In order to maximize the availability of apartments, we suggest that you not begin your search any sooner than 4 weeks prior to the intended occupancy date.
There are typicallythree styles in which a person can rent and each property has its own rules, regulations and application paperwork affecting the time frame in which a tenant will be able to move into the apartment.
- Rental building which typically makes for the easiest transaction since it is only the managing agent who gives approval
- Condominium: again a fairly simple entry process dealing with the private "owner" of the unit
- Private House with a legal apartment also dealing with the private "owner" who owns the home
An apartment lease term is typically one year. By signing a long-term lease, both you and the landlord are agreeing to your long-term occupancy. Usually leases less than 1 year or on a month to month basis are more expensive per month. In addition, the landlord may decide not renew your rental and force you to vacate the apartment.
You should carefully review the apartment lease agreement. It is a legally binding document. Also, it is your only proof of residency in a particular place. Your landlord is required to give you a copy of the agreement.
Apartment rental agreements may include:
- Rental amounts and terms.
- Amount of deposit (usually one month's rent).
Ask whether they can put your deposit in an interest-bearing account so you can make some money on it. There may be different state laws regarding how the security deposit is treated.
- When you move out, if your apartment is in the same condition (except normal wear and tear) as when you rented it, you will get your deposit back. The agreement should also specify when they will return your deposit.
- Key deposits for several things like the main door, locked gates, mailbox, or parking lot entryways. It may vary from $10 to $50 and more.
- Whether pets are allowed (if so, the amount of extra deposit, if any).
- Length of occupancy such as 12 months, etc.
- Rules of conduct while living in the apartment.
- Guest policy.
- Parking policy. You may need to park in designated parking space or anywhere you choose. If anywhere, you may be given stickers to put on your car so that they can recognize that they are your cars. There may be restrictions on how many cars you can park in the lot.
- Amount of rent to be paid and its monthly due date.
- Termination requirements.
- Whether any subletting is allowed, and, if so, the subletting rules.
- What utilities are included in the rent.
- If there are any repairs to be completed by the landlord before you move in, due dates for the same.
- A statement that the landlord has a right to enter at reasonable times to inspect, for maintenance (like AC filter change), and to make repairs. However, the landlord can't enter without your prior permission.
Breaking a Lease
Before you sign the lease, understand the terms for lease breaking (or termination) very clearly. You will have to give 1 or 2 months advance notice (or pay rent for 1 or 2 months) and/or you may lose your security deposit and/or even owe a penalty if proper notice is not given. You must have everything clarified in advance. It is even more important in a slow housing market, lacking economy, or in an area where there is more housing available than demand.
In a booming economy or where there is a housing shortage or just simply too much demand for particular apartments, the landlord may be able to waive some or all of your charges or notice period if they can quickly find someone else to rent your apartment. Of course, you cannot rely on this.
Most children go to public schools, which are run by the county. Children will need to go to their school according to the jurisdiction of their residence. Before moving in, if you have kids who are of school age, find out how good the schools are for that apartment building. This may be the single most important decision you make in selecting an apartment.
Depending on your need and budget, you will have to look at various rental options and decide accordingly. Depending on your family size, you will require a certain size apartment. If you have a one bedroom apartment, typically only two people are allowed live there along with one child under a certain age (check local laws). If you have two children, you will need at least a two bedroom apartment with the children sharing a bedroom.
Rent is usually less for basement apartments (below ground level) compared to first or second floor. People generally prefer to avoid basement apartments because there is more outside noise, lack of privacy, and lack of daylight.
Also consider the factors like street noise, privacy, lack of view, and natural light. Apartments near public transport (bus station, train station) are in higher demand and more expensive.
You should generally not spend more than 34 percent of your take home salary on rent. This, of course, can vary based on your needs and circumstances.
In order to cut costs, you may want to share an apartment with someone else within the occupancy limits described above. Discuss options with your OneWorld Relocation Specialist.
