The Rental Process
To help you navigate the process of renting a house or an apartment, we've outlined the key steps and some important things to know before renting.
Before you start your search, it's important to get organized and do your homework! Here are a few things to consider:
What can I afford?
You’ll first need to determine what you can afford. Review your current expenses and what your budget can accommodate each month.
Where do I want to live?
It’s helpful to narrow down your search to the key neighborhoods you want to live in. Keep in mind, you may need to expand your search (based on what’s affordable for the area), but it helps to have a starting point. If you have children, you may want to check the available school options in your area. Accessibility to public transportation and key places like the grocery store are also important factors to consider.
What do I want/need?
Make sure you have a good idea of what you're looking for in a rental property and prioritize accordingly. There are many quality and affordable rentals — from apartments to single-family homes — so make sure you conduct a thorough search. You may not be able to get everything on your wish list, but knowing what your requirements are before you get started will make your search easier.
What do I need to qualify?
You should gather your personal records (Social Security card, Driver's License, etc.) as well as proof of income (pay stubs, W2s, bank statements, etc.). Do you have a roommate or co-signer on the lease? Their information will be required too. Some landlords may require a credit check and/or conduct a background check. So it's a good idea to have references available and, if you have a record of on-time payments with a previous rental, be sure to have that handy.
What are my rights?
Know your legal rights when renting. This can vary from one town to the next, so always check local regulations for specific details.
No matter the local regulations, you are protected against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. If you believe you experienced rental discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, familial status, or national origin, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Now that you know what you can afford, what you're looking for, and what you'll need, it's time to start your search!
There are multiple types of rental housing — from apartments and condominiums to single-family and multifamily units. Additionally, there are housing options designed specifically for students, seniors, and those with income restrictions.
Searching for a rental property has never been easier — there are multiple ways to find your new home.
- Apartment and home locator services
- Local newspapers
- Real estate agent/broker
In some areas, a broker may be needed to help you locate your new home. A broker, typically a real estate professional, packages all your financial information and submits it to the leasing office and/or landlord for you. They often have access to rentals that are not listed publicly and may offer a wider variety of options. In addition, real estate professionals usually know a lot about the different neighborhoods, local services, and amenities. But keep in mind, this service is not free — a broker is typically paid a finder’s fee for their help that's usually due after you sign your lease.
Once you've created a list of homes or apartments to visit, here are some things to do:
- Find out more about income requirements, restrictions (e.g., no pets or parking), general availability, and any special rates.
- Schedule time to visit — having a couple of options is important in case your first choice isn’t available or doesn't meet your expectations.
- Tour the neighborhood and surrounding areas; these details can help you reach an informed decision.
- Investigate what amenities may be included and what costs, if any, you may be responsible for as a tenant.
- Contact your insurance company to learn about renter's insurance.
Once you've viewed all the properties and collected all the information you need, it's time to compare and decide what home is best for you!
Before you sign a lease, you'll need to complete a rental application and pay any necessary application fees. The application process may vary from property to property, but typically the:
- Provides proof of income (pay stubs, W2s, bank statements, etc.), personal information (Social Security card, Driver's License, etc.), and a list of references. Is there a roommate or co-signer on the lease? Their information may be required too.
- Runs background and credit checks and reviews/confirms your personal and financial information.
Before you sign, remember a lease is a legally binding contract, which means you will be responsible for all terms of the agreement. Review the lease carefully — here's a checklist of items you'll want to confirm ahead of time:
- How long is the lease and what are the terms (i.e., renewing the lease, terminating the lease early, possible penalties, renting from month-to-month, subleasing, monthly costs, etc.)?
- Security Deposit
- How much is the security deposit, and will some (any) be refunded at the end of the lease?
- When are payments due? Are there penalties for late payments?
- What utilities (if any) are included, and what are the monthly rates?
- How is routine and emergency maintenance managed (onsite, on call, 24-hour availability)?
- What types of pets are allowed (if any), and are there any restrictions or required deposits?
- Are there any noise-level restrictions? Decorating restrictions (e.g., painting, hanging pictures, etc.)?
More to explore
If You're Facing Eviction, You Have Renter Rights
If you're being forced to leave the home you rent, either because you're being evicted or because the property is being foreclosed, help may be available.Learn more