Even though I haven't lived at home for five years, renting my own personal apartment, sans roommates, was a pretty big deal in my book. All bills come in my name, all damage is mine to deal with and all the space is mine. Now how are you gonna tell me I shouldn't at least get a pat on the back for figuring this all out?
Finding an apartment can be difficult though, especially in a city as crowded and overpriced as Washington DC. If you've come to the point where you've found a place your'e comfortable settling down in, make sure you don't sign a lease till you cover all your bases. Cause there's nothing worse than being trapped in an apartment you hate.
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Don't rush into anything.It's easy to fall in love with an apartment and be pressured into signing a lease that same day, but don't do it! When I was apartment hunting last summer I had so many leasing agents telling me how many people they had interested in the same apartment. In reality they just wanted to make me feel like I could lose that spot at any time. Trust me, if there's a ton of people interested then they won't bother trying to convince you to sign. Take the time to inspect, look at other options, read the lease agreement thoroughly and negotiate your terms.
Don't read between the lines.Even though we're all so accustomed to accepting terms of service without so much as looking at the words, don't do this when signing a lease. Dedicate some time to sit down and read every word on the lease. It's important to pay attention to things such as pet policies, early lease termination guidelines, who is responsible for apartment maintenance and what is included in the rent.
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Get everything in writing.
Did your landlord agree to let you paint? Or did you discuss lowering a certain aspect of the bills? If so, get anything you discussed and agreed on in writing, and add those documents to your lease before you sign. At my last apartment I had permission from my landlord to have a cat in the house, but midyear our landlord changed to a completely new person. Thankfully I had documents that proved I was allowed to have a cat in the house free of any monthly pet charges.
Read the reviews.Apartment reviews were this thing that I had no idea even existed until I needed them, and I'm thankful every day that I found them. I almost made the mistake of signing a lease to an apartment complex that had reviews which all said "DO NOT LIVE HERE! STAY AWAY!!" Literally. Google the name of your apartment with the word review and see what pops up, you might be surprised.
Check out the neighborhood at different times.I have so much love for my apartment, but one thing that I forgot to do what visit the complex at night. If I had I would have noticed the group of men that like to stand at the end of the street and just kind of hang out and take up space, or the woman who is always yelling about owning her own body and how so and so owns her money. No hate to my neighborhood but it's definitely nothing my landlord mentioned.
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Document all damage.While there shouldn't be any damage to any apartment when you move in, in case their is make sure to document any problems you see prior to signing a lease. If your lease doesn't cover repairs make sure to check ordinary things like garbage disposals and how well the tub drains so that you're not stuck with a bill to a problem you didn't cause.
Do you have any renting horror stories? Share your life lesson in the comments below!