What First Time Renters NEED to Know

Moving is a stressful time. It can be even more stressful if it is your first time renting.

Avoid hassles by starting with a smart budget.

If you are first time renters, you need to know where to start. Begin by determining what you can afford to pay for rent. Rent should make up less than 33% of your income, ideally. It is vital that you are sure you can afford the rent.

In Sioux Falls, there is a 3 day grace period to pay rent. If your landlord allows more of one, it will be written into your lease. A landlord may also charge “reasonable” fees for late rent. Commonly, it’s a small percentage of the rent or a set daily charge which kicks in around 3 days after the due date.

This free pre-rental checklist can help you budget monthly costs for each rental you’re interested in. Take this worksheet with you whenever you’re apartment or house hunting. Take notes about deposits, policies, and which utilities each landlord pays and which utilities you will pay. Keep in mind of the amenities and drawbacks for each unit before making a decision.

Making a good first impression

By now, you have likely heard that the rental market is competitive across the country. It’s true, especially in Sioux Falls. So, when you’re ready to rent, bring all the paper work you need with you.

If you have no credit or rental history, begin with this 4-step plan:

  1. Be ready to show income and dates of employment. Present contact information for at least two work references.
  2. Have at least one bank account, preferably two, a checking and a savings. A great way to demonstrate financial planning is by having the first 3 months of your rent covered.
  3. If someone who is qualified is willing to co-sign for you, bring him/her along.
  4. Be prepared to give contact information for two or more character references, such as teachers or mentors.

Most of this information can be used to fill out a rental application, a standard form most landlords require. This allows the landlord to conduct background and credit checks.

In most cases, you’ll need to pay a fee of $30 to $70 for the landlord to run a credit check. Landlords can only charge this fee if they run the credit check. Always get a receipt for any fees, deposits, or rent you pay, to save for your records.

Even first time renters may need to act fast if you’re in a rental market where people line up for open houses. Ask how many people have put in rental applications before you go to a showing. If it’s quite a few, and you’re unlikely to get the home, you may want to continue the search. Whenever possible try to take a night or two to weigh the pros and cons of each property.

Securing your first rental home

A lease is a legally binding document. Be certain that you understand what’s covered in a residential lease agreement. As first time renters be sure to ask your landlord, or a lawyer, any questions before signing a lease.

One-time fees such as security, pet, and utilities deposits can add up. According to MSNBC, your first month in a new home can easily reach $4000. The great news is if you take care of the home, and follow the lease, you should get some, or all, of your deposits back when you move out.

Moving In

First step when moving in is to inspect your new home. Write down any concerns or necessary repairs on an inspection worksheet. This allows you to notify the landlord about problems. It also prevents you from being charged for pre-existing problems or damage.

It’s your right, as a tenant, to live in a safe and habitable environment. Both you and your landlord have certain maintenance responsibilities for the home.

To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to put your repair requests in writing. Within a reasonable length of time, your landlord has an obligation to respond. If you need to make a complaint to your landlord, again, do it in writing.

Do not leave a structural defect, health hazard, or community concern alone. Telling your landlord about problems immediately can protect you from liability when you move out.