Renting an apartment or home

Monthly housing cost can be 25% or more of your income. If you go to a new place, you may decide to live with your friends, family members or temporary housing provided by religious or community organizations. If you have job and ready to move into your place, here are some tips on how to find a place to live:

  • Look for "Apartment Available" or "For Rent" signs.
  • Search online for rental listings. If you don’t have a computer, go to your local public library.
  • Look in the newspaper in the section called "Classifieds." Find the pages listing "Apartments for Rent" and "Homes for Rent."
  • Look in the phone book yellow pages under "Property Management." These are companies that rent homes.
  • Ask friends and relatives or people at your job if they know of places to rent.
  • Check bulletin boards in libraries, schools, grocery stores, and community centers for "For Rent" notices.
  • Call a local real estate agent.

After you found one or more place(s) that you went to rent, contact each landlord (the person who rents out apartments or homes). Inspect the property before signing a lease. Negotiate on price or ask for specials to get a better renting deal. The landlord may ask you for a number of items before you are given the place to live:

  • Rental application form
    • This will ask you for your social security number
  • A small application fee
  • Proof of your employment (you may need to show your pay stub)
  • Security deposit

If you are not yet working, you may need someone to sign the lease (or rental agreement) with you as a "co-signer." If you cannot pay the rent, the co-signer will have to pay the rent for you. A rental lease is a legal document. As such, the landlord and you (or co-signer) must keep up with his or her part of the agreement. Essentially, the landlord will maintain the place to keep it in livable condition for you while you will pay your rent on time and keeping the place clean and in good shape. If you damage the renting place, you may be asked to pay for damages.

Most leases are for one year. If you want a shorter lease (such as on monthly basis), you are likely to pay more.

Inspect the house or apartment before you move in. Tell the landlord about any problems you find. Ask any questions or raise any concerns you have before you move in. Know exactly how you can get all of your security deposit (if any) back.

Important note

Remember discrimination is not allowed in housing. This means the landlord cannot refuse to rent to you because of your race or color, your religion, your sex, a physical disability, the country you came from, your family status, such as whether or not you are married. If you feel you have been discriminated in housing related matters, you can contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Click here to see contact details for HUD.

A security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent. It is paid to the landlord before you move in. You will get this deposit back if the home is clean and in good condition when you move out. Otherwise, the landlord may keep some or all of your deposit to pay for cleaning or repairs.

Before you sign the rental lease, be aware of other costs associated with renting. In some renting places, the rent payment may include the cost of utilities such as electricity, gas, heat, water, and trash removal. For other rentals, you must pay separately for these expenses. If the landlord has not advertised in the rental ad or you are not yet sure of these expenses, ask the landlord if utilities are included. In any case, make sure the rental agreement includes who is responsible for utilities. Also, before signing the lease, get an idea of how much utilities will cost you, if applicable. In general, the cost of some utilities will be less in winter (heating) than summer (air conditioning).

A quick tip

If you move, you should tell the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) so it can forward your mail to your new address. You can change your address online at and pay a fee of $1.00 using a credit card or visit your local post office and request a "Moving Guide." Don’t forget to update your new address with other institutions (such as your state’s motor vehicle administration, your bank, and credit card companies.)


Change of address confirmation from USPS
When you change your address with the United States Postal Service, you are sent a confirmation by mail of your new address.

After you have signed the lease and thus have accepted the place to live, what if there is an issue with the place a few months later? Remember the lease agreement requires the landlord to keep the rental place safe and in livable condition. Landlords generally will do everything to make you satisfied because they want your business. If you find a problem with the place you rent and requires landlord’s involvement:

  • First, talk to your landlord about the issue. Tell him or her what is wrong and that you want it fixed.
  • Next, put your request in writing (especially for serious matters). Keep a copy for your records.
  • If you find the problem is not fixed, contact your local government housing office for inspecting the property for problems. When you have the inspector at your place, show him all the problems.
  • If your landlord still does not fix the problems, you may be able to make a legal charge against him or her.

When you are ready to move out, make sure you move when your lease is about to end. Otherwise, you will be required to pay monthly rent until the end of the lease (even if you are not living there) and you may loose your security deposit. If you need to move earlier than when your lease actually expire, talk to the landlord as soon as possible to see if you can terminate the lease early if he or she can find someone else to rent your home. You may also help the landlord fill your rental spot your friends or relatives are looking for a new lease.

Remember most landlords require notice at least 30 days before you want to leave. So make sure you give your landlord a written notice that you want to move out within that time frame.

Posted on 5/5/2007
by Raj Singh