pet approved.
  • Maintenance: This section will give details about what sort of repairs in your unit will be the responsibility of the management, and which will be yours.

It’s important to review all the terms of your rental agreement, so you know where you stand. The rental agreement acts as a legal document to protect both parties.

It also means that once you’ve signed the lease, you are legally bound to follow through on paying your rent and deposit, as well as any additional responsibilities.

Once you’ve signed the lease and paid the deposit, your landlord will give you a move-in date and the keys so that you can have your own home sweet home.

Bottom Line

Renting your first apartment can be an exciting and daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before. Making sure you’re prepared and armed with research can help the apartment hunt go smoothly — and ensure you’ll be living in your dream apartment in no time.