Renting Rulebook

Jun 2023 | Financial Education

College is starting before you know it, which means it’s likely you, or someone you know, may be a first-time renter.

If you want the best renting experience possible, there are a few rules you should follow.

Rule #1 Find the right place

Consider the location, space, and amenities. Some questions you could ask include:

  • Is the location convenient for work, school, etc.?
  • Is it in a busy or noisy area?
  • Does it have enough room for your needs?
  • Would you prefer somewhere with additional amenities like a gym or pool?

It’s also essential to read reviews and do your research on the landlord and management. You can save yourself a lot of headaches later by avoiding a bad situation in the first place.

Rule #2 Read the lease

Rental leases tend to be long and full of confusing language that makes them hard to read. But skimming or not reading a contract that has your money, credit score, and future ability to rent on the line is a huge mistake. You can’t follow the lease rules if you don’t know them.

If you’re unhappy with any of the terms in the lease, it’s possible that you can negotiate them with the landlord, but you also may be better off finding somewhere else to rent.

Rule #3 Get Renter’s Insurance

You may think that your landlord’s insurance will cover you too, but that’s usually not the case. The landlord insures the building, if you want your things inside it to be protected, renter’s insurance is essential. Renter’s insurance provides substantial protection and it’s usually surprisingly affordable, which means it can be the difference between having to pay to replace everything you own after an accident or having them replaced for you.

Renter's Insurance Coverage

You’ll need to check your policy to see the specifics but, generally, renter’s insurance can help cover replacing your property if it’s damaged or lost, costs associated with damage you do to the rental, medical costs if someone is injured in your rental, and living costs if something makes your rental unlivable.

Rule #4 Document Everything

You should be given a sheet to note any damages on move-in day. If you aren’t, ask for one or even make one yourself and send it to your landlord (preferably over email so that you still have a copy and proof of when it was sent). Document every imperfection, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem now. You should also take pictures for your own records. If there are any disputes about whether you caused pre-existing damage when you move out, these photos will be the proof you need.

Rule #5 Know Your Rights

Yes, you may be renting from a landlord, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give in to anything and everything they say. As a renter, you have rights. For example, most states require that the landlord provide safe housing that’s in good repair. That means that they have to fix major problems, like a faulty heater or leaking pipe, in a timely manner. Most states also include your right to notice before your landlord enters the premises and before eviction. Check with your state laws to find the specifics. If your rights are being violated, inform your landlord that they’re breaking the law. If things don’t improve, take legal action as necessary.

Rule #6 Protect Your Deposit

When you move into a rental, you’ll almost always be required to pay a security deposit. This money is meant to fix any damage that you cause, cover unpaid rent, and clean the rental in preparation for the next tenant when you move out. But if those things aren’t required or cost less than the money you paid, you’ll get at least part of the deposit back. To make this happen, it’s best to regularly clean throughout your time in the rental and be careful to avoid damage.

You should request a check-out sheet from your landlord that lists the specific things they’ll check for when you’re preparing to move out. You may even be able to arrange a pre-move-out walk-through so that you can hear firsthand what still needs to be cleaned or repaired in order to get your deposit back.

Renting can be a great experience that offers increased flexibility and fewer financial obligations. By following these six rules, you can help ensure that everything goes smoothly and that you get only the positives out of your experience.


Want more tips on heading off to college? Check out the Going to College resource collection through our financial education partner, Banzai: Going to College | Banzai

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