Finding a new place to live can be fun, but it's serious business, too. Start with an assessment of your finances. Many landlords want to see that your annual income is at least 40 times the monthly rent. For example, if you and your roommate are looking at an apartment that costs $2,500 per month, the landlord would require a combined income of $2,500 × 40, which equals $100,000. As you start out, it makes sense to check your credit, too. Most landlords view a credit history as an indicator of reliability. Consider setting up an account with Credit Karma, for example. That way, you can see your financial picture from the landlord's point of view. If your credit score is weak, or if you lack sufficient income, all is not lost. Landlords' requirements vary. Many will consider your application if you have a credit-worthy guarantor or co-signer.
There are many websites available advertising apartments for rent. Zillow, Hotpads, Zumper, Apartments.com---these are just a few among them. At Watch City Rentals, we have "featured rentals," generally exclusively listed with us. We also make available hundreds of apartments through MLS. Other real estate rental agencies have their own listings, too. Rental agencies tend to specialize in specific areas. Ours is Waltham and surrounding towns. If we don't have something for you, chances are another agency will. When you settle on a few places you'd like to see, call or email the rental representative to schedule an appointment. Do some homework to confirm that the person you're meeting with is legitimate.
Never wire funds or pay a fee in advance, but do bring along a check so you can leave a deposit for an apartment you like. You may want to also bring a paystub or other documents showing your income, and contact information for your most recent landlords. If you have a housing voucher ("Section 8") , you should bring along your paperwork.
Of course, when you tour the property, be sure to ask about move in costs and what's included in the rent. If there's a broker fee, the agent should give you a disclosure form for you to review and sign. (That's required in Massachusetts.) If you do leave a deposit, confirm that it will be refunded if your application is not accepted, and ask what will happen if you change your mind about taking the apartment. Do not leave deposits for more than one property at a time.
You've done everything right and you've received word that your application has been accepted. Yaay. You're anxious to sign, but a lease is a legal contract. It may appear to be so much small print and red tape, but it defines the terms of the relationship you'll have with the landlord. If you haven't signed a lease before, there's no harm in asking the rental agent or landlord to send you a sample copy in advance. Feel free to bring a friend along if you feel you won't understand some of the lease terms. Any rental agent should be prepared to invest whatever time you need to review the lease package together.
What's a lease package? Typically this includes the lease itself, an addendum spelling out additional terms; a lead paint disclosure form and a receipt for your payment. If you're paying a security deposit, there is a form for that, too. Before you sign anything:
We know some folks who signed a lease, paid thousands of dollars in move in costs and just about rented a truck, only to conclude that the location was too far from their jobs. Some landlords would have charged a lease breakage fee. Fortunately, this one didn't. Don't take that risk. You don't want to find yourself with a place that's just too far from the places you go. There are plenty of resources available online that will help you research communities that will offer what you need. Here's just one.
Once you'e applied for an apartment, the landlord or rental agency will review all of your information. Typically this involves running a credit report, reviewing documents showing your income, and calling your references. Every landlord has standards for credit, income and references. If you feel your application is weak in some way, it is often best to discuss your concerns with the rental representative in advance.
You have questions. We're happy to help. Call us any time, 781.899.5300