Avoiding the Pitfalls of your First Apartment

Finding your very first apartment is a momentous occasion. It’s a rite of passage that proves that you really are an adult now. You have your own space. You don’t have to sneak friends and “more-than-friends” in and out. The place is yours to do with as you please (as long as your lease allows it!)

Getting caught up the excitement, though, causes many to get themselves in a mess. There are some very important factors to consider before and immediately after you sign your name on the lease. Be sure to avoid these common pitfalls in your first apartment.

Documents, Damages and Domestic Partners

When you rent, you live and die by your lease agreement. Fail to read at your own peril. It can be overwhelming to read through pages of legal sounding language that seems to just say that they’ll let you stay as long as you pay your rent. There should be some language in the agreement to that effect, but there is a lot more to a lease agreement than that. This document is the contract that outlines the landlord’s responsibilities and requirements as well as yours. Failure to understand everything in this document can put you in a world of trouble later.

You knew that you had to put down a security deposit when you moved in. Are you confident that you will get it back? The lease should outline anything and everything that can be taken from your deposit. Damages are the most obvious, but what about damages caused by other people? If it happened while you were living there, you’re still responsible. It’s your name on the lease, not theirs. What if the damage was already there when you moved in? Can you prove it?

Before you move anything in, you should perform a walkthrough of your apartment and thoroughly document any and all damages. Even the smallest things should be noted – chipped paint, worn carpet, dirty appliances, and scratches in the woodwork. If something in your apartment isn’t pristine, assume that you will be responsible for the damage unless you document it and provide it to the landlord before you move in.

Are you moving in with a roommate? Be careful. Even if you don’t know each other well, you might as well be domestic partners when you sign the lease. If your roommate skips out, your landlord isn’t going after them. Your landlord is coming after you for rent, damages or anything else in the lease. You and anyone else that signs the lease are jointly liable for the full obligations under the lease.

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Ensure That You Insure Your Stuff

The other key issue to understand is insurance. If the building in which you live is damaged by fire, natural disaster or otherwise, the building owner’s insurance will cover the damage to the property, but it won’t replace your personal belongings. You are responsible for this. This is what renters insurance is for. If the personal items in your apartment are damaged in a fire, natural disaster or are stolen, your renters insurance will replace it.

Rates are typically very low, but may vary depending on the area that you live in. For example, a place in rural Ohio where the crime rate is lower will probably have lower premiums than Cincinnati real estate where crime rates are double that of the rest of the state. Rates will be different still in Covington, Kentucky which is literally just across the river on the south side of Cincinnati. Even with all of these factors considered, you’ll probably pay less than $15 per month. It’s so cheap that there’s no excuse to not have it.

Enjoy The Ride

Now, don’t let these issues ruin the excitement of your first place. It’s an exciting time in your life. Enjoy it. Just don’t pass over these key issues because they don’t seem important or you think that something like that will never happen to you. This kind of stuff does happen and you’ll kick yourself if you didn’t take a few minutes to cover your bases and set everything up correctly. Now do it and go enjoy that first apartment!