Moving out can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Navigating the renting process is more straight forward than it may seem. To start let us start by understanding some basic terms. 

Renting: you pay a monthly fee under contract to live in an apartment or home owned by someone else. 

Lease: The contract you sign when renting. Lease agreements typically last 12 months and require a new contract to be renewed. 

Sub-Lease: A sub-lease is when a third party takes over a tenant’s lease. This is typically a separate document that is signed by all three parties, the landlord, the original tenant and the person taking over the lease. 

Studio: Studio apartments are small apartments that have one shared living and bedroom space over a separate bedroom. However, studio apartments still have a kitchen, bathroom and closed space like a normal apartment. 

Efficiency: Efficiency apartments are similar to studio apartments however, they typically have a kitchenette over a full kitchen. A kitchenette typically only has a fridge and a microwave or a microwave oven, instead of the full set of a fridge, microwave, oven, stovetop, and dishwasher. 

Landlord: the person who rents or manages the property you are renting.  

Security Deposit: money you pay upfront when signing a lease. The security deposit can be refundable or nonrefundable, depending on the terms of the lease agreement. The security deposit acts as a safety net for the landlord to be able to pay for damages that you may cause to the apartment, for example, to pay for a broken window or damages to the walls form hanging shelves and artwork.

How to choose the right place for you


How do I know what I can reasonably afford? 

A good rule of thumb is that rent should never cost you more than 1/3rd of your monthly paycheck. 

If you get paid $1,000 every two weeks, your monthly income is $2,000, so you should look for places to rent that cost around $650 a month. At the end of the day what you decide is a manageable rent payment is up to you, but remember, the less you pay in rent the more money you have to put into saving and to pay for other daily requirements like food, gas and other purchases. 

If you are looking into potentially getting an apartment, take a moment to calculate what your rent should be using the 1/3rd rule. 


Start-up Fees

When signing a lease and moving into an apartment, on top of rent, there are start-up fees you need to calculate into your budget. 

Application Fee: Application fees are non-refundable and due at the same time you submit your application. 

Security Deposit: It is normal for the security deposit to be equal to or more than one month’s rent, and it is typically paid with first months rent before even moving into the apartment. 

Utility startups fees:  when turning on water, electricity and cable/internet, there are fees associated with turning services on. Turning on water and electricity can range from as low as $15 all the way up to $35 for each service. Cable and internet start-up fees are more expensive and can range from $45 to over $100 depending on what cable/internet plans you choose and the type of cable box and internet router required by your company. 

Pet Fee or Pet Rent: If you have a pet you will be required to pay a pet fee upfront with your security deposit and first month’s rent. Pet fees are typically between $200-$300 and are a one time fee that is non-refundable. Pet rent, however, is a monthly fee typically ranging from $20-$50 which you pay with rent for the duration of your lease. 

Furniture and household items: While there are options for furnished apartmenst that come with furniture like a bed, dresser and couch ect. Odds are you are going to need to spend some money on things of your own. Furniture may seem like an obvious thing, but it is easy to forget to budget for small things like plates, cups, silverwear, cleaning supplies and towels. All of these things cost money, and when buying them all at once it adds up and can cost a pretty penny. Make sure to set money aside, but a good way to save money is to ask family and friends if they have any extra supplies they would be willing to donate to you.

 In order to afford all of these start-up fees, it is important to have a good amount of savings built up so that the extra fees won’t take away from other areas of your budget. When budgeting for a new apartment, ask the landlord or rental agent about what start-up fees will be required for the apartment, and how much they typically cost. Most landlords and rental agents will know this from past renters, or they will at least be able to help you figure out who to contact to find out these fees will cost you. 



There are pros and cons to having a roommate.


  • splitting rent with a roommate often means you can afford to live in a nicer or more spacious apartment 
  • help with cleaning, maintenance, and other chores 
  • help to supply furniture for the apartment 
  • built-in friends/company


  • less privacy 
  • you may not always get along 
  • you are responsible if they miss payments or cause damages  

If you decide you want or need a roommate, start by asking people you know! Having a roommate can be a wonderful thing, however, being best friend with someone doesn’t automatically mean you two will be great roommates. Living with someone is often a big change in the relationship, so be sure to go into the experience with an open mind and be ready to compromise as you learn how to live with someone new.


Now that I know what I can afford, how do I find my new place? 

There are specific websites dedicated to helping potential renters find available homes and apartments. 

Websites like these offer various filters you can search by ranging from location, to price, to amenities. Adds on these websites include contact information that typically links you directly with the leasing agent or landlord of the property. 

In today’s world of social media, you can also look for housing opportunities on Facebook Marketplace. While you may see many of the same adds on Facebook as you do on the more formal rental websites, Facebook Marketplace offers some unique opportunities such as sub-leases, as well as property owners who are looking to lease out a bedroom but are not going through a local agency to do so. As with any social media, when using Facebook Marketplace to look for available housing opportunities, if you reach out to anyone make sure you are safe and never provide your cell phone number or home address until you are sure that the person you are messaging with is who they claim to be!

Your Dream Place

We all want to live in the perfect place, and often first-time renters get caught up in all of the things that they want in a new apartment that they forget to focus on what they need

Take a moment to complete the following worksheet to determine what you need our of an apartment, vs what you want out of one.

Choosing the perfect place

Print Here 

The Application Process

When you have decided what you need out of an apartment, and you have found available options that fit your needs and your budget, it’s time to move! 

Step 1: Reach out to the contact on the vacancy add and schedule a tour of the apartment. It is important to schedule a tour so that you get to see the exact apartment you will be moving into. Sometimes rental agencies will show pictures of staged apartments, meaning that the pictures are not of the apartment you will be moving to and you may not have the same layout or finishes as the photos provided.  

Step 2: Go through the apartment with the landlord or leasing agent. When completing the tour of the apartment it is important to look at everything and ask any questions you have. Check the paint on the walls, open cabinets, and drawers to make sure they aren’t broken. Turn on faucets and flush the toilet. Make sure that things work the way the landlord/agent says they do so that you know you are not going to be moving into a place that has damages that you may be responsible for. If anything concerns you talk to the landlord/agent before moving in and have it written down that the damages were there before you moved in and are to be fixed. 

Step 3: Explore the area. If you are moving to a new area, make sure to spend some time exploring before you officially move in. Learn where the grocery store is and how far you will have to drive for work. Is there a fun restaurant nearby you could go to with friends? Or a park? The area you will be living in is just as important as the apartment itself! 

Step 4: Complete the rental application and submit it. Rental applications are often formatted very similarly to job applications and ask you to provide references as well as history about where you have lived in the past. As this is likely your first apartment, you won’t have any information to provide about past housing, so just like on the job application there may be areas you leave blank and that is okay! Remember, there will be a non-refundable application fee that you will have to pay, so try not to send in an application unless you have already completed the first 3 steps and you are sure you want to live in the apartment! 

After completing these four steps, your landlord/leasing agent will be in contact with you as they review your application to let you know if you are approved or not. If you get approved, they will help you determine a move-in date and a date the security deposit and first month’s rent will be due. 

Moving Out

Congrats! You’ve been aproved for the apartment and you have a move in date. As exciting as moving out can be, it is a big step in independence. There is a lot of responsiblity that comes with getting an apartment. 


When you sign the lease contract you agree to pay the determined amount of rent for the entirety of the lease. There are consequences to not paying rent that follow you for the rest of your life. For example, if you get evicted due to failure to pay rent, you will have to disclose that eviction on every rental application moving forward. A history of evictions could result in your future rental applications being denied, and make it incredibly difficult for you to get a good apartment in the future.

The same concerns go for paying your utility fees (water, sewer, electricity and cable/internet). If you fail to make your monthly payments to these services, the companies will not only charge you late fees but can also turn your services off. When companies turn off services they often will not turn them back on until the full bill is paid. So getting behind on monthly payments is dangerous, because not only could you lose services but you could also be forced to pay numerous months’ worth of bills all at once in order to get them turned back on.


When moving into an apartment you become the one in charge of making sure that the apartment is taken care of. This means any damages you directly cause, small things like a scratch in the door or a small hole in the wall, up to big fixes like a broken window or appliance, are your responsibility. Luckily, you have a landlord to help you with things. 

Your landlord is the person you will go to about any issues, as well as the person you will likely be paying rent to. Anything that breaks, or gets damaged needs to be reported to the landlord. Your landlord will be responsible for organizing most repairs to the apartment you are renting and in some cases will be the person to do the actual repairs. Some apartment buildings will have a separate landlord and maintenance person, in which case it is always safer to contact your landlord first and let them tell you if they will contact maintenance or if you need to. 

Watch the videos below to know what your landlord is responsible for.

While the following video was made following Wisconsin state laws, the general responsibilities of the landlord and tenet mentioned in the video are the same in all states.

The following video gives a quick overview of the laws your landlord is required to follow.

Social Responsiblity 

When moving into an apartment you have a social responsibility to your new neighbors. Living in an apartment comes with lots of neighbors. Depending on which floor you are on, you may have neighbors above, below and on each side of you. Just like you don’t want to listen to your neighbors yell, or play loud music late at night, they don’t want to hear these things from you either. Noise complaints are the most common neighbor complaint and can result in the apartment security officer, or even a local deputy coming to knock on your door and tell you to quiet down.

Other neighbor issues that often happen when you disrespect the common areas. Leaving trash outside your door, ruining grass or planter beds, cigarette buds on the sidewalk and not cleaning up after your pets when they use the bathroom are common issues between neighbors. Any of these behaviors can result in a warning from the landlord, and if they continue could even result in an eviction.

It is important to respect your neighbor’s property, as well as their right to a quiet, clean and safe home.

Home Managment Skills

It is important that you have the skills necessary to take care of your new home. Odds are that before you moved out there was an adult who took care of the house maintenance and repairs like unclogging sinks and fixing a running toilet. When you move out, small fixes like that become your responsibility. These skills aren’t hard to learn, however, it typically happens that you don’t know you need to learn them until it is too late, and something needs to be fixed.

The best way to learn home management skills is to ask. Talk to the adults in your life and ask them to teach you some of the basics like which cleaning supplies to use on counters vs on floors, or how to organize your kitchen cabinets. Just like you, the adults in your life had to learn these skills too and while you may feel silly asking how to do something seemingly so simple as changing a lightbulb, the skills are still important and take a bit of guidance to learn.

Another great resource is your local hardware store. Stores like Lowes and Home Depot offer home repair guides on their websites, as well as weekend workshops to learn home skills that require more practice, such as fixing a hole in the wall or replacing a faucet. A simple google search will also help you to find various ways and ideas to help keep a clean, working and safe home.

To practice figuring out how to do simple home maintenance skills, use the following link to find How-To Guides for the topics below.

Turn off a running toilet
Unclog a sink drain
What to do after a power outage
How to change an air filter

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