For some people, renting a home is a financially responsible alternative to the costs and demands of home ownership. For others, it's merely a temporary arrangement during college years or while searching for a home to buy. Regardless of your circumstances, the resources spotlighted in this guide will teach you how to find a great rental and avoid the pitfalls of difficult landlords, quirky roommates, noisy neighbors and other factors that can make renting a tough adjustment.
Deciding what home to rent involves careful consideration of many factors, including location, cleanliness and rent prices. It's a lot to sort out, but the Web sites recommended here can get you started.
- Local newspapers are a classic source of listings of apartments and homes for rent. 50states.com has Web addresses for more than 3,300 newspapers. If you can't find the newspaper you want here, try typing a city and state name and "newspaper" into your favorite search engine.
- If you’re moving to a new area, check a site like CityRating.com for a list of crime statistics, cost of living information and other pertinent things you should know about a city before you move there.
For general advice about apartment hunting …
explains that one of the most important considerations involved with apartment hunting is convenience. This site also helps you learn how to manage your finances, keep your rent paid and set up your utilities.
Oh My Apartment
offers "10 Things Smart Renters Watch for When Apartment Hunting." Before you get too caught up in the idea of living in an apartment complex with a swimming pool, check here to see why you might need to be a little wary of such a feature.
Apartment Life Care
emphasizes the advantages of apartment living and helps you decide what type of apartment would be best for your needs.
If you have specific needs as a renter …
The Humane Society of the United States
provides several resources for tenants and rental managers seeking advice about keeping a pet in a rental. Pet owners will find tips about locating animal-friendly housing, and rental managers will learn why allowing pets on their property might not be a bad idea.
Oh My Apartment
explains how to find an apartment that’s safe, functional and fun for kids to live in.
To search for apartments online …
is one of the largest online classified ad services on the Web. Look for ads for rentals, sublets, shared rooms and more. Craigslist is completely free to use.
searches for apartments by zip code or city and state. Most of the displayed results supply a photo of the exterior of the apartment building, along with a price range for rent and contact information.
contains an apartment and roommate search tool. After selecting a state and region to search, a list of search criteria will appear to help you find the apartment that contains the amenities you desire at the rental price that fits your budget.
To search for a rental home …
searches for homes for rent and homes for sale. Because renting a home is a little different than renting an apartment, see "Tips for Renting a Home" to learn the special considerations you should keep in mind.
is free service that allows you to search for houses, townhouses, duplexes and condos for rent across the country. Scroll down the left side of the page to the "Help for Renters" advice to maximize your search results. Check the "Rent to Own" section if you're interested in owning your own home some day.
To compare rental prices …
lets you determine whether a price is too high or right on target by comparing rent prices among similar apartments. You'll need to know the address, or at least the zip code, of your prospective home to get a comparison.
Before you get the keys to your apartment, you'll go through a tenant screening process, sign lease agreements, provide a security deposit and possibly even supply proof that you carry renter's insurance. Use the Web sites in this section to learn the basics about each of these matters.
- Your credit history is a crucial piece of information a landlord will use to decide whether to accept you as a tenant. If you're not sure of your credit score, request a credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Read the findingDulcinea Credit Web Guide to access more information about credit.
- Some cities and counties (but not all) have housing boards that can also answer your questions. Search for a housing board where you live at Local.com. Type "housing" in the "What?" box and then your city and state in the "Where?" box.
To learn about tenant screening …
answers some frequently asked questions about legal methods of tenant screening. Learn what types of discrimination are illegal and whether it's alright for a landlord to request a credit report for a potential tenant.
The Federal Trade Commission
notes that landlords must follow the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act when screening rental applicants. While this information is directed more toward landlords, it's still helpful to see what a landlord might look for when evaluating a rental application.
For information about security deposits and lease agreements …
explains the purpose of a security deposit and what a landlord is authorized to use it for, and offers general guidelines for the limits of what a landlord can request for a security deposit.
offers a simple definition of a lease agreement, as well as some precautions you should take before signing a lease, and facts about the information all leases should contain.
For information about renter's insurance …
explains the basics of renter's insurance and notes the types of damage, including damage from burglary, fire or floods, that should be covered in a renter's insurance policy. Also learn how to keep your renter's insurance premiums low.
discusses renter's insurance coverage and renter's insurance costs, and also helps you obtain insurance quotes.
Knowing the facts about landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities will be important during your apartment search and while you rent a home. The following Web sites can help you start educating yourself about this issue.
- Beware of paid versus natural search results when you look for legal information on the Web. Particularly in the legal field, paid search results (which typically appear above and/or to the side of natural search results, and are usually noted as “sponsored” or “partners”) will likely have more advertising gimmicks than legitimate material. Consumer Reports WebWatch offers tips on improving the chances that the results you find will be credible.
For landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities …
explains many aspects of landlord tenant laws, including a list of tenant responsibilities, move-in procedures you should follow if you want to get your security deposit back when you move out and definitions of "normal wear and tear".
The National Association of the Deaf
discusses the rights of deaf individuals renting a living space, but much of the information here is relevant to anyone with a disability who wants to know about a landlord's obligation to accommodate tenants with special needs.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
has a portal to tenant rights in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. If you have a concern about the legality of a landlord's action, consult this site to get access to the specific laws of your state.
For discrimination information …
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
explains what prospective tenants should know to protect themselves from rental discrimination. If you feel your rights have been violated in this regard, use this site to file a complaint against a landlord or property manager.
For many people, having roommates makes rent more affordable and the apartment less lonely. But what about all the horror stories about awful roommates? There are no guarantees you won't experience at least one bad roommate in your lifetime, but the sites below can help you find and select the one who will (hopefully) be easy to live with.
- Many articles about coping with roommates focus specifically on college freshmen living in dorms. While you might not necessarily be living in a dorm (or in college), don't pass up this information. Much of the advice is applicable to any roommate situation.
Finding and living with roommates …
searches thousands of cities in the United States for roommates that will be compatible with your preferences. Use this service if you're searching for a place to live or if you already have a living space and just need roommates. Click the "Get Started" tab to sign up for free basic membership and post your profile.
presents several articles about finding, choosing and living peacefully with a roommate. Don’t miss the quiz to help you see whether you're even suited to living with a roommate.
The Emily Post Institute
helps you navigate the sometimes tricky road of living with roommates. Learn how to select a roommate that's right for you, and then how to work together to keep your apartment clean, pay the bills on time and co-exist without getting on each other's nerves.
The occasional noisy neighbor and the random car that always seems to be in your parking space are just a few annoyances that might make you question why you'd ever bother with apartment living. With the help of the Web sites in this section, however, you can turn your apartment into a home, and make great friends out of your neighbors.
- Sometimes just making your new place feel a little homier is all the help you need to adjust to apartment living. For tips about decorating your apartment, see our findingDulcinea Home Decorating Web Guide.
offers some ideas for turning an apartment into a comfortable living space, getting along with roommates and neighbors and even gardening in an apartment. Don't miss the safety section for tips about keeping yourself and your possessions protected.
The Washington Post
offers a few suggestions for holding a party in your apartment without upsetting your neighbors, and tips for handling a neighbor whose messy habits spill into apartment hallways.
has an “Apartment Living” forum for residents of apartments, co-ops and condominiums who have questions or concerns about their living conditions. Register for a free membership to post messages.
suggests that it's important to adjust to apartment life as quickly as possible because renting might be more financially responsible than owning your own home.
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