A young person's first apartment is a huge milestone on the road of life.
Some view it as an opportunity to show off a new level of maturity while others find the process somewhat overwhelming.
There are so many factors to consider and a lot of information to digest when renting a place for the first time so we got the lovely Mae Demdam, Digital Marketing Guru to break it down into some easy-to-follow tips.
If you're close to taking this very big step of moving into your first place, this should help ease any pent up anxiety you have regarding the process.
CREATE A BUDGET
Before you go apartment hunting, create a budget for this new stage of life. Experts recommend that rent payments never go beyond 25 to 35% of your after tax income.
Ideally, this number will include utility costs and other bills such as cable, cell phone and internet.
Although 25% to 35% is ideal, keeping the rent plus the other bills mentioned to that percentage of after tax income, is difficult to say the least.
However, remember that as excited as you are about your first place, it will get old very quickly if the only thing you can afford to do is sit within those four walls day in and day out.
After determining realistically how much you have to spend on rent, begin looking around at places within your budget.
By only looking at apartments that fall within your preset budget, you will save yourself the trouble of overspending.
After all, life well lived includes leaving your apartment once in a while.
FINDING A PLACE
Everyone has an ideal apartment in mind when they start looking.
What you want and reality are often very different, so it's all about compromise.
Go ahead and make a list of amenities you would expect or desire in your first place and then determine your top two or three.
For instance, an artist might list 10 different must-haves but to stay within budget, give up extra-large closets and a spare bedroom for a north facing deck.
Things to consider when looking for an apartment include:
- Location preference
- Whether you will live alone or with a roommate
- Walking distance to work, shopping, dining or entertainment
- Distance to public transportation accessibility
- Furnished or unfurnished
- Whether or not pets are allowed
- Noise level of surrounding area
- Parking availability for your own car and those of visitors
OTHER THINGS TO CHECK
Most apartment leases require the first month's rent and a security deposit. Some require the last month's rent in advance as well.
How to pay rent
Will you be able to use auto-pay when rent is due?
Most apartments have someone available to take care of routine maintenance issues although some contracts stipulate that a specific amount be paid by the tenant for each repair necessary.
Find out in advance specifically what you will be responsible for and plan accordingly.
Leases vary in this area but most don't allow much leeway for decorating.
Often, if you're allowed to paint, you'll be required to paint the walls back to the original color when moving if you expect your security deposit to be refunded.
Adding shelving or changing light fixtures may sometimes be allowed on a case by case basis.
Depending on the lease, anything attached to the walls becomes a fixture that stays.
This does not apply to personal wall art or photos obviously, but built-in bookcases or shelving of some sort would be considered permanent.
How often are pest control issues addressed? “Normally it is the responsibility of the property manager to ensure the apartment is pest-free,” says Ivy Lam or Flick Pest Control
WHAT YOU CAN REASONABLY EXPECT
Often, young people move into their first apartment with high expectations that everything will be just like it was at home, somebody else taking care of every detail.
Although, that isn't the case, you do have certain rights including:
- Safe structural elements; floors, walls, roof
- Secure doors and windows
- Functioning electrical systems
- Functioning plumbing with hot and cold water
- Right to privacy
- Expectation of compliance with entry laws by landlord
- 24 hour notice before pest control treatment (or flea bombing if pets are allowed)
- Access to trash receptacles
- For landlord to lodge bond with RTA
Finally, when you have found the apartment that pleases you and fits your budget, be prepared to seal the deal.
You will need to do the following:
- Pay an application fee, typically between $25 to $50
- Allow a credit check and background screening
- Have a list of references, both personal and professional, ready for landlord
- Have first month's rent and security deposit in your bank
- Sign the lease
- Prepare for moving costs
WHAT NOT TO DO
Do not, under any circumstances, sign a lease without reading through the document in its entirety.
It is tempting, especially after a long search for the right place, to simply sign without doing any more than skimming through the first paragraph or so.
A lease is a binding contract between you and the landlord. The purpose is to protect both parties by clearly stating what is expected of each.
Don't allow yourself to be rushed in the rental office until you have read and clearly understand all terms and conditions.
As a tenant, you are expected to:
- Pay your rent on time each month
- Pay your utility bills on time
- Be a peaceful neighbor
- Keep the apartment clean and in good order
So, move in, decorate and enjoy this new stage of life.