Qualifying for Your First Apartment

Qualifying for Your First Apartment

It can be very exhilarating when you are about to rent your first apartment. However, it can also be a little overwhelming since the process is unfamiliar. Before you start looking and applying for apartments, heed the following tips to make the process go a bit smoother. They can help you land the perfect place for your needs and wants.

Preparing Your Finances

Landlords can check your credit score, and most do. They can also deny you the rental if your credit is not particularly strong. However, you might be able to make the landlord a little more confident in renting to you by offering a second deposit or a couple of month's rent up front.

Regardless of whether you have good credit, no credit or poor credit, you are still going to need a good chunk of money up front before you can move in. Landlords typically ask for the first and last month's rent as well as a security deposit (usually equivalent to one month's rent).

If you are a good tenant, do not cause any damage to the apartment and do not break your lease, you usually get your security deposit back. However, in the beginning, before moving in expect to fork out some cash. If the apartment rents for $1,200 a month and the landlord wants first, last and a security deposit, plan on paying out $3,600 before you even step foot in the door. So, you will want to start saving money now.

Another thing to consider is renter's insurance. Some places require it. Even if they do not, it is not a bad idea to get coverage to protect your belongings in case of a break-in or damage to your things. It does not cost that much for renter’s insurance either (possibly around $10 to $20 a month).

When you take out a renter’s insurance policy, the insurance provider might ask you to provide proof of the belongings you are looking to cover. Receipts (if possible) and photos should be good enough. Art pieces and jewelry might require additional coverage. Place all documents in a fireproof safe in your apartment or a safe deposit box at your bank.

Setting a Budget

Experts suggest that you do not spend more than 30 percent of your gross income on rent. If you cannot afford a place, then do not sign a lease, even if they are having a promotion.

To set up a realistic budget to live in an apartment, subtract all reoccurring and major expenses from your after-tax income. What is left is what you have to pay for rent. Remember, this total should include not only your monthly rent but also utilities if the lease does not include them.

Signing the Lease

It is crucial that you know what your responsibilities are as a tenant, so you should carefully and thoroughly read your lease agreement. Each state may have different laws, but some clauses could be illegal which would invalidate the whole lease. You should know what these are in case you end up having issues with your landlord.

There could also be other legal clauses, that are easy to violate, like a no-smoking clause. You would not want to get evicted or fined because you had a guest who lit a cigarette on the front porch. So, be super careful to know the ground rules so that you can stay in the apartment.

There is one simple rule when it comes to an apartment rental: The first applicant who typically qualifies for the apartment usually gets it. So, in a tight housing market, you will want to have your application information with you so you can complete the application and hand it in right there on the spot.

For the first-time renter, this means you should have your necessary information with you and any written references you can provide to the landlord. Pay stubs and bank statements are also good to have to prove you can afford to pay the rent each month. Having a savings account with enough money saved to pay rent for an emergency like losing your job will help too.


Your first apartment is a big deal, and while it is exciting to be moving into a place of your own for the first time, this is the time when you will need to start acting like a grown up. You will have many responsibilities now, but fortunately, it's easier than you may think.