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How to Rent an Apartment: 6 Tips for Tenants

birdhouse for rent

Before landing in a new apartment, protect your rights with these 6 tips for tenants.

So you’ve been looking for that dream apartment for weeks or months. You’ve submitted countless rental applications. You’ve been to dozens of open houses. Finally, you found the perfect place to call home and you are about to sign the lease on your new apartment–congrats! But before you sign on the dotted line and start moving in, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Get it in writing:

Sign your lease and document your communications with your landlord. Official written communication is the first defense in any potential dispute. A recent Rocket Lawyer survey found that 10 percent of renters never signed a lease agreement, let alone kept written documentation–don’t be one of them! Always create a lease agreement, get official communication in writing and loop in a third party when emailing or texting with your landlord. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and, in the event of a dispute, there will be documented proof.

2. Watch your language:

The same survey found that 25 percent of renters didn’t understand or even read through their lease before signing it. Renting is a huge financial commitment with the potential for harsh penalties if you default, so make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to. For example, if you sign a lease with a Joint and Several Liability Clause and rent an apartment with several others, all of you are responsible for each other’s share of the rent.

3. Be fee-free:

When applying to rent an apartment, you may have to pay a processing fee for the landlord to run a credit check. However, sometimes this can be avoided by running your own free credit check online at sites such as: Pay careful attention to hidden fees when signing your lease, too. Many landlords will tack on a hefty fine for late rent, or contain clauses about subletting and your security deposit.

4. Inspect your apartment:

Before moving in, you’ll want to inspect your new apartment. Make sure you and your landlord agree on the condition of the property before your tenancy. This is important because tenants are typically responsible for paying for any damages to the property beyond normal wear and tear. You’ll want to document any pre-existing problems with the property, so that you don’t have to pay for those damages.

5. Consider renter’s insurance:

Picture this: a pipe bursts, your apartment is flooded, and your stuff is ruined. Your landlord probably has insurance that will cover damage to the actual unit, but what about all of your possessions? If you don’t have renter’s insurance, you’ll probably have to replace your things out of your own pocket—which could really add up. That’s why it’s best to protect yourself from situations like these. Renter’s insurance covers items in your home or car that are lost or stolen, or damaged as a result of water/fire/smoke damage, or by another natural disaster. It also covers accidents that happen inside your home. Premiums are generally very affordable, making renter’s insurance a smart idea for any tenant.

6. Get help:

Has your apartment fallen into disrepair–leaky sink, broken toilet, no heat? Did your landlord refuse to return your security deposit? 22 percent of renters don’t know they can seek legal help to resolve disputes with their landlord. Check out our tenant center to learn more and get the help you need. No one wants to deal with landlord troubles or see an eviction notice on their doorstep.

Rebecca Fuller, a Las Vegas-based attorney in the Rocket Lawyer On Call® network, contributed to these tips.

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