What to Expect When Renting

As the time for you to leave care gets closer, you may feel anxious and have many questions about where you will live, how you will support yourself, how you can continue to go to school and what jobs are available. These worries are natural. You should know though that there is support available to help prepare you for living on your own. And before renting a place to live, you should become familiar with the renting process.

Complete the Rental Application

The landlord will probably ask you to fill out an application. The application asks basic information like income, employment and previous housing information.  If you want to live with friends, they should provide information on the application as well. Some landlords may charge a fee to process an application. These fees are typically non-refundable whether or not you get the apartment. Prepare in advance. It’s a good idea to prepare all of the information that an application typically requests in advance.  That way when you show up at the apartment, you will be able to fill out the application right then. This could give you an advantage over someone else that is not prepared and will save you from making extra trips back and forth to turn in the application. Here is additional information you may need:

  • Driver’s License or State ID Card
  • Social Security Card
  • Letters of Reference

What is a rental/lease?

A rental/lease is an agreement between the landlord and you. The lease sets the conditions for renting the apartment or house. Actually read the lease, don’t just sign the lease.  Read it over carefully and ask your landlord for explanation on things that are unclear. Often times, landlords hide additional expenses, such as charging $50.00 for a lost key.  Always request the signed lease agreement to keep for your records.


Many landlords will ask for the names and phone numbers of people they can call to get information about you. If you had previous landlords who will give a positive reference, these are the best references to have. If you do not have any housing references, current or former employers, social workers, teachers and other supportive adults who can speak to whether you are likely to be a good tenant can be provided. Personal references such as friends may be requested, but shouldn’t be provided unless requested

Credit Report

Landlords want to get paid every month! When you fill out a rental application, the landlord will use that information to order a credit report to review your credit history.  They look for things such as evictions, defaulted loans, outstanding bills, etc. The report costs a fee that the landlord will typically require you to pay.

Questions the Landlord May Ask You

  • How many people will be living in the unit?
  • What’s your current living situation? Are you renting now?
  • Why are you looking to move?
  • Have you ever been evicted?
  • Do you think your current or previous landlord would give you a good reference?
  • Have you been convicted of a felony?
  • Have you been arrested and charged with a crime, but not yet convicted?
  • Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
  • Do you or does anyone who will be living with you smoke?
  • How is your credit?
  • How long do you plan to stay here?
  • How much do you make per week/month/year? How about other applicants?
  • What type of work do you do and where do you work or where do you go to college?
  • Do you have money available to cover your first month’s rent and deposit?
  • Are you comfortable committing to a 12 month lease?

Security Deposit and Rent

Before handing the keys over, a landlord usually requires some form of payment. Typically you must pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit. The security deposit is often equal to one month’s rent. So when you sign the lease you should expect to pay money equal to two month’s rent. The security deposit is to protect the landlord for any damages that you may cause to the apartment or house you are renting.

Renter’s Insurance

You might be thinking that you really don’t own enough stuff to justify paying for renter’s insurance. But take a look at all your clothes, books, electronics, furniture, appliances, etc. Do you have enough money saved to replace everything in case of theft,  fire, or some other disaster? A landlord’s insurance policy only provides coverage to the building, not to any of your belongings. You can contact an insurance agent to get prices.