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Home Buyers Guides

Renting an Apartment for the First Time: Basics Explained + FAQs

With all of the new apartment complexes popping up around town, you may be feeling the itch to finally leave your parent’s home and get a place of your own. Or, maybe you don’t have a reason to buy a home yet.

Whatever the case, the process can feel a bit daunting if you’ve never rented an apartment before. How do you find an apartment? How do you know if you can afford it? What kind of paperwork do you need to fill out?

Don’t worry; we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of renting an apartment for the first time, from start to finish. We’ll also answer some of the most commonly asked questions about renting an apartment!

What do you need to rent an apartment?

The first step in renting an apartment is to figure out what you need to do so. In most cases, you will need the following:

1. Security deposit

The security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent, and it is paid upfront. The purpose of the security deposit is to protect the landlord in case you damage the apartment or don’t pay your rent.

Typically, you will get your security deposit back when you move out, as long as there is no damage to the apartment.

2. First month’s rent

In addition to the security deposit, you will also need to pay your first month’s rent. This is paid at the same time as your security deposit.

3. Letter of employment

Most landlords will want a letter of employment from your employer stating that you are employed and have a steady income. This is to ensure that you will be able to pay rent on time every month.

If you don’t have a job, you may be able to get a guarantor. A guarantor is someone who agrees to pay your rent if you are unable to do so.

4. Renter’s insurance

Renter’s insurance is not required by law, but most landlords will require it. Renter’s insurance is a type of insurance that protects your belongings in case of theft, damage, or other accidents. 

By having renter’s insurance, you can rest assured knowing that your belongings are covered.

5. Credit check

To rent an apartment, most landlords will also do a credit check. This is to ensure that you have a good credit history and are likely to pay your rent on time.

If you don’t have a good credit score, you may still be able to rent an apartment, but you may have to pay a higher security deposit or get a guarantor.

Things to consider in an apartment

kitchen and sink in an apartment unit


Now that you know what you need to rent an apartment, it’s time to start looking for one! When you’re searching for an apartment, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Location

One of the most important things to consider when renting an apartment is its location. Consider:

  • How close is the apartment to your work or school?
  • Is it in a safe neighborhood?
  • What are the noise levels like?
  • What kind of public transportation is available?

The answers to these questions will help you narrow your search and find an apartment in the perfect location for you.

2. Size

Another important thing to consider when renting an apartment is its size. How big do you need the apartment to be? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Do you need a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment?
  • Do you want a loft or an open floor plan?
  • How much furniture do you have?
  • Will you be having guests over often?

Answering these questions will help you figure out how big of an apartment you need to rent.

3. Price

Of course, you’ll also need to consider the price of the apartment. When thinking about price, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • How much can you afford to spend on rent?
  • Are utilities included in the rent?
  • What is the security deposit?
  • What is the minimum lease term?

Make sure you consider all of these factors when thinking about price. You don’t want to rent an apartment you can’t afford!

4. Amenities/Utilities

Another thing to consider when renting an apartment is the amenities included. Some apartments have amenities like a gym, pool, or parking garage, while others do not.

Think about which amenities are important to you, and look for an apartment with them. 

While you’re there, check the state of utilities like HVAC, plumbing, and electrical before you move in to ensure they’re up to par. Read on troubleshooting plumbing problems for more.

5. Pet policies

If you have a pet, you’ll also need to ensure you find a pet-friendly apartment. Some apartments allow pets, while others do not. Talk to your landlord about their pet policy before renting an apartment.

Renting an apartment: 4 Easy Steps

Now that you know what you need and what to look for in an apartment, it’s time to start the renting process! Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Find an apartment.

The first step is to find an apartment. Here are some ways to look for an apartment:

  • Search online: Several websites list apartments for rent, such as Zillow,, and
  • Ask around: Talk to your friends, family, and co-workers and see if they know of any apartments for rent.
  • Drive around: Another way to find an apartment is to simply drive around your desired neighborhood and look for “For Rent” signs.

2. Schedule a showing.

Once you’ve found an apartment you’re interested in renting, the next step is to schedule a showing. This is where you tour the apartment and ensure it meets your needs.

To schedule a showing, call or email the landlord to schedule a showing, and they will give you a time to come by and take a look. During the showing, make sure to ask any questions you have about the apartment.

3. Fill out an application.

If you decide you want to rent the apartment after the showing, the next step is to fill out an application. The landlord will give you an application to fill out, and you will need to submit it along with a fee. In that application, you will likely be asked for:

  • Your full legal name
  • Your current address
  • Your date of birth
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your driver’s license number or state ID number
  • Your employment history
  • Your rental history
  • Your credit history

The application fee is typically around $50 and is used to run a background check.

4. Sign the lease.

After your application is approved, the next step is to sign the lease. The lease is a legal document that outlines the terms of your rental agreement. Make sure you read the lease carefully before signing it! Watch out for:

  • The lease length: Most leases are for 12 months, but some may be shorter or longer.
  • The rent amount: The lease will list the rent you will need to pay each month.
  • The due date: The lease will also list when your rent is due each month.
  • Late fees: The lease will list the fees you will need to pay if you are late on rent.
  • Security deposit: The lease will list the security deposit amount and how it will be used.


Q: How much rent can I afford?

A: The general rule is that your monthly rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly income. So if you make $3,000 monthly, your rent should be no more than $900.

Q: How do I pay rent?

A: Most landlords prefer you pay rent via check or money order, but some landlords may allow you to pay rent online or automatically withdraw from your bank account.

Q: When is rent due?

A: Rent is typically due on the first day of the month. Some landlords may allow you to pay rent a few days late, but you will likely have to pay a late fee if you do.

Q: What if I can’t pay rent?

A: You may be evicted from your apartment if you cannot pay rent. It’s important to always communicate with your landlord if you’re having trouble paying rent. They may be willing to work out a payment plan with you.

Q: How do I get my security deposit back?

A: To get your security deposit back, you will need to give your landlord a forwarding address and ensure you leave the apartment in the same condition as when you moved in.

Q: Who is responsible for repairs?

A: In most cases, the landlord is responsible for repairs. However, there are some cases where the tenant may be responsible, such as if the tenant’s negligence caused the damage.

Q: Can I sublet my apartment?

A: In most cases, you will need permission from your landlord to sublet your apartment.


Renting an apartment for the first time doesn’t have to be daunting! By following these simple steps and being prepared with some FAQs, you’re one step closer to renting your dream apartment. Good luck!

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