Meet Jasmine. Jasmine is a sophomore at State University who’s trying to find an apartment for next year. She’s super excited about having her own place, and has already found three great roommates to live with her. This is all great news, there’s just one problem. Jasmine has no idea how to find and rent an apartment.
What should she do? Well, we’ve got covered. Her first step is simple: find an affordable apartment, which we define as having rent below 35% of your take-home income. And don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds. To fine one, Jasmine can either ask friends and family, search online, or use our three recommended websites, which together, make it easy for Jasmine to find great apartments, view pictures, and even contact the landlord to set up a tour.
This tour should be straightforward, however, we highly recommend Jasmine and her friends bring a copy of our free apartment checklist to avoid making any mistakes and to ensure they get all the information they need, like who covers utilities, how do you get internet, and so on. Then, assuming they like the place, Jasmine and her friends can then fill out the rental application. This costs around $20-50 a person, and beyond basic info, covers the four major areas landlords use to judge tenant quality.
The first area is proof of income, generally in form of pay stubs, W2s, scholarships, or job offer letters. In fact, almost every landlord will require your income to be at least three times your rent. However, if that’s impossible for you, don’t worry. You can either find a roommate or have people with income, like your parents, provide a notarized letter stating they will be pay your rent. The second area is your credit score, which is a number that banks and landlords use to judge your creditworthiness.
While we cover this number in more detail in our video “Credit Scores and Reports 101”, just know for now that if you have no credit history, like Jasmine, you can generally circumvent this problem by having someone with credit, like your parents, co-sign the lease. The third area is a background check, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you have a criminal record.
The fourth and final area is references, generally from your previous landlords, though in fairness, not all landlords will require this. Then, assuming they’re approved, Jasmine and her friends will now have the option, but not the obligation, to sign the lease. This is a formal contract between them and the landlord, and it covers everything from their rent to pet policy.
Thus, because this document is so important, Jasmine should read through it carefully before signing it. However, once she does, there isn’t much left to do. Beyond paying for her post leasing-signing expenses, generally first month’s rent and a security deposit, we only recommend Jasmine do two more things. One: Get renters insurance, detailed in our video “Renters Insurance 101”. And Two: Talk with her landlord about fixing anything she noticed when filling out her apartment checklist. Hopefully you and Jasmine now have a better understanding of how to find and rent an apartment. Be sure to watch our next video, which covers renters insurance, and be sure check out our website, where you can find more educational material, great apartment-search websites, and free renters insurance recommendations.