Finding a place to live is one of the biggest initial decisions that you will make after you graduate. If you’re able to afford your own housing, make sure you know what to expect before you sign a lease.
Finding a Place to Live: What to Expect When Renting
If you decide to rent, you will most likely have to pay for some or all of your utilities. This may include electric, gas, water, cable/satellite TV, Internet, trash pick-up, and so on. Depending on where you find a place to live, there may be community association or condo fees on top of your monthly rent.
Renters’ insurance is required by some property management companies and it’s a good idea to protect your belongings even if it’s not required by your lease, so figure in that cost to your monthly budget, too. Most insurance brokers can provide you with a quote based on the address of your new home. You’ll need to provide the broker with the value of your belongings (an estimate is acceptable) and if you have any extremely valuable items. The valuable items may require additional insurance coverage in case of loss or damage.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask your family members who they use for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Another possibility is to ask your auto insurance carrier if their company offers renter’s insurance. In some cases, you may be eligible for a small discount if you have your auto and renter’s insurance through the same company.
Most property management companies require you to sign a lease agreement. Make sure you read all of the fine print. The lease agreement is a binding contract. It may include clauses that require you to pay additional fees if you terminate your lease early, cause property damage or be fined for a variety of other mishaps. If this is your first lease, you may want to have a more experienced renter review it to make sure that the language is standard.
Don’t be surprised if the landlord or management company requires a security deposit or an amount of money equal to one or two months’ rent as an “insurance policy” in case damage occurs while you live there.
Once you find a place to live, but before you take possession of the actual property, schedule a walk-through with the landlord or property manager to test out the plumbing, electrical, and other features, as well as document any visible damage. You may consider taking a digital camera along with you that has a date stamp on the photos in case existing damage comes into question when you decide to vacate the property at the end of the lease.
Be leery of landlords who aren’t willing to do a walk-through of the actual property that you are renting or refuse to sign a lease agreement. As a renter or tenant, you have rights to fair housing standards. Most states have minimum guidelines to which a landlord must adhere.
For example, many states require running water and properly functioning heat. It may be shocking to think about these things not working, but there are plenty of rental properties across the country in disrepair.
Finding a place to live can be an exciting, but sometimes challenging endeavor. Know what you’re getting into before you sign a lease and enter into a legal agreement on a property.
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