If you are sharing an apartment with two other people, all occupants must be listed on the lease. If one person wants to leave before the end of the lease period, he/she must give a letter to the other two that authorizes you to take care of the paperwork and responsibility until the lease is over. In absence of such letter, one or two people can't break the lease later if the signatures of all people who originally signed the letter are not there.
Landlords cannot refuse to rent to you due to certain things. It is against the law to reject you because of:
- your race or color
- the country you came from
- your religion
- your sex
- a physical disability
- marital status
If you feel you have been refused housing for any of these reasons, you can contact the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) by phone at (800) 669-9777. Information is given in English and Spanish.
You will need to consider which utilities are already included in the rent. Various utilities to think of are gas, heat, water, electricity, trash removal, cable connection for TV, and high speed internet. The more utilities that are included, the less you may have to spend, but the apartment rent may be higher. All the utilities that are included must be listed in the rental agreement (lease agreement).
Usually air-conditioners run on electricity while heaters on gas. Therefore, if not already included in your apartment rent, your electricity bill will be higher in summer and gas bill will be higher in winter.
Cooking stoves usually come in two varieties: gas and electrical. Depending upon the kind of food you cook, this may or may not matter. Therefore, make sure to ask what kind of stove your apartment will have.
When you sign a lease, you agree to keep the home clean and in good shape. You may be charged extra if you damage the place you are renting. After renting an apartment, carefully observe if there is any damage to the apartment. If you see any, you must ask the property manager to note it promptly. Otherwise, the landlord may deduct some or all of your security deposit when you move out. Talk to your landlord before you move out to find out what you need to fix in order to receive your fully refunded security deposit.
If you have damages in your apartment that you did not cause:
- Talk to your landlord (usually they have a rental office in the apartment complex itself) and tell them what is wrong and what needs to be fixed.
- Next, write a letter to them explaining what is wrong and what needs to be fixed. Keep a copy for yourself.
- Finally, call your local housing office. Most city or local governments have people who inspect houses for problems. Ask the inspector to visit and show him/her all the problems.
If your landlord does not fix the problems, you may be able to make a legal charge against them.
You can use aluminum foil (available at stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target) to cover part of the cooking range, but not the coils, so that it remains clean and you don't have to spend too much time cleaning it.
You should clean your oven and microwave once a month using a cleaning liquid.
You will have to buy a small trash can from the store. Before dumping any trash in the trash can, put a plastic bag in it so that you can just take the bag itself and trash can will remain relatively clean. Depending on the size of your trash can, you can either buy trash bags from the store or you can use grocery bags. You can dump the trash bags in the central trash container, which is usually provided at several places throughout the apartment complex. A trash collector truck comes to collect the trash nearly every day in most apartment complexes.
Please note that the washer and dryer are two separate units.
Some apartments have the washer and dryer in the apartment itself. If so, you can use them as many times as you want.
Some apartments have washers and dryers in a common laundry room. Those machines are usually coin operated. You will need to enter 4 to 6 quarters (or a pre-paid card) to use the washer and dryer. You need to use your own detergent powder or liquid.
Different apartment complexes have different rules for downgrading or upgrading the apartment.
Most apartments will allow you to upgrade the apartment. However, they may charge you extra for that. You may need to upgrade if you recently had a baby or if your relatives are coming to visit for a long period of time.
All of these rules will be specified in the rental agreement. If you are unsure, clarify everything up front. Also clarify whether your lease would be transferred to your new apartment or if you will have to break your current lease and sign a new one, which may have negative financial consequences.
Change of Address
You should change your address with the U.S. Postal Service so they can forward your mail to your new address. You can change your address online at
http://www.usps.com or visit your local post office and request a "Moving Guide."
Additionally, if you are not a U.S. citizen, whenever you move, you are required to changed your address with USCIS.
Upon choosing a move in date, please keep in mind that most buildings require you to reserve in advance their "service" elevator. Most move-ins are allowed Monday thru Saturday between the hours of 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Landlords will use all lease applicants' combined salary in order to qualify. If you do not meet all of the criteria, you might be asked to produce a guarantor/co-signor or a larger security deposit (depending on state laws). Typically a guarantor must live in the United States and cannot be your employer.