What Do I Need to Know When Renting an Apartment?

So you’re finally ready to strike out on your own and get your first apartment. Congratulations! Landing your first apartment is one of the most exciting events in life, but it can also be a little intimidating. Application forms, background checks, and credit checks can all seem daunting—especially when you don’t have experience with them before. You’re probably wondering– what do I need to rent an apartment?

The good news is that those apartment requirements for a first-time renter aren’t as complicated or difficult as they can sometimes seem. The process is fairly straightforward and can sometimes take only a couple of days from application to approval. But you must have a clear idea of what might stand in your way before you begin the apartment application process. That way, you’ll be better equipped to avoid unwelcome surprises and land that perfect apartment without disappointing hiccups along the way.

Here are some of the most important things you’ll need to know to be smart and financially responsible when landing your perfect apartment.

How Can I Get An Apartment With No Credit?

Work On Your Credit Score 

Several factors go into the approval process. But there’s arguably no more significant factor in your rental application than your credit score. McKinley uses this score as a single number that can generally sum up how financially responsible you’ve been and how you’ve handled your debts up to this point. Things like missed payments, very high credit balances, or a history of not paying debts can be warning signs.

Don’t panic–if you have a rough credit score, consider taking some time to boost it back up with a few months of on-time payments before applying for an apartment.

If your renter declines, then your application did not meet their minimum score requirement. 

You have the right to request a free copy of your consumer report within 60 days after receipt of an adverse action letter.

Be Aware of Upfront Costs

You’ll want to be mindful of all costs to get the keys! Here are some of the most common costs you’ll need to budget for before you sign your new lease.

1stMonth’s Rent

You’ll want to make sure you have enough money in the bank to pay for your first month of rent, which will be due before they hand you a set of keys.


Your deposit is a set amount of money that’s due before moving into the apartment, on top of the first month’s rent and other costs.

So how much will your deposit be? It’s hard to say. Generally, more desirable areas and nicer apartments bring larger deposits relative to the monthly rent. The most common amount for a deposit is usually the same amount as the rent. That means to move in you’ll need at least twice the amount of your monthly rent in the bank. That said, some apartments require much less than that amount—and a few will ask for more.

The good news is that the majority of your deposit (or all of it) is refundable at the end of your lease as long as you don’t cause any major damage outside of normal wear and tear.

Application Fee

This annoying cost will occur before they accept you for an apartment. One way that many property managers ensure they only receive serious applicants is by charging an application fee. To explain, this is usually between $20 and $50, and you pay when applying. That means if you’re apartment hunting with friends, you’ll each need to include your fee with the application.

Some apartment managers don’t require these fees, but many do—so watch out for them.

what do I need to rent an apartment

Moving Costs

Don’t forget about the costs of moving. If you need to rent a truck, hire movers, or buy boxes and packing materials, be sure to budget for these costs before you start your apartment hunt.

Budget for Recurring Costs

Your up-front costs aren’t all you need to think about. Don’t forget the ongoing monthly costs that come with renting an apartment.


We know what you’re thinking—yeah, obviously. Everyone knows you need to pay rent every month, but many people fail to budget effectively for it and find themselves getting more and more stressed as the 1stof the month approaches. Your best bet is to keep your monthly rent to 1/3 of your monthly income. That will help ensure that you have enough funds left over to pay for everything else in your life.


Now that you’ve entered the grown-up world of apartment renting, you need to be aware of what bills you need to pay when renting an apartment, like…utilities! While some rental arrangements will cover all utilities, most will require you to pay for electricity and gas yourself. These utility bills can range from less than $50 to more than $200 depending on the size of the unit, weather, and other factors.

what do I need to rent an apartment for the first time

Renter’s Insurance

Renter’s insurance isn’t particularly expensive, usually between $10-$20 per month, but most apartment managers will require you to have it (and pay for it yourself.) Keep that in mind when budgeting for your new rental.

Essentials for Living

So you landed your dream apartment. Now you get to fill it with stuff. Decorating your first place is one of the most exciting experiences in life, but it isn’t free. Make sure to budget for furniture, kitchenware, a television, and whatever else you may need in your home. Use the power of the internet to find deals on used furniture and other items you can polish up and make your own for less than their price at the store. Your wallet will thank you for it.

Finding Roommates

Apartment hunting with friends is a blast, but many people move to new cities for school or a new job and don’t necessarily know many people upon arrival. That means you may find yourself on the hunt for roommates.

The best way to find roommates is through recommendations from people you actually know—ask around on social media to see if any of your friends and family know people looking for roommates in your city.

If that doesn’t work, try other organizations you trust—your school message board, church, or other social circles.

Finally, you can always use online tools to track down roommates with similar interests and budgets to you. Just remember, never agree to live with someone you’ve never personally met (unless they come strongly recommended from someone you truly love and trust, and sometimes not even then). Living with someone full-time for a year or more is not something to be taken lightly. Finding roommates with whom you actually get along will make enjoying your first apartment much, much easier.

Pet Considerations 

One last tip—if you have a pet, don’t automatically assume that the owner of your dream apartment will welcome them with open arms. Each apartment will have its own pet policy, and many will either forbid them altogether or require extra fees. These fees usually take the form of an additional pet deposit upfront (sometimes non-refundable) and/or a monthly pet fee (usually between $25-$50/month). Keep these costs in mind.

Don’t Freak Out!

These tips and guides aren’t designed to make you stressed about all the costs and concerns with getting an apartment. We believe that if you go into the process knowing exactly how and where you’ll encounter costs and roadblocks, you’ll be much more relaxed and your apartment-hunting experience will be much more enjoyable. Now that you’re prepared, you can get started on your apartment search today!

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