Renting 101: Your First Apartment

Sophomore year of college, my roommate and I decided that we wanted to live in an off-campus apartment.

The main reason being, we wanted to save money.

Since I could only focus on saving money, my inner Scrooge caused us to sign a 9-month lease at Parkhill.

Don’t let the quaint name fool you.

Our unit was infested with cockroaches; we had terrible green carpet, our next door neighbor was beating up her kids and threatening to “sh*t on them.”  

And Grace Montes, the building manager, was just a terrible human being.

I made my roommate endure nine months of hell, all so that we could save what I now consider to be a measly $50 each.

When they say, “you get what you pay for” believe them.

If you’re a first-time renter, I hope you don’t make the same mistakes I made.

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way, but I guess life is all about trial and error.

I learned a lot after living in Parkhill. It’s what led me to compile this list of important factors to keep in mind before renting/leasing an apartment for the first time.

Mindy Kaling smart gif


Before you start your apartment hunt, you need to figure out how much you can and are willing to pay for a place.

Keep in mind that there are other fees besides rent. You will have to pay for utilities, parking, internet, etc.


Is this place close to where you work or go to school?

Is it convenient location wise?

There are a lot of personal questions that come into play here, so think about it.


Find out whether utilities are included. Do you need a furnished place? Does the unit come with a refrigerator?

Is there guest parking?

Is there a laundry/dryer on location?

Do you want an apartment with a community pool/gym, etc.?

Understand Your Rental Agreement

Don’t sign anything until you’ve read and analyzed what you’re agreeing to. If you have questions, ask the manager/landlord.

If you’re signing a lease, know that there may be a fee for breaking your contract.

You might also not get your deposit back.

Story Time

When we signed the lease to our second apartment (a place 100x better than Parkhill), the monthly rent was written in our contract.

We got a call a couple of days later saying that there was a mistake in our lease and that our rent was $100 more.

Being a newbie, I was confused and about to head over with my roommate to re-sign the lease when I thought, why should we have to pay for their mistake?

I mustered up the courage, called back and asked them to honor the contract.

I let them know that it was unprofessional to ask us to re-sign with an increased rental price. The person on the phone spoke to the manager who agreed to honor the original contract.

Lesson Learned

Don’t get tricked into doing something you feel is wrong and speak up for yourself.

Regardless of whether they made a mistake, they had to honor the original contract.

Read Reviews

Read all the reviews you can find! Check Yelp as well and look at the pictures that people post.

You want to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Sometimes you’ll see negative reviews and wonder if they’re true or not. People often take the time to write reviews when they’re upset, not so much when they’re happy.

But if you see a few negative reviews, please take these into consideration. You can even try asking your questions to those who posted reviews. 

From personal experience, I should have listened to all the negative comments.

I thought, “Oh, it can’t be that bad”, and it was. Everything that I read in the reviews came true.

When people tell you that there are cockroaches, that means THAT THERE ARE COCKROACHES!!!



You need to know when you’re expected to pay rent.

Do you have until the 3rd day of the start of the month?

How often will it increase? If you’re late on rent, are there any late fees?

Move-in Special

You can also search the web for any move-in-specials. Sometimes they offer $100 off your first month’s rent if you write a review or mention the ad to the building manager.


Is the property owned/managed by a corporation, or is it an individual?

Will you be able to get in contact with them if need be? 

Thoroughly Check The Unit

You’re going to want to take a tour before signing any paperwork. Take a good look around the apartment.

Take pictures, videos, etc.

Try to get a sense of who is going to be living around you. Do your neighbors seem normal? 

Before you move into the apartment, bring a checklist with you, and record every surface of the unit. 

Count all the push-pin holes in the walls and make sure that the water is running properly in your unit.

Is your AC working? Are there any scratches or scuff marks on the floors/walls?

They will give you a checklist that you need to fill out and return.

They keep this so they can compare the way you entered the unit to the way you leave it. It’s what they use to see how much they can deduct from your security deposit. 

Be detailed in completing your checklist to protect yourself from being falsely accused of property damage.

Stay Organized

When signing your apartment contract, be sure to keep your paperwork organized. Keep everything in a folder that you can easily access.

And make copies of everything!

Other Tips

Keep in mind that you’re either going to have to write a check or give a money order for your security deposit.

They will also run a background check on you and ask for proof of income. 

Happy Apartment Hunting!

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