NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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First Time Renter

First Time Renter


            Of the many possible firsts in our lives, one many of us wish to avoid is renting our first apartment from a con artist or signing a lease that we don’t understand.  Check some of the following tips for first time renters and those who are working with them.

            Many landlords and apartment companies are reluctant to sign on a college kid who doesn't have a full-time job or a recent graduate with no credit history and so require a co-signer. A cosigner vouches for your lease by signing a contract. If you are unable to pay your rent, the burden legally falls upon the cosigner. Parents may think nothing will happen in their role as co-signor because they trust their particular college student. However, co-signing for their child also gives them responsibility for the other tenants of the apartment."

            Be aware of potential scams. In larger cities, Craigslist is often the number one way to find apartments, sadly, it is filled with many less than honest offers.  In some incidents, people have mail in deposits and then arrive and there is either no apartment or no furniture or no such address. One clue can be that if the offer is too good to be true – either price wise or appearance wise, it can be a scam.

            The ideal ratio of rent to income is 25-30% of your monthly income. If you spend more, it’s going to make the rest of your budgeting much more difficult. Make sure to include your utilities and Internet access into your budgeting and note that utilities can change very drastically from climate to climate. The initial move alone can be costly. Some landlords expect the first and last month’s rent up front and rental insurance. Along with the security deposit, the fees can really add up. Also, take into account the cost of rental applications and credit checks which can range from $40-100.

            Here are some more questions to ask before moving in.

  • What’s the term limit? Is it a year-long contract or month-to-month?
  • How do I pay rent? Can I pay by check or online?
  • Are pets allowed? How much is the pet deposit?
  • If renting with roommates, how many roommates does the landlord permit?
  • Is there central heating/air? Floor heaters?
  • What are the quiet hours?
  • What are the rules regarding trash and recycling?
  • Is the neighborhood safe?
  • How close is the nearest grocery store?
  • Is there enough space to store food for me and my roommates in the kitchen?
  • Is there enough space to cook?
  • Is there enough room to store extra stuff?
  • Is the apartment clean on the tour? It should be spotless. Is the apartment complex clean and well-kept?
  • Who do I call if something breaks within the apartment? How long does it take to get a response?
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