Both before and as you move in to your new apartment, there are several important things you should do to protect your rights later on.
Fill out a Move-In Checklist and take pictures
- You should walk through the entire unit before moving your furniture in, and document any and all damages/problems that you see. It is to your benefit to fill out the Move-In Checklist (PDF Document), make a copy for your records, and provide a copy to your landlord within the first 7 days of the lease term. KEEP A COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS!
- Take photographs/video of the unit making sure to turn on the date stamp function on your camera. Look for anything that could possibly be described as less than perfectly new and take a picture of it. Then save the photos in-case you need to use them in court.
- Your lease determines your responsibilities for utility activation and payment. Many landlords will pay for the water, but you are usually responsible for all other utilities; gas, electric, telephone, cable, internet, cell phone, etc. Contact the utility companies at least 2 weeks in advance of the move in date.
- When doing your budget, you not only have to consider your rent each month, but also utility costs on top of that. Generally speaking, the cost of utilities may be the greatest when living alone. If you are sharing an apartment/house, you are also able to share the cost of utility bills. You should spell out how you will share your utility bills in your roommate contract.
- Utility costs greatly vary. If you are living in an apartment complex versus an older home, the quality of insulation can be quite different. Houses tend to be a larger area of space to heat/cool.
- Ask tenants that currently live in the apartment complex/house how much they pay for their utility bills on average. Gas, electric and water can vary based on usage. You can call the cable, internet and phone companies to get price quotes for the various packages they offer.
Purchase Renter's Insurance
Get renters insurance. Your lease may require you to have Renters insurance. Landlords typically have property insurance, but this does not cover your personal property. You want to make sure to have insurance to replace your belongings if they are damaged in a fire or stolen from your apartment, for example.
It tends to be cheaper to add a policy to the same company as your car insurance.. You may also be added to your parent's home owner's insurance (check with their company's policy for details). If either is not an option, it is still inexpensive to purchase renters insurance.