First Time Tenant

The process of finding and moving into your first rental can be an emotional process, but this is a milestone everyone has or will experience, but what should you expect? How does the process work? What are some issues that may come up? We are here to help answer those questions and many more.


First and foremost, it is important to know your budget and to be realistic of what to expect within that budget. Remember, this is your first rental and not your forever home. This isn’t to say you should expect to live in a rundown property, but more so to decide what is most important for your needs and wants. Needs are criteria that must be met, this may be a particular area due to proximity to work or school, or a fenced yard for your pets. Your wants are something that if a property has, is great, but not a requirement, such as a dishwasher or garage. Focus on properties that fit your needs first and wants second.

*If you are looking at apartments or duplexes, some utilities may be included in the rent, if you are looking at a house, you will likely be responsible for all utilities as well as lawn care, it would benefit you to be informed on what utilities, if any are included, and the costs you will be responsible for when planning your budget.

Next, you have successfully identified a few properties that will work for you, now what? Most rentals being professionally managed by a property management company will have a phone number or website for you to submit an inquiry for that property. I always suggest scheduling an in-person tour to view the property and ensure that it is a good fit. The next step would be to apply for the property. Typically, you can fill these out online and there is a cost associated for screening the application, while these prices may vary, most will include be checked for the following: Credit score, residential history, criminal history, employment verification, and eviction search. It is important to be truthful on your application, the results will be the same, and providing false, incorrect, or misleading information can constitute an automatic denial of your application or cause delays in the process.

What to Expect and Stay on Budget

As a first-time renter, it is likely that you have no rental history, and little to no credit. From the perspective of a landlord, without an established history, you are a risk. If you are approved for the property, there is a good chance you will be required to either provide a co-signer, or double deposit. Qualified co-signers may also vary, but most will be looking for someone with great credit, and stable income that could afford the cost of the rental should you not pay or to hold liable for damages caused by your tenancy. It may be a good idea to talk with family or friends ahead of time to find willing co-signer if it is needed. A double deposit is more of a good faith payment that will offset the costs of any damages or default on your behalf. If the rental is returned in the same or better condition and cleanliness as you received, you should have the deposit returned to you. Any cleaning or damage will be deducted from the deposit amount, the remainder, if any will be returned to you. Keep in mind that this is a real possibility, and it is best to have enough money saved to be cover these additional costs if required.

It is important to remember that a lease is a legal agreement, it should be read carefully, it is your responsibility to know the contents of the lease and to abide by them during your tenancy. Failure to do so can result in fees, legal notices, or even eviction. This is your first rental, and it can easily affect your rental experience in the future, this affect can be positive by getting positive rental references, or just the opposite. Should issues arise, good communication is key to positive interactions.

You have made it this far, now you are in the home stretch, you have applied and been approved, you have executed a lease, and you have paid the required deposit, fees, and first month’s rent. Now it is time for you to move in. A written property condition report will need to be completed at this time, the purpose of this is to document the conditions, damage, and cleanliness of the property at the time you move in. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. This document will be compared to your move out report to determine any charges you may be responsible for. You cannot be charged for normal wear and tear, but you can be charged for cleaning, damage, repairs, etc. The condition report needs to be thorough and include photos if possible. I encourage all tenants to be involved in this process and to document items themselves if they would like.

I hope this article has been helpful and helped prepare you for your first rental. You may not get your first choice when applying for properties, do not let that discourage you, finding your first rental can be a difficult process, building up good rental history and credit will help when it comes time to find your next home!

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