Seven Deadly Sins of the First-Time Renter

There's a first time for everything. But when it comes to renting your first apartment, mistakes can be deadly to your bank account and your relationships. Here's a list of some big mistakes first-time renters make when shopping for an apartment… and how to avoid them.

Not Adding Up the Expenses

The monthly rent may be affordable, but remember: you will likely have to pay for utilities, like water, electric, cable and internet. Ask the apartment managment or landlord what kind of numbers to expect in those areas. Many apartments also require you show proof of renters insurance, which protects your contents, but costs you extra each month.


Not Running Through the Logistics of your Move

Your grandma just gave you a piano… and you're about to sign a lease for a third-floor walk-up with no elevator. Or you might have a huge antique dresser that won't make the turn from a tight hallway into the bedroom. When you preview an apartment, remember what you plan to put in it, and think about how easy or difficult that will be. Are you planning on asking friends to carry impossibly heavy items up two flights of stairs?

Not Visiting at Different Times of Day

Don't assume that conditions during your visit are the way things are 24/7.  Take inventory of the lights, sounds, traffic and activities which could impact your quality of life. Drive to your preferred complex after work and see what rush hour traffic is like. Go look for a parking spot at 7:30 p.m. Think about ambulance routes, garbage dumpster locations, train schedules, community dog parks, swimming pools, garage doors or anything else that could create noise. Visit at night to see how bright or dark your preferred apartment becomes.

Signing a Lease Too Quickly

It's easy to get all fired up over a great apartment. But if you put down a nonrefundable deposit before lining up your funding, doing your research, finding a roommate or looking into typical utility costs, you may find yourself in a position where you want to back out. That can cost you the entire deposit.

Signing a Lease Without Previewing the Apartment

If you rent an apartment without seeing it, you're flirting with disaster. Your balcony could have a lovely view… of the dumpster. Your new home could also be up a flight of unprotected stairs on the north side of a building. Or it could be next to a giant construction project. Go see the apartment before you sign anything. See if the actual apartment measures up in terms of cabinetry, carpeting, paint, closets, etc.  If there's a unit above the one you want, try to visit when someone is home so you can hear the noise levels above you. Listen to see how much noise comes through the walls. Run the shower water to see about the water pressure. Check out the inside of the refrigerator.

Not Reading the Rules

In a multi-family environment, the residents' different definitions of "acceptable" necessitate the need for community rules. Read them before you sign. You really don't want a bad surprise after you sign a lease, like being told the $300 grill you just bought is against the rules, or that your puppy will eventually weigh too much to be allowed. Even worse: a pet that's completely forbidden. Want to sublet to your cousin when school gets out? Better make sure you can. No matter how anxious you are to sign a lease, take the time to carefully read the rules in the lease.

Not Thinking About Security

A secure space is important for every tenant — not just the females. Decent security gives you peace of mind. Do some research on your potentially new community. Many cities and metro areas offer crime maps or, at the very least, a police blotter in the local paper. While very few areas in the United States are crime free, being aware of typical crime in the area you want to move to can help you be prepared in the long run.

Have we covered the deadliest sins for the first-time renter? Did we miss anything? Let us know what your tips and advice is below!



About The Author

A contributing editor and video producer at ApartmentGuide and, Libby McMillan Henson has created award-winning content for radio, tv, print and digital for over two decades. Libby recently authored a book about her home base of Greenville, SC, and has also lived in Austin, San Francisco, Nashville, Boston and Sanibel/Captiva Islands. A lifelong traveler and photographer, Libby loves exploring new places and sharing her finds.