Choosing a Place to Rent

Choosing a place to rent is a big decision. To find places for rent, talk with friends, co-workers, and family. Check store bulletin boards, real estate offices, and newspapers. Drive or walk through the area in which you want to live.

You need to think about many factors when looking at rental housing. Read the list below. Decide what items are most important to you. Check for these features when you look at apartments and houses for rent.

Rental Housing Checklist

  • Good locks and security.
  • Clean and well-kept.
  • Solid outside construction.
  • Good outside lighting.
  • Water drains away from the building.
  • Parking for car(s) nearby.
  • Rooms are the right size for your needs.
  • Enough storage space.
  • A good layout of rooms.
  • Enough wall space to place furniture.
  • alls are sound proof so you won't hear plumbing, neighbors talking, etc.
  • Good view of outside.
  • All appliances work.
  • Clean, low cost heating.
  • Windows, doors, walls, ceilings in good shape.
  • Nice appearance.
  • Easy care carpet or flooring.
  • Extras--dishwasher, disposal, patio or balcony, air conditioning.
Services and Facilities
  • Near shopping, schools, trains, buses and doctors.
  • Locked mailboxes and a place to receive packages at an apartment; a mailbox for a house.
  • Secure storage area.
  • Regular trash pickup.
  • Repairman or landlord on call for emergencies.
  • Laundry room, window washing, recreation facility, etc.
  • An apartment elevator(s).
  • Easy-to-find fire exit in a rental unit.
The landlord will ask you to fill out an application. You may have to pay a fee. This fee holds the apartment or house while the landlord checks your credit, job and rental background.

Once your application is accepted, the landlord will ask you to sign a lease. A lease is a legal contract. It describes the landlord's responsibilities and your responsibilities. This lease should protect you against rent increases for the term of the lease.

Read the lease carefully before you sign. The landlord should fill all the blank spaces on the lease before you sign it. Also, you should look for answers to these questions:

  • Does the rent cover heat, water, or electricity?
  • How much extra do you have to pay if you are late with the rent?
  • Does the landlord do all repairs and upkeep?
  • If you have to move before the lease is up, do you have to pay an extra fee? Can you rent the house or apartment to someone else?
  • Do you have to pay a security deposit? How much is it? What must you do to get your deposit back when you move out?
  • What are the rules you must follow?
  • Did the landlord and you make special agreements about the rental? These should be written in the lease and initialed by both of you.
  • Are pets allowed?
To protect yourself, go through the house or apartment with the landlord at the time you sign the lease. Note any damage that the last tenant did. Record damage in writing or with pictures.

These steps should lead you to the apartment or house that will be just right for you.

Prepared by Katherine J. Reuter, Consumer and Family Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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