Financial Facts: Getting Your First Apartment
Moving into your first apartment is one of the most exciting and memorable experiences in life. But it does not come without its share of financial responsibilities and surprises.
In fact, you may have all the furnishings in hand, a steady job, and a detailed budget, but your first apartment may require even more than you previously considered—especially when you do not have an established credit history. The following, therefore, is a brief overview of some things to keep in mind during your apartment hunt:
Before moving into an apartment, you will have to complete an application. This form will ask for pertinent information, including your previous addresses, employer, salary, social security number, references, and more. Be prepared also to provide documentation supporting the information you provided, such as a recent paystub that can confirm your employer and salary. There is usually an application fee which varies by property and may or may not cover the cost of a background check.
When you rent there can be a lot of extra fees. These might include fees for parking, trash collection, having a pet in your apartment, move-in (some apartments will not allow you to move over the weekend), etc. Beyond the monthly fees, you can expect apartments to ask for the first and last months’ rent or a security fee at the beginning of your lease.
More than likely you’ll need a co-signer to act as a guarantor for the lease. Many people ask a relative or close adult friend to act as a co-signer/guarantor until they establish a good credit history. But if you ask someone to be a co-signer, do not expect them to automatically agree because being a co-signer is not without risks, as if for some reason you cannot pay, then the co-signer would be liable to pay for your apartment. And do not take it personally if they say no, they simply may not be in a financial place to take on an additional expense. Learn more about co-signing HERE.
You may be able to find an apartment that does not require a co-signer, but often, those require a larger security deposit/fee.
Many people think that they can skip the expense of Renter’s Insurance, but take it from someone who has been burglarized twice—Renter’s Insurance pays off. You may not have expensive belongings, but it is nevertheless costly to replace them in case of a disaster or burglary. Renter’s Insurance should be less than $100 a month and is based upon the stated value of your belongings. Some apartments will require you to have Renter’s Insurance before moving in.
While certain utilities like internet service represent a fixed cost, others—electricity, gas and water—will vary with your usage. This means that during the coldest and warmest months of the year, your utility bill will probably be higher unless you drastically cut your consumption. Additionally, although the price per kilowatt or therm may not sound like much, it adds up quickly.
It is easy to take electricity and gas for granted when you are living in someone else’s home. We have all been told to turn off the lights and not to touch the thermostat, but it is not until we start paying our own bills that we follow through.
Other utilities that you may be required to pay for include sewer, garbage, internet – and there may be others dependent upon where you live and your landlord.
Many utility companies will require a deposit for first time customers. This deposit must be paid before they will turn on your utilities and varies for each company and city.
Bills & Late Fees
Balancing bills is a learned task. You should plan to save money each month in order to pay your bills on time. You will receive a bill once a month with a payment date. These bills usually come via snail mail but you might be able to opt-in to receive them via e-mail.
After receiving your bill, you are not typically reminded to make a payment. And if you are late, you will incur a fee which can be $40 or more. If you miss the late payment date or are late a number of times, you could be denied service. This means you may have your utility shut off, have your insurance cancelled, or have to move out of your apartment.
Thus, it might be a good idea when you sign-up for your apartment or other reoccurring expenses to ask which day of the month the payment is due and then mark that date on a calendar that you check regularly. Further, some companies offer auto-pay, which may be an option to consider. However, you will need to make sure you have sufficient money in your bank account before the payment date.
If you have any questions about your expenses with your apartment, do not be afraid to ask the leasing agent or customer service agent; they are there to help.