Deposits: This is money you put up against any damage you do to their property. Insist that the manager and you do what is called a "walk-through" where you take photos of every single thing that is wrong. This is your evidence against being held responsible for things done by someone else before you, and is the only evidence that holds up in court. That gouge under the fridge would cost you money out of the deposit if you can't prove you didn't do it. Take photos to the point of night sweats!
Keep in mind that this is their property. Read and ask questions before you sign that contract. Ambiguity is out the window when it's in print, and no one ever gets away with "they didn't tell me" when it's in your signed contract.
Locks: Your manager will always have a key for emergency access. That is the law. You may be gone when there is a fire, water damage from upstairs, etc. Changing your lock is illegal, and if something happens in your apartment that causes damage to someone else's apartmentt and they can't get in, the door damage is on you because they will break it down. It's also a violation of your contract and you can be given a notice to vacate. The same thing applies to your windows.
Speaking of door, if you are a kicker, ask your manager if you can install a kick plate.
Utilities Keep the following in mind.
Disposals: Most people think it's a wood chipper for food. To keep it optimal, run water down for 10 seconds, add food gradually, run water after for 10 seconds. Once a week, grind some lemon juice and ice cubes to keep blades sharp and smelling good. Avoid starchy foods like spuds, rice or stringy food like celery.
Bathrooms: Everyone knows how to use a plunger. If you can't fix the problem, don't avoid the manager. Tell them what you did. If it's a root or broken pipe, it's not your fault. If you live in a downstairs unit, it might be a problem upstairs.
If you smell urine and notice the floor around the toilet is soft, report it immediately. It's the wax ring that is simple to fix but costly if ignored. Linoleum is easy to replace. Subfloor gets costly, and don't even get me started on the support beams.
Bedrooms: Never put any furniture closer than 6 inches to an outside wall. This will create mold, especially if you live in the Northwest. If you find it, don't panic and call Hazmet! Get some Dawn and a wet rag and simply wash it off. Don't put bleach in a bottle and spray it on, as it will damage the carpeting.
Living Room: Keep nails and tacks small, don't burn red candles, and smoke outside. If you have to smoke inside, a smokeless ashtray is a good $15.00 investment.
Smoke Detectors: It's the law that you have to maintain the smoke detector. During the walk-through, you or the manager will test it to make sure the battery is fresh. Test it often. Leave the battery in. In Oregon, it's a $250.00 fine if it's dead or missing. If there's a fire in your apartment and the battery is not there, the cost is all on you. Not worth saving $1.00.
Cleanliness: One of the tricks managers use to see what kind of resident you are is to do an inspection of the smoke alarm. If you give them permission to enter while you are not home, you may find a writ on your door ordering you to clean your apartment. Messy kitchens especially attract ants, roaches, and gnats. If they stayed with you that would be one thing, but they migrate. No one will tolerate this for long.
Roommates: Remember that your apartment is one price no matter how many people live there. I have seen 4 people move in, then 3 move out leaving the last resident holding the bag for rent and utilities. They can also be as bad as guests, who can get good residents evicted faster than you can imagine.
I hope all this helps.
By Sandi A. from Salem, OR
Another plus to this is you can enjoy your patio much more by sitting in the shade and not the direct sun. And if you have plants, you will not have to water them as often, therefore saving on your water bill. Last but not least, if your parking spot is directly in front of your apartment, your car will be shaded usually by 5:00 or 6:00 (I am on central time) so should you have to go somewhere, it will not take your car's A/C near as long to cool the inside.
By Donna from Roanoke, TX
If you are looking for your first apartment there are many things you need to consider, such as:
These are not necessarily in the best order of importance, but they are pretty close.
How much can you afford to pay for an apartment each month? Understand that most apartment complexes want a first and last month's rent or first month's rent and a security deposit (usually the same amount as the rent).
You need to figure out your budget with regard to your expenses without your apartment and subtract that from your monthly income. Then you have the amount you could possibly pay in rent a month. Don't forget to take into account luxuries like cable, fast internet, land line (if you have no cell), eating out once or twice (when you forget to pack a lunch for work or for a special occasion). These are on top of electricity, water, groceries, gas, insurance (car and renter's), etc.
Location: You save yourself money if your commute to work, school, and stores is short. Even more so if you can get to a bus stop easily and take the bus to these locations. If the apartment is far on the outside of town it may be priced cheaper than other apartments, but you may eat up that saving on transportation.
Size: How big of a place do you need? Are you going to get a place on your own or are you going to have a room mate? A roomy can help with expenses until the roomy can't pay their part or moves out. That is the danger of a roomy. Can you survive in an efficiency? Basically an apartment with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room that doubles as the bedroom. It may have big closets if you're lucky or even a small bedroom or bonus, a small dining room. The bathroom may also only be a bath with a shower (no tub). Just some things to consider.
Convenience: Part of this is described in "location" above. Other conveniences include access to washer and dryer (either in the apartment or in the complex). Some places have nothing and you are referred to the local laundromat. Dishwasher? Air conditioner? Trash compactor? Or bigger question, trash disposal, period. Maybe you have to carry your trash out to a dumpster at the end of the parking lot or even to another apartment complex for a centralized dumpster for many apartment buildings.
Neighborhood can be a big factor. If you don't feel safe you are probably not. If the place is in an area that is pretty much run down, then the apartment complex is probably close to being treated the same way. Or if the area is bad off, but it really is a good complex, you may be a target for theft.
Neighbors: Stop by the apartment at different hours before you rent it or sign a deal and just sit in the parking lot. Listen to the neighborhood and particularly those who would be your neighbors. Are they loud? Do they have children (young or teen)? Do they look responsible? If you have the opportunity knock on some doors and ask the neighbors what they think of the place, the neighborhood, the landlord. Ask them how much utilities run. This is a question you should ask the landlord too and keep track of what they said. Utilities will always be different for different people, but this gives you an idea and a figure to compare to what the neighbors say.
Pets: Obviously if you have a pet, you need to make sure it is allowed. You may have to pay extra security for a pet to be in your apartment (which is pretty standard).
Landlord: Do they show up at the appointed time to show you the apartment? How do they present themselves? Ask who is responsible for maintenance, them or you? How easily was it to initially contact them to see the apartment? Do they have an office or maybe live on the premises? Do they have many places or just the one? If you don't like the apartment they show you, ask them if they might have another. Tell them what you don't like about this apartment or what the apartment is missing that you are really looking forward to having. They may have another place that is empty or will be empty soon they can offer you.
Furnished or not? If you have your own furniture or are really looking forward to spending lots of money to have "just the right" furnishings then you don't want an apartment that is furnished. If you have nothing then a furnished apartment may be just what you need (and maybe should look for).
When looking for your first apartment, sometime you have to make sacrifices in order to meet your budget. My first apartment was an attic apartment that I shared with my best friend, in a house that the guy rented "by the room". We had a shared bathroom and kitchen being used by 4 other occupants. And a shared living room which just about none of us ever used. But for a first apartment, it turned out to be great for a teenager out on his own for the first time.
So, keep your options open.
By Suntydt from Tazewell, TN
I've moving to a much larger city that's a 6 to 7 hour drive from where I now live. I don't know much about the area I'm moving to and think I need an apartment locator. Can anyone give me advice on how to select one? Thanks
By Betty from Lubbock, TX
I would avoid the locators. We tried to use one when we moved from out of state and they took our money but didn't come through with apartments. Check into BBB before you settle on a company to use or Angie's list.