Illustrated by Chelsea Miller
Last Updated December 15, 2023
4 min read

Renting Rulebook

When renting a property, you can follow a few rules to make the process go smoothly, from finding the perfect living space to signing a lease agreement.

Rule #1 Define Your Needs and Budget

Start by defining your needs and preferences. Consider factors such as the desired location, the ideal size of the living space, necessary amenities, and any budget constraints. A general rule of thumb is that housing costs should not be more than 30% of your budget. Take the time to evaluate your financial situation thoroughly, determine the maximum rent you can afford, and factor in additional costs like utilities and maintenance to ensure a realistic budget that aligns with your economic well-being.

Once you have established your criteria, narrow your search and focus on properties that meet your requirements. By defining your needs and budget, you can ensure your future rental aligns with your lifestyle and financial reality.

suitcase with a rental application next to it
Chelsea Miller

Rule #2 Research and Explore Options

With your budget in mind, start looking for a rental property. Be sure to take advantage of the convenience of online resources. You can explore options in your desired area using rental platforms, real estate websites, and local listings. These resources provide comprehensive information to filter properties based on your criteria: location, size, or specific amenities. This initial online exploration efficiently narrows your choices before committing valuable time to in-person visits.

After finding potential homes, you could attend open houses or schedule viewings of the properties you want. At these visits, assess the physical space and neighborhood dynamics. Take note of the proximity to amenities, the overall condition of the property, and any red flags that may influence your decision.

Rule #3 Fill Out a Rental Application

When you find a property that feels like a good fit, you must apply to rent it and provide documentation supporting your ability to pay rent and be a responsible tenant. This may include proof of income, employment verification, and references from previous landlords. Different landlords may have additional requirements for documentation, so ask ahead of time what specific documents they need. After reviewing your application, landlords often conduct background and credit checks.

Rule #4 Inspect the Property and Sign the Lease

Before you move in, you’ll want to carefully inspect the property to identify any pre-existing issues or damages. Review the interior and exterior, examining elements such as walls, floors, appliances, plumbing, and overall structural integrity. If you encounter concerns, document them thoroughly through written notes or photographs and promptly communicate these findings to the landlord. Even if these things can’t be solved, you’ll want proof that the damage was there before you moved in so that you don’t get charged for it.

After resolving any concerns from the inspection, review the lease agreement carefully before signing it. Pay close attention to critical details such as the duration of the lease, the agreed-upon rental price, and specific requirements related to the security deposit. Take note of any rules or restrictions the landlord imposes which may influence your living experience. Pet's often have specific rules, including whether you can have them or not. Sometimes there is an extra pet fee if you have them. When you are ready, sign the lease and submit the security deposit and initial rent payments as outlined. Make sure to keep a copy of the signed lease for your records.

Renters Insurance

Obtaining renters insurance is a wise decision for tenants as it provides financial protection and peace of mind in case of unexpected events. Renters insurance usually covers personal belongings in the event of theft, fire, or other covered risks, helping tenants recover the cost of damaged or stolen items. Additionally, it often includes liability coverage, protecting renters if someone is injured within their rented space. To get renters insurance, assess your property value to determine the appropriate coverage amount. Then, shop for policies from reputable insurance providers, considering factors such as coverage limits, deductibles, and additional endorsements. Renter's insurance is a relatively affordable investment that safeguards against potential losses, making it a smart choice for those seeking financial protection and security in their rented homes.

Rule #5 Enjoy your New Home

Part of a happy renting experience is being a responsible renter. As a tenant, you should pay rent on time and follow the lease terms. Late payments can impact your credit score, so it's worth it to set up automatic payments if you can. You are also responsible for maintaining the rented space and promptly reporting any issues to the landlord. You must also comply with community rules, interact respectfully with neighbors, and adhere to proper waste disposal practices. These responsibilities contribute to a positive living environment for you and property owners.

While we hope you find this content useful, it is only intended to serve as a starting point. Your next step is to speak with a qualified, licensed professional who can provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances. Nothing in this article, nor in any associated resources, should be construed as financial or legal advice. Furthermore, while we have made good faith efforts to ensure that the information presented was correct as of the date the content was prepared, we are unable to guarantee that it remains accurate today.

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