From choosing the right place (and the right roommates) to signing the lease—read this first!

Dorm life is often a requirement and a rite of passage for college freshmen. And while it can be fun, it’s not usually an experience most want to continue with for extended periods of time. So when the opportunity arises to get out of communal living and into your own apartment (or one shared with a roommate), you may find yourself pretty excited. But since you’ve never been a renter before, make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you sign a lease. Here’s a helpful guide to get you on your way.

 1. Do more than take a tour

After you’ve taken a tour of the model or the potential apartment, do your homework and speak to someone who lives there. Even though it may look great, you cannot get a feel for what it’s like simply by roaming around the place. Ask questions about the noise level, the neighbors, and how much involvement there is from the landlord. Although you’re still in school (and you may like to party), it’s not fun to be kept awake at all hours of the night by revelers living upstairs or to have a nosey landlord who pokes his or her business into yours.

 2. Take notes

Before you sign the lease, make sure you make note of everything and anything that is broken or damaged. Don’t sign if you’re told that major issues cannot or will not be fixed, including:

  • Broken windows (or ones that won’t open, won’t shut, or don’t have a screen)
  • Leaky faucets, running toilets, or drippy showers
  • Visible mold or water damage (mold is a definite deal-breaker because it can be hazardous to your health)
  • Cracked, marked-up, or damaged walls (the last renter might have had posters, etc.)
  • Broken or non-functional deadbolts or door locks (you should ask if the locks will be changed before you move in, as you don’t want previous tenants having a key to your place)
  • Appliances that don’t work
  • Evidence of bugs or rodents (insist that you get a guarantee in writing that they will exterminate before you move in)
  • Dirty carpets, creaky floorboards, or cracked tiles

If you do rent a place with any of these issues, make sure you write them down (even take pics of all the broken items) on the lease so you cannot be held responsible and lose your security deposit when you move out.

 3. Scrutinize the lease

Leases can be full of long-winded, boring industry rhetoric, but it’s important to read them carefully before you sign. Review the policies on things like:

  • What happens if you break the lease?
  • Subletting (many students go home for the summer and need to sublet to be able to pay rent)
  • Penalties for damage
  • How many people are allowed to live there?
  • How many parking spaces are you entitled to?
  • Are utilities, cable, and Wi-Fi included in the rent?
  • Policies on noise, guests, and overnight parking
  • The security deposit refund (what are the stipulations for getting it back after your lease is up)

If possible, have a parent or an attorney look over the lease before you sign.

 4. Vet your roommates

If you’ve already got roommates lined up and you know you can count on them to be responsible, then you should be all set. If you don’t, remember that while it would be awesome to find someone who you like and want to hang out with, it’s more important to find someone who will pay their rent on time. You also want to make sure that you have a roommate who will be respectful of you, your space, and your personal belongings – and a candidate who is not a slob! It’s not fun to have to clean up after someone who doesn’t know what the dishwasher or a washing machine is for.

 5. Protect yourself and your stuff

Insurance is not usually at the top of the list for college students moving out of the dorm and into an apartment. But the reality is, without a renter’s policy, you won’t have the protection you need in the event of an accident, theft, or disaster. Most apartment buildings or rental homes are covered with a policy that protects the building, the appliances, and the property itself, but they don’t provide protection for a renter’s belongings, including computers, cell phones, stereo equipment, jewelry, clothing, and other personal items.

A renter’s policy, which is very affordable (averaging about $16 a month) can ensure that if there’s a fire, a flood due to leaky pipes, a break-in, or some other unforeseen event, you’ll have the coverage you need to replace or repair your belongings.

As you embark on your first renting experience, make sure you’ve reviewed of all of these tips. And give us a call at 305-648-7070 or fill out our online form to find out more about renter’s insurance.