Understanding Your Apartment Lease

Congrats! Your apartment application has been accepted!

Now here’s a giant legal document you must sign to live here… enjoy!

-All Property Managers

Signing a legally binding agreement is a daunting task. Especially when it looks something like this:



Unfortunately you can’t just look the other way and sign on the dotted line.

You MUST understand what you’re signing.

Here is what to look for when signing a new lease:

1) Make sure it’s all there.

You can’t assume that everything previously discussed or agreed upon is automatically in the lease. Notably — check the rent amount and lease term.

You should also review the answers they gave to the 7 questions you asked during your visit. Make sure it’s all there and accounted for. The last thing you’d want is to move in and find out your cat can’t come.


Relax kitty. Your owner read the lease… right?

2) Paying & other fees.

The lease should have the property manager’s information on it, including how to contact them and how to pay them. If you need to physically mail a check, give yourself enough lead time so you aren’t charged a late fee.

Leases can sometimes include fees for things like parking, pets, amenities, utilities, and numerous other items. To reiterate — know what you’re signing.

3) Not sure? Just ask!

Don’t let the size and scope of this big agreement scare you. If something seems off, doesn’t look right, or is just confusing… ASK!

This is a legally-binding agreement so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions. You should be reviewing and signing with someone from the property management side so that the terms are clear and understood.

4) Have everybody sign.

Obviously you and your landlord need to sign. In certain cases, where you don’t meet the property manager’s income requirements, you’ll also need a guarantor to sign with you.

If others are living with you, they should also be signing the lease. If their name isn’t on the lease, they aren’t legally responsible to pay rent. Don’t get stuck with the entire lease in your name.

5) Sign and save.

After you agree to the terms and sign the lease, make sure you get a copy. It’s important to have this for your records so that you can reference the original agreement whenever you need to.

And that’s it!

You’ve got a new apartment. Time to party!


The Apartment Application: What You Need to Know


Finally… You visited an apartment and fell in love with it. It’s the place of your dreams!

So you’re done — right?

Wrong. It’s time to apply.

For those new to this process — it can be daunting and quite personal.

Have your paperwork prepared beforehand, so you can submit quickly and not lose out on that place you love.

What exactly is an apartment application?

Management companies don’t want just anyone living in their buildings. They want to know who you are and, of course — if you can pay.

While each company is different, most require the same things. So you should be able to plan ahead.

What do I need to provide?


A scanned copy or even a picture of your license should suffice. However you do it, make sure the front and back are clear and readable.


This won’t pass for ID

You’ll also likely have to provide your Social Security Number. It’s personal, yes, but you won’t get the place without it.

Credit Check

This is one of the main criteria management companies will use to assess you as a potential tenant. Since this is always required, you can pre-empt it by printing a new credit report and sending it in with the application.

Bank Information

Often you’ll be asked to provide two recent bank statements, along with your account number. This, along with your credit check and employment info (below), will be used to gauge your ability to pay rent each month.

What applications feel like

What applications feel like

Proof of Employment

There’s a couple facets to this…

  1. Reference Letter. Your employer will provide this (on company letterhead), stating that you are employed by the company, for how long, and what your position and salary is.

  2. Income Requirements. Most management companies will require tenants to earn 40–50x the monthly rent (e.g. making $60,000 for a $1,500/month apartment). You’ll have to provide your last 2–3 pay stubs as proof of this income.

  3. If you don’t meet this requirement: You’ll need to have a guarantor who, outside of also going through the application process, earns 80–90x the monthly rent.

Tax Returns

This one is straighforward. You’ll be asked to provide your last two tax returns or W-2s. Have these ready when you start looking.


Management companies will often want to call your previous landlord to ask them about you as a tenant. Did you pay rent on time? Were you messy and troublesome? Or clean and friendly? These can go a long way, especially in big markets where you’re competing against other applicants.

These matter!

These matter!

The Application & Fees

Oh right… the application. Luckily, this isn’t too difficult. Applications are fairly standard, asking for some basic information about you.

Unfortunately, they also require an application fee. Expect to pay anywhere from $50–$100. The amount depends on the property manager, with some as low as $25 and others upwards of $200. This is non-refundable so make sure you have everything else in order before you pay to apply.

To take the apartment off the market while your app is processed, some management companies will have you put down a portion of your security deposit. If you love the place, it’s a recommended practice since you’ll have to provide that money anyway.

After the above, you must be thinking…

How does anyone actually get an apartment?

Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it looks.

Be prepared and carve out time dedicated to the administrative aspects of getting your new place. Then — you’re done!

Well… until it’s time to sign your lease and move. 😊

But we’ll save those for another time.

Until then, happy searching!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, please recommend or share it with others. 🙂

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The 7 Questions You Need To Ask When Visiting An Apartment

So you’re looking for an apartment.

You’ve been Prepared and Consistent in your search. Now you’re going to visit that place you like. This might be the one! But… how do you know?

You need to ask the right questions.

So here are the 7 questions you must ask to ensure you’re getting the apartment of your dreams:

1. What are the terms?

Understand exactly what you’re paying and what it includes. Most leases will be 12 months but often you can get a deal if you’re willing to sign for longer.

There will also be an income requirement. As a general rule, you need to make at least 40X the monthly rent. If not, you’ll need a guarantor — someone to cover if you can’t pay.

Perhaps most important though, is to know what is required for lease signing. Generally you’ll be asked to pay a security deposit, plus the first month’s rent (or more). This can add up to a lot of cash upfront… so make sure you have it available.

2. How do I pay rent?

Now that you know how much is owed, find out when you owe it and how to pay it. Many landlords still require you to mail a check, while others will let you pay online.


You may actually have to use one of these

Paying rent on time is important for two reasons:

  • You don’t want to pay late fees. Rent is already expensive.

  • Your next landlord will ask your current one for a recommendation.

Finally, find out how much your rent can go up at the end of your lease. If you love the place and want to renew, make sure you can still afford it. This should be established in your initial lease.

3. What about other expenses?

This isn’t an all-inclusive deal here. Internet, cable, heat/electric, and other amenities (e.g. a resident lounge, gym, roof deck, parking, etc) will increase your monthly spend. Ask what is and isn’t included, as well as how much it typically costs each month.

4. How are emergencies handled?

Stuff happens. It’s important that you know who to go to when it does. Find out how emergencies and maintenance requests are reported. You don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t have heat in the winter.


A picture of you this winter if your heat isn’t fixed.

5. Do you allow pets?

Realistically this is something you should know before you even visit. Be sure that the building is cool with you bringing your dog, your bird, or your plethora of cats. Don’t make them have to find a place too!


Your dog would probably use Abode

6. Can I host on Airbnb?

Airbnb presents an awesome economic opportunity, especially in big cities. Understand the policy from the beginning so you aren’t fined, or worse, evicted. Some landlords are cool with it. For others, it’s a big no-no.

7. What’s happened here before?

Ask for a quick history lesson. Learn about what’s happened in the apartment before you. Have there been issues with security? Any history of crime or break-ins? What about bugs and rodents? Many won’t proactively disclose things like this, so make sure you ask.

Rule of Thumb:

If you’re not sure about something… ASK!

Committing to live somewhere for 12+ months is a big decision. Do your homework and understand what you’re signing.

Now go get that place!


The Apartment Application: What You Need to Know