A guide to renting a home

What to look out for when moving in, living in and moving out of an apartment or rental property

Whether you’re moving into your first apartment or renting for the dozenth time, there are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to financially savvy apartment and rental property living.

What do I need to know about moving into a new apartment or rental home?

As a renter, you want to be certain that all your bases are covered when it comes to your rental agreement and payments. That’s why a good rental checklist will ensure nothing gets missed.

First, don’t forget to potentially budget for deposits and your first month’s rent. You’ll also want to explore what kind of insurance might be provided by the landlord versus what coverage you’d need to get yourself.

Work with the landlord to document any existing issues. This helps ensure you get your deposit back when you move out.

Beyond the upfront costs, watch out for hidden costs associated with renting, such as application or maintenance fees. If you plan on staying long, ask about what rent increases to expect over time.

Make sure you understand what the landlord is responsible for versus what you must take care of, such as repairs and maintenance, emergencies, standards of upkeep and so on.

If you have a particularly complex lease or situation, it might be worth consulting a landlord-tenant lawyer who can help walk you through the details of your rental agreement before you sign on the dotted line.

What should I expect when living in my new rental property?

Although some leases may have a few days leeway, get into the habit of paying your rent on time. Be sure you understand payment terms upfront as being late with rent could impact your credit score.

In your new rental, you have the right to “quiet enjoyment,” which means you have freedom from interference from your landlord entering without permission. This concept also usually covers excessive noise from other tenants. Most rental agreements will detail the rules of the property, especially in multi-unit dwellings.

You’ll also need to extend the same courtesy and respect to your neighbors by not being too noisy or entertaining too many guests late at night. Most landlords will take action, if needed, for violations of these responsibilities.

How about when it’s time to leave your rental?

The terms of leaving your rental should be in the lease agreement. If you don’t ask to renew your lease, it might simply be expected that you’ll vacate when the lease is up, or it may renew automatically.

If you must move out before the end of the lease, you’ll have to give the appropriate notice, which can vary based on your agreement. Sometimes, you'll have to pay a penalty if you leave early.

Make sure you leave the space in the same condition as when you moved in. Remember that condition inspection report? You’ll need to keep it handy when moving out since it could help you get your full security deposit back. If there’s damage to the property, you’ll probably have to discuss the actions you’ll need to take with your landlord.

Usually, there will be some kind of walk-through inspection before you hand in your keys. In any case, it can be a good idea to take pictures and document how you left the property.

If everything in the home is the way it should be, the landlord has a certain period of time to return your deposit. This may also include interest. The amount for both will vary from state to state.

Always aim to leave on good terms. The landlord may be a good reference when applying for your next rental home.

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