Finding the right rental is a challenge for most people, particularly so if you are a college student or a recent graduate. Allow yourself ample time to find a suitable home and be sure to research prospective landlords and property management companies. Be careful when signing a lease with roommates. If a roommate moves out before the end of the lease, or simply refuses to pay his share, your landlord may be able to sue you for the balance. Ask the landlord if he is willing to give each of you an individual lease for your share of the rent.
Show Landlords that You Mean Business
Make a good first impression with prospective landlords by promptly responding to messages and showing up on time for appointments to view an apartment. ApartmentRatings.com recommends dressing up for apartment showings, even if you are normally a jeans and t-shirt type of person. Come to showings with a list of questions about the property, such as the cost of utilities, parking availability and access to laundry facilities. Asking these questions shows the landlord that you are serious about living independently.
Get Your Finances in Order
Many landlords request financial information during the tenant screening process. If you are currently in school, be prepared to show that you can afford your rent. Some landlords will accept a financial aid award letter from your school as proof of income. Otherwise, you may need to show pay stubs or a bank statement when you complete your application. Some landlords also ask to see credit reports. Check your reports before apartment hunting so you can correct any inaccuracies.
Put Together a List of Employment and Personal References
Landlords often rely on references from previous landlords when making a decision about approving an application. If you have never rented before, explain this to the landlord. Offer to give her the names of former employers, professors or other professionals who can vouch for you.
Be Prepared to Find a Co-Signer
If you don’t have an established credit or rental history, a landlord may require a co-signer, such as a parent or grandparent. This is particularly true if you are a full-time student and don’t have a job. If you can’t find a co-signer, ask the landlord if he would be willing to accept an additional security deposit in lieu of a co-signed lease.
Check Lease Length
In college towns, some landlords offer leases that cover the school year, beginning in the fall and ending at summer break. Other landlords may insist on traditional 12-month leases. If you plan to go home for summer vacation, ask your landlord for a lease that covers only the time that you’ll be in school. Alternatively, check the lease to see if your landlord will allow you to sublet your place while you are away. If you just graduated and are looking for a job, don’t sign a lease that could keep you from accepting an out-of-town job offer. Ask for a month-to-month rental agreement instead.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.