Renting an apartment in the U.S.? Here’s what you need to know.
Living Abroad accomodation rented apartment

Renting an apartment in the U.S.? Here’s what you need to know.

Moumita Basu

Table of Contents

Renting your first-ever apartment in the U.S. is an exciting (albeit slightly scary) step into adulthood. After all, there are new areas to navigate, a significant monthly rental, and a slew of questions in your mind. Where do you look for an apartment? How do you qualify for an apartment? What is a rental agreement? What expenses should you include in your budget? We know — it’s overwhelming.

In this blog, we will break down the process for you. We will walk you through how to rent an apartment, including what factors to consider when looking for a suitable place, getting your rental application approved, and what to plan for to get ready to move in.

What to consider while renting an apartment?

Apartments come in all shapes, sizes, and setups. Finding the perfect apartment is primarily about defining your unique needs and preferences. And trust us, a simple Google search on “rent apartment” won’t work. Instead, you might be more confused than ever.

Here’s a good start: make a list of all your must-haves in the apartment. Post that, consider factors such as:

  • Price: How much can you afford to keep aside for house rental?
  • Size: How much space do you need or want?
  • Apartment type: Do you want to go full-on luxury, multi-level, loft, or something offbeat?
  • Location: Consider commute times to work or school along with proximity to grocery stores and recreation
  • Lease type: Do you want to commit to a year-long lease, or do you need month-to-month flexibility?
  • Rental situation: Would you prefer a full-service apartment or a smaller building where you can work directly with the property owner?
  • Amenities: How important is it to have covered parking, a fitness center, a pool, or a laundry room?

Internet to your rescue

With Google search at our fingertips, we will have an entire encyclopedia of website listings, Facebook groups, and even newspaper ads. Here are a few sites to help you start your search:

  1. Apartments.com
  2. ApartmentFinder.com
  3. Rent.com
  4. Zumper.com
  5. HotPads.com
  6. Zillow.com
  7. Renthop.com

Remember: Get renter’s insurance

We understand that adding another monthly bill to your expenses doesn’t sound like an exciting task, but opting for renter’s insurance can be a lifesaver in certain situations. Many renters incorrectly assume that a landlord’s insurance policy will cover their personal property, but this is inaccurate. The insurance usually costs around $10/month or less, and many landlords now require residents to purchase it.

Nope, it’s not compulsory to rent for a whole year

While the norm in the U.S. is to sign the lease for an entire year, some landlords are more flexible than others and offer a six-month lease. So how do you choose?

Essentially, it depends on your needs. If you plan for a long-term stay, signing a lease for a year to six months might be a good idea. But if you plan to move to a different state or country in a few months, a month-to-month setup might not be bad. Keep in mind: month-to-month leases are usually more expensive.

Reading your rental agreement right

Your rental agreement or lease is a document that has the terms and conditions of your rental place. It will have components such as:

  • Rent amount
  • Monthly rent due date
  • Late fees
  • Deposit amount
  • Lease expiration date
  • Community rules
  • Maintenance repair
  • Lease Renewal
  • Pet friendly or not
  • Do you have permission to sublet?

Remember to read thoroughly before you sign your agreement. If you feel anything is out of place or seems suspicious, make a note of it and communicate the same to your landlord.

Documents for a rental application

Here’s a list of everything you will need to complete your rental application:

  • The application form of your chosen property
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of income (pay stubs or bank statements)
  • Application fee
  • Vet records if you have pets
  • Contact information of your previous landlord

What to do in case you don’t have a credit score?

A solid credit history is crucial when you are renting an apartment in the U.S. Landlords often ask for your credit report or ask for references before approving your application. But if you are an immigrant moving to the U.S. without a credit history, you can:

  • Provide your proof of income, proving that you have adequate income to pay your monthly rent
  • You can also ask a friend or a family member with a healthy credit history. Keep in mind that if you fail to pay your rent on time, your landlord might call your co-signer to clear your debt

Expecting the unexpected and being prepared

Renting a place of residence requires a lot more than paying rent. Some of the additional costs that you need to keep in mind which may not occur to you in the first place:

  • Utilities such as water, sewer, and trash
  • Electricity and WiFi
  • Parking spots
  • Storage unit

If you have a pet with you, make sure you communicate the same with your landlord since some require an additional pet deposit or monthly pet rent.

What are some things a landlord legally can’t ask you?

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation

Knowing the community rules is super crucial

Some residential communities have policies regarding quiet hours, visitors, and pet restrictions. In some cases, if you don’t follow them, you might be fined for it. Apartments offer a great deal of freedom, but you have to make sure you’re up to speed on potential policies.

Read your lease THOROUGHLY

More often than not, landlords want someone to rent their properties and pay rent. And that’s why it is crucial to confirm that the terms of the lease match whatever has been communicated with you verbally. If you notice any damage, take pictures and ask the property manager to put it in writing. Otherwise, you might be charged for the damage or lose your security deposit when you move out.

The bottom line

Renting your first apartment is an exciting journey, but you should be well-informed before starting your search. Make sure you read over your rental agreement before signing and comply with all lease terms while you’re a tenant. Remember to budget for all your extra expenses that come with renting.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best month to look for apartments?

We would say it would be December. It offers the lowest rents and best move-in deals. Very few people like to move during winter, making landlords offer incentives.

  • How do you qualify for an apartment?

All you need is a reliable source of income, a positive rental history, and sometimes even a credit score. If you don’t have enough credit history, income, or rental record, you can still qualify by having a cosigner share the responsibility for the apartment with you.

  • What expenses do you need to keep in mind while renting an apartment?

The primary expenses that you need to keep in mind apart from the rent are the application fee and deposit, and utilities, including electricity, water, and internet. Depending on the services your rent amount covers, you may also have separate expenses for sewer and trash.


The bottom line is that while renting an apartment in the U.S., it is crucial to have a credit history in the U.S. Sign up for a Zolve Credit Card and Zolve Bank Account, and start building your credit footprint in the country from Day 1.