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So You’re Ready to Sign a Lease? The 3 Things You Need to Get Yourself Prepared

After all that searching, you’ve finally found the place you’ve been looking for. It’s an exciting time, but can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re a first-time renter. Don’t worry – with a bit of simple preparation, you’ll be able to breeze through the process without a hitch. Below are three things you’ll need to prepare for before it comes time to sign on the dotted line.

1. Background Check

A reputable leasing agency will require prospective renters to apply and agree to a background check as the first step in the leasing process. This is a standard practice and will almost always include a fee. While the specific source used for the background check will vary depending upon the leasing agency, the information gathered will basically be the same. Here’s what a typical background check will cover:

Employment/Student Status Check – This is a key aspect of the background check. It gives the landlord a good idea of how well you handle responsibility, and also sets the criteria that will be used to help evaluate credit. If you’re employed, your wages will be used to determine whether you have sufficient income to pay your rent. Students may be able to include loans and parental gifts, along with any wages, as part of their reported income.

Credit Check – Generally, a great deal of emphasis is placed on credit history, because it shows whether or not you have a history of making good on financial obligations. If there are “undesirables” in your credit history, honesty is always the best policy. Most leasing agencies have specific criteria, such as a recent bankruptcy, that may automatically disqualify a prospective renter. Better to know this before submitting an application and paying the fee. Depending on your age or student status, you might not have any established credit yet. Many landlords understand this, but you may be asked to pay additional deposit, or provide a cosigner – someone who can guarantee that the rent will be paid.

Criminal Background Check – This tells the landlord whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. Just as importantly, a background check assures you that all of your neighbors have gone through the same screening. If you happen to have a blemish on your record, again, be honest and up-front with the leasing agency. Whether the infraction was a misdemeanor or felony, and when it occurred, will all factor into whether you can be approved.

2. Rental History Check

This includes the addresses of your former residences, as well as your previous rental history. Any history of consistently late rental payments or evictions will show up on this report as well. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, be honest and up-front if there are any past issues that may need to be explained. Records are not always accurate, and you may be able to easily clear up any discrepancies.

If you’re a first time renter with no prior rental history- no big deal. Approval will be based on the other factors in your background check.

3. Security Deposit

Most leasing agencies will require you to pay some type of security deposit (the amount will vary) before you can move into the property.

Typically, security deposits will be either a flat amount or equal to one month’s rent. The security deposit is usually paid in advance of move-in, and serves a couple of purposes: It holds the unit for you until the scheduled move-in date, and is then used to offset any damages to the property that may occur while you’re living there.

If you’re able to leave the property in the same general condition that you found it, you should expect to get a refund of your security deposit when you move out. If the landlord has to make major repairs or perform major cleaning on the property when you leave, the cost will come out of your security deposit.

Alright, you’re all set! Next step is signing the lease